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Vulnerabilities / Threats

12/17/2014
04:20 PM
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'Grinch' Bug May Affect Most Linux Systems

But newly discovered vulnerability not as urgent as previous open-source bug disclosures.

A new Linux vulnerability -- nicknamed "Grinch" -- is a mean one that researchers say could affect all Linux systems as well as mobile devices based on the operating system.

There's no patch available yet for the flaw, which could let an attacker escalate privileges on a Linux machine to install malware or conduct other nefarious activity. But this is no Heartbleed or Shellshock moment: Grinch doesn't pose an imminent threat, security experts say, but it should serve as a wakeup call for how Linux systems are configured.

"I think [there's] no need to get distracted from Christmas shopping. This is something that can wait until January," says Johannes Ullrich, director of SANS Internet Storm Center.

Stephen Coty, chief security evangelist for Alert Logic, which discovered the flaw, says so far, there's been no word on the timing of a patch for the bug.

"Anyone who goes with a default configuration of Linux is susceptible to this bug," he says, and he thinks home users or those not very Linux-savvy are most at risk. "We haven't seen any active attacks on it as of yet, and that is why we wanted to get it patched before people started exploiting it."

Source: pixgood.com
Source: pixgood.com

The flaw lies in the open-source privilege management component polkit (a.k.a. PolicyKit) for Linux, which lets an administrator determine which privileges a user can have while running a specific software application. Alert Logic found that the default configuration of polkit in many Linux-based environments doesn't require any authentication, plus it gives users a group access to admin privileges like installing software without using a password, says SANS's Ullrich.

According to Ullrich, the big takeaway from this bug is that Linux administrators need to better understand and configure the polkit function in the operating system. "Linux distributions haven't done a very good job in pre-configuring polkit safely," he says.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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StygianAgenda
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StygianAgenda,
User Rank: Strategist
12/22/2014 | 9:42:46 AM
Agreed: Grinch issue not so much
I have to totally agree.  As I've been reading over this so-called issue this morning, I'm at a loss to understand what exactly the issue is... the 'wheel' group has been designed for controlled access to the 'su' application for as long as I can remember, and so long as no user 'aside from root' are made members of the wheel group, then there *is* no issue.

Maybe I'm misinterpretting the author's intent, but it doesn't just seem to be the author of this particular article.  A great number of tech-news sites are covering this so-called issue this morning, and all of them are reporting essentially the same thing, that this is some sort of flaw.  A misconfigured service is not a flaw, but rather a poorly thought-out security measure, and as is well known, there is no patch for human-stupidity.  Either the sysadmin is competant or not.  There is no half-way or grey-area where that is concerned.  Either you know what you're doing or you don't, which *is* correctable provided the person on the receiving end of new training is competant enough to understand their training... otherwise, they're in the wrong line of work.
anon0818748824
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anon0818748824,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/18/2014 | 7:37:19 PM
Grinch issue not so much
The 'so-called' grinch issue is a non issue.  There is NO flaw, let alone a bug. The kernel, the wheel group, and polkit are working as designed. No one, and I do me NO ONE, has there system setup to allow remote installation of packages or wheel access without root permissions. I am not saying it could not be setup that way, but no one does that. 

This issue is a non issue.

Cheers
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Ninja
12/17/2014 | 8:17:59 PM
Visit Grinch after Christmas
No, not Heartbleed or Shellshock but still good to pre-emptively phase out of existence. Clever holiday presentation.
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