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Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2017 13:27:21 +0200
From: Marcus Meissner <>
Cc: Daniel Skowroński <>
Subject: Re: systemd fails to parse user that should run

On Wed, Jul 05, 2017 at 10:50:34AM +0200, Pali Rohár wrote:
> On Sunday 02 July 2017 12:02 Daniel Skowroński wrote:
> > Hi all,
> > 
> > Just wanted to bring attention to issue with systemd not doing what is
> > expected when parsing User that should run service.
> > When it fails to parse string starting with digit it fails back to root
> > causing obvious threat to security.
> > 
> > See discussion with developer on github:
> >
> > 
> > Best,
> > -Daniel Skowronski
> Hi!
> There are basically two problems:
> 1) In more Linux distributions useradd tool allow to create a new user
> which starts with digit. Also according to POSIX such user name is a
> valid. This means that valid user name (for some Linux distributions)
> from /etc/passwd specified in systemd unit file results running service
> as root user.
> 2) If user name specified in systemd unit file is syntactically correct
> (according to systemd check) but user name does not exist then systemd
> refuse to start that unit.
> Which leads to problem that syntactically invalid user name (for
> systemd) results in root user and syntactically valid non-existent user
> name cause error.
> Because check if user name is valid is different in systemd as specified
> in POSIX and also different as in useradd tool supplied by some Linux
> distributions, I see this as a security problem when processing invalid
> input from configuration unit file.
> Correct behaviour should be to throw error also when garbage (invalid
> user name), according to internal systemd check, was specified. And not
> start service under root user with high privileges.
> Because of this I would suggest to ask for CVE identifier, so Linux
> distributions can mitigate or decide how to handle this problem.
> Linux distributions which follow POSIX standard when creating new users
> are affected by this.
> Please note that above bug tracker on github is locked for future
> discussion, which means it is not possible to ask for more details or
> continue discussion in upstream.
> Which is really *bad* for security related problems.
> What do you think, how should be this problem handled?

One of SUSEs systemd developer is developing a patch, that fails the unit
when parsing the username fails.

Ciao, Marcus

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