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Mathematica On Linux /tmp Vulnerability

Mathematica On Linux /tmp Vulnerability
Posted Apr 16, 2012
Authored by Paul Szabo

Mathematica on Linux uses the /tmp/MathLink directory in insecure ways that can allow for account takeover. The problem was made worse by later versions as the addendum states. As of 02/08/2013, the author has noted that this problem is still present in version 9.0.1. As of 08/27/2014, the author has noted that this problem is still present in version 10.0.0 for the GUI interface.

tags | exploit
systems | linux
MD5 | cf04435fe0cf94cce428e9771e06db47

Mathematica On Linux /tmp Vulnerability

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"If you're doing anything technical, think Mathematica --..."
http://www.wolfram.com/products/mathematica/index.html

Mathematica7 on Linux uses the /tmp/MathLink directory in insecure ways.
Mathematica creates or re-uses an existing /tmp/MathLink directory, and
overwrites files within and follows symlinks. This type of behaviour is
"known unsafe" on multi-user machines e.g. University login servers.
As a classic example of a symlink attack, if an "attacker" uses:

mkdir /tmp/MathLink; ln -s /home/victim/.bashrc /tmp/MathLink/.gshmm

then when the victim runs Mathematica his ~/.bashrc will be clobbered.
New files are created world-writable, allowing a complete compromise of
the user account by linking to ~/.bash_logout . (If root ever uses
Mathematica then the damage is greater.)

Mathematica uses also /tmp/fonts$$.conf in insecure ways.

Workaround: use command-line math instead of pretty interface.

Notified support at wolfram.com on 7 May 2010, was assigned [TS 16194].

Cheers,

Paul Szabo psz at maths.usyd.edu.au http://www.maths.usyd.edu.au/u/psz/
School of Mathematics and Statistics University of Sydney Australia




Addendum:

Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2012 08:28:34 +1000
From: paul.szabo@sydney.edu.au
Subject: Mathematica8.0.4 on Linux /tmp/MathLink vulnerability

The problem reported for Mathematica became worse at version 8.0.4,
present for the command-line interface "math" also.

Cheers,

Paul Szabo psz@maths.usyd.edu.au http://www.maths.usyd.edu.au/u/psz/
School of Mathematics and Statistics University of Sydney Australia


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