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Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2011 14:02:53 +0200
From: Ludwig Nussel <>
Cc: Michael Matz <>, Thorsten Kukuk <>,
	Andreas Jaeger <>
Subject: Re: CVE request: crypt_blowfish 8-bit character

Solar Designer wrote:
>On Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 04:34:41PM +0200, Ludwig Nussel wrote:
>> I wonder whether it would make sense to patch pam_unix (resp
>> pam_unix2 in our case) to detect the problem and activate the
>> workaround automatically. pam_unix has the clear text password so
>> knows when it contains 8bit characters. It also has the shadow entry
>> which tells when the password was set. If that date is before the
>> update was installed the 2x method could be tried if 2a failed and a
>> warning could be logged to syslog.
>This is tricky.  When implementing things like that, we need to consider
>timing leaks (do we care if an observer of ssh traffic is able to
>tell whether the password contained 8-bit chars or not? perhaps we do)
>and leaks via the hash encodings themselves (if only some are changed to
>a certain type, this may leak some info about the corresponding
>passwords, thereby speeding up offline attacks on the hashes).

For SUSE Linux we're not that paranoid I guess :-) The extra time 
would only hit accounts that are not converted yet. I suppose there 
are not too many anyways and there will be less over time.

>My response above is generic, not focused on your specific proposed
>approach.  Overall, I think we'll need to give this more thought.
>One idea is to allocate yet another prefix, which will mean the same
>thing as 2a, but "certified" as passing a certain specific test suite
>(which will include 8-bit chars).  So we'll have:
>2a - unknown correctness (may be correct, may be buggy)
>2x - sign extension bug
>2y - definitely correct
>Newly set/changed passwords will be getting the new prefix.
>Then we'll be able to do things such as optionally have a PAM module
>deny logins with 8-bit char passwords to accounts that have 2a or/and
>2x hashes.  (Rationale for the admin: passwords weaker than expected.)
>With another option, we'll be able to have 2a treated as 2x.  (Rationale
>for the admin: minimum inconvenience to the users.)  Perhaps there can
>be other reasonable settings as well.
>What do you think?

I'm not sure we can expect admins to put that much thought into the 
issue and expect them to configure things. I think for the system 
logins we can get away with patching pam_unix2 to have a fallback to 
2x and log a message for the admin that tells him to run "passwd -e" 
on the account. Theoretically it could even issue a PAM_TEXT_INFO 
message to the user. That might confuse some applications though.


  (o_   Ludwig Nussel
SUSE LINUX Products GmbH, GF: Jeff Hawn, Jennifer Guild, Felix Imend├Ârffer, HRB 16746 (AG N├╝rnberg) 

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