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Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:33:57 +0100
From: Hanno Böck <>
Subject: Re: Fuzzing findings (and maybe CVE requests) -
 Image/GraphicsMagick, elfutils, GIMP, gdk-pixbuf, file, ndisasm, less

Am Sun, 16 Nov 2014 18:15:57 +0100
schrieb Robert Święcki <>:

> However, even if tools like file/ndisasm/gimp/readelf can be used by
> many (w/o strong system isolation boundaries) to analyze untrusted
> inputs (for reverse engineering, malware analysis and similar
> purposes) - I'd simply put a blame on those users when if they get
> pwnd - as they're depending on tools, which hadn't been properly
> evaluated for the purpose (by efforts of those users, or by their
> contractors or by the community at large) and the likelihood that
> we'll start accepting those tools as good enough for said purposes in
> the coming years is seriously low.

I feel you're trying to define security issues away, I can't follow.

Let's for a quick moment not talk about the security aware researcher
that does malware analysis. Let's talk about the "average user". And
let's take GIMP as an example: Isn't it a completely legit use of GIMP
to download an image from the internet (maybe one with a
creative commons license that allows changing it) and edit it?

Michal already made the important point with strings: The tool is not
doing what most people expect it to do. And basically almost nobody
knew that (me included) before he pointed it out.

Or let's take "less": A pretty basic tool to "view files".
Most linux distributions have something called "lesspipe" which is a
script that tries to determine the content of a less'ed file and pipe
it through an appropriate tool. readelf is amongst them (this is
distribution specific, but at least on my system). catdoc, antiword,
lha, ...
I didn't know that until solar designer and kenn white discussed it on

What should we do with that?
a) is it an unappropriate use of less to view untrusted files and we
should teach users so? (I seriously never would've thought of that - and
which average "just learned how to use the shell" user would've?)
b) tell linux distros that lesspipe is insecure and shouldn't be
c) fuzz all the tools in there and report at least the
low-hanging-fruit-bugs? (and then maybe try to replace the
"they-don't-fix-bugs-or-don't-have-a-dev-any-more"-tools with more
secure ones)

I feel a) is certainly neither working nor appropriate, I'm unsure
about b), I feel c) is something we can at least try.

One more thing I find worth mentioning in this whole effort: I find the
tools that expose their bugs pretty easily, but I also find the tools
that seem quite solid where I hadn't expected it. I wasn't able to fuzz
a crash out of 7z, arj, msgunfmt (gettext), the common linux archiving
tools (tar/gzip/bzip2/xz), ...

That doesn't mean they're safe and fuzzing them with afl for two days
wouldn't expose bugs. And of course there may be all the subtle bugs
that cannot be found via fuzzing but only via cautious reading of the
source code. But the point is: They're obvisouly at least much safer
than objdump or imagemagick. (and for the record: We're not done with
libbfd yet, but Nick did a marvellous job in fixing issues and 
the next binutils release will be much safer for sure)

My message here is: This can be done. I am aware that C code is
usually an awfull mess of insecurities and we won't be able to fix that
thoroughly (and if anyone wants to rewrite any of these tools: don't do
it in C). But we should at least try to get the low-hanging-fruits

Hanno Böck


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