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Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2016 21:32:05 +0200
From: Hanno Böck <>
Subject: Multiple vulnerabilities in RPM – and a rant

Last year in November I decided that it might be a good idea to fuzz
the parsers of package management tools in Linux distributions. I
quickly found a couple of issues in DPKG and RPM. For DPKG the process
went very smooth. I reported them to Debian's security team, eight days
later fixes and security advisories were published by both Debian and
Ubuntu, the main distributions using DPKG. For RPM the process was a
bit more difficult.

If you want to report a bug to RPM you first may wonder where to report
it. The RPM webpage [1] is a trac installation which has its own bug
tracker. However if you try to register an account there you'll get
forwarded to an HTTPS site with an expired certificate that doesn't
match the domain name. In case you are brave and tell your browser to
ignore all warnings you'll be greeted by a broken-looking trac without
any CSS. Should you proceed and create an account you will learn that
this doesn't help you, because in order to be allowed to report a bug
you first have to ask on the mailing list or in the IRC channel for
permission [2]. That's probably the point where many well-meaning bug
reporters give up.

Okay, but RPM stands for “Red Hat package manager”, so maybe Red Hat
feels responsible. So I reported three bugs with sample files
triggering them to the Red Hat security team on November 20th. The
answer was – to put it mildly – a bit dissatisfying. I'll just fully
quote it: “Thanks for the report. We also received about 30+ crash
reports in RPM from a different reporter recently so processing all of
them (yours and the others) will take quite a bit of time. We simply
don't have the resources to spend hours upon hours analyzing all crash

Okay, so I wasn't the only one fuzzing RPM and the maybe bugs will be
fixed some day. I waited. In the meantime I got contacted by another
person who also had tried to report fuzzing bugs in RPM and who has
made similar experiences (maybe the same person who reported the 30+
crashers, I don't know).

In February I decided to ask what the state of things is. I also gave
them a 30 day period until I'd publish the bugs (I know that it's now
long past that, I shouldn't have let this issue wait so long). I ended
up having a call with a Red Hat security team member and exchanged a
couple of mails. I learned that RPM has a Github repository [3], which
contains fixes for some (but not all) of the issues I reported, however
that's nowhere referenced on its webpage. I then fuzzed the current RPM
git code again and found two more issues I also reported to the Red Hat
security team.

Status today is that the latest release of RPM on its webpage – - is from July 2015, so all of the bugs still affect this
release. However it seems there is an unofficial 4.13 release that's
nowhere to be found on the RPM webpage, but Red Hat is using it
together with some fixes [4]. And the Github repository says the latest
release is 4.12.0, so according to three different sources three
different versions are the current one (4.12.0,, 4.13).

One of the bugs – a stack overflow (write) - is still present in the
latest code on Github.

Commend and Conclusion

This blog post probably reads like a big rant about how unprofessional
Red Hat is in handling potential security issues. But this is contrary
to my usual experience. I often see Red Hat developers being very
active in the free software security community and often contributing
in a positive way. Quite simply I expect better from Red Hat. This is
not some dubious Enterprise vendor where I wouldn't be the least bit
surprised of such a reaction.

The development process of RPM seems to be totally chaotic, it's
neither clear where one reports bugs nor where one gets the latest code
and security bugs don't get fixed within a reasonable time.

There's been some recent events that make me feel especially worried
about this: An unknown person has created an entry in the Libarchive
issue tracker [5] that points to an anonymous document [6] with a very
detailed description of various security weaknesses in the FreeBSD
update process (most of them are still unfixed). The most worrying
thing about this is however that the anonymous post mentions the
existence similar documents affecting multiple Linux distributions.
These documents haven't shown up publicly yet and given the unclear
nature of this incident it's hard to know whether they ever will become
public or exist at all. But this should still be reason enough to have
a closer look at potential security vulnerabilities in all pieces of
Linux package management systems.

I haven't analyzed the RPM installation process in detail, so I can't
say how likely it is that the RPM tool ever sees a malformed input
file. It seems downloads happen over HTTP, but the first thing that
happens is a signature check. As the signature is part of the RPM file
it already needs to be parsed for this. The exact impact of these bugs
would require further analysis. But independent of how likely this is I
think the parser in such a crucial piece of software should be robust.
It should be safe to use the rpm tool to show info about a file on the
command line.

[5] [6]

All bugs were found with the help of american fuzzy lop. Here are the

Stack Overflow in glob() / rpmglob.c.
Sample file (test with rpm -i [input]):
Unfixed in the current Git code.

Heap out of bounds read in headerVerifyInfo() / header.c.
Sample file (test with “rpm -i [input]”):
Git commit:

Null pointer access / segfault in stringFormat() / formats.c
Sample file (test with “rpm -i [input]”):
Git commit:

Out of bounds read in rpmtdGetNumber() / rpmtd.c
Sample file (test with “rpm -qi -p -- [input]”)
Git commit:

Finally one annoying thing to admit: In my original report I included
another segfault in headerVerifyInfo() with unclear reasons. However I
am now unable to reproduce this one. It may be due to compiler options,
different command line parameters or dependencies on my system that
have changed. For completeness I'm still providing the sample file:
(Ideally the RPM developers should include all those sample files in a
test suite they regularly run against an address sanitizer build of

Please also note that I expect this list to be incomplete and there are
likely more issues that could be uncovered with further fuzzing. I'll
test that once all the existing issues are fixed.

Hanno Böck

GPG: FE73757FA60E4E21B937579FA5880072BBB51E42

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