Critical Linux kernel vmsplice security issues
There have been 2 significant security flaws found in the Linux kernel, accompanied by plenty of misinformation and confusion. This is my attempt to clear things up a bit.
The short story: If you are running Linux 2.6.17 or newer then any user who has local console or SSH terminal access to your machine can easily become root or crash the system. If this is a problem for you, then you need to upgrade to gentoo-sources-2.6.23-r8 or gentoo-sources-2.6.24-r2. At the time of writing, there are no official released upstream kernels which solve the issues – Linux 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 are vulnerable.
The longer story:
There are actually two separate security issues in question here. However, they both have the same impact (any user can adjust kernel memory and hence become root), and both issues exist within the implementation of the vmsplice() system call. vmsplice() was added in Linux 2.6.17 and is built into every kernel build – there is no configuration option to exclude vmsplice. Two separate exploits have been publicly released which exploit each of the two issues respectively.
The first security issue under discussion was added in Linux 2.6.23 (obviously unintentionally!). This means that 2.6.22 and older are not vulnerable to the first exploit. This issue was fixed by this patch in Linux 184.108.40.206 and Linux 220.127.116.11. This vulnerability has been classified with two codes: CVE-2008-0009 and CVE-2008-0010.
The second security issue is more serious. Firstly, it has existed for the entire lifetime of vmsplice() which means that any kernel version 2.6.17 or newer is vulnerable. Secondly, it is not fixed in any upstream kernel release at time of writing, but the fix has been merged into Linus’ upstream development tree. This vulnerability has been assigned ID CVE-2008-0600.
gentoo-sources-2.6.23-r7 and gentoo-sources-2.6.24-r1 include the fix for the first issue, but are still vulnerable to the second (which is equally serious).
gentoo-sources-2.6.23-r8 and gentoo-sources-2.6.24-r2 include the fix for the second issue and are hence secured against all known vmsplice exploits at this point in time. 2.6.23-r8 will be marked stable when I wake up 7-8 hours from now, so testing of that release would be appreciated.
UPDATE: gentoo-sources-2.6.23-r8 is now stable, and upstream have also released the following which fix all currently known issues: Linux 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124 and 2.6.25-rc1.