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Date: Tue, 24 Oct 2017 20:30:07 +0200
From: Solar Designer <>
Cc: Jan Lieskovsky <>, Jeff Law <>,
	Paolo Bonzini <>,
	Florian Weimer <>,
	Andreas Schwab <>,
	Carlos O'Donell <>
Subject: Re: CVE Request -- glibc: DoS due to a buffer overrun in regexp matcher by processing multibyte characters


I'm not sure it makes sense to add to this old thread, but FWIW:

On Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 11:33:36AM -0700, Kurt Seifried wrote:
> On 01/30/2013 04:40 AM, Jan Lieskovsky wrote:
> > a security flaw was found in the regular expression matching 
> > routine of glibc, the GNU libc libraries, processed multibyte 
> > characters input. If an application utilized the glibc's regular 
> > expression matching mechanism, an attacker could provide a
> > specially-crafted input that, when processed would lead to that
> > executable crash.
> > 
> > Upstream bug report: [1]
> >
> > 
> > Relevant patch: [2]
> >
> > 
> > More background: * (from Paolo): Jan 30 11:34:19 <bonzini> iankko:
> > it is a memset(foo, 0, ...) that overruns the buffer, so it's not
> > controllable by the attacker
> > 
> > * but the denial of service scenario / attack vector is valid
> > (consider network facing application using glibc's regexp matching
> > on untrusted input)
> > 
> > Could you allocate a CVE id for this?
> > 
> > Thank you && Regards, Jan. -- Jan iankko Lieskovsky / Red Hat
> > Security Response Team
> Please use CVE-2013-0242 for this issue.

In a follow-up to Andreas Schwab's libc-alpha posting referenced above,
Carlos O'Donell points out that the "Double the lengthes of the
buffers." comment in extend_buffers() hadn't been true since MIN() was
added by:;a=commitdiff;h=8887a920a4b81a500f54893250085e0d1a52cf9a

commit 8887a920a4b81a500f54893250085e0d1a52cf9a
Author: Ulrich Drepper <>
Date:   Sat May 28 17:14:30 2011 -0400

    Fix unnecessary overallocation due to incomplete character

    When incomplete characters are found at the end of a string the
    code ran amok and allocated lots of memory.  Stricter limits
    are now in place.

That commit includes this change:

   /* Double the lengthes of the buffers.  */
-  ret = re_string_realloc_buffers (pstr, pstr->bufs_len * 2);
+  ret = re_string_realloc_buffers (pstr, MIN (pstr->len, pstr->bufs_len * 2));

Andreas' commit fixing the issue reported in 2013 is:;a=commitdiff;h=a445af0bc722d620afed7683cd320c0e4c7c6059

commit a445af0bc722d620afed7683cd320c0e4c7c6059
Author: Andreas Schwab <>
Date:   Tue Jan 29 14:45:15 2013 +0100

    Fix buffer overrun in regexp matcher

and it further changes the code to:

+  /* Double the lengthes of the buffers, but allocate at least MIN_LEN.  */
+  ret = re_string_realloc_buffers (pstr,
+                                  MAX (min_len,
+                                       MIN (pstr->len, pstr->bufs_len * 2)));

Carlos also wrote that "MIN() never yields anything near double the
length", but Andreas disagreed by "That is not true, otherwise the bug
would not have happend.  bufs_len starts out pretty small (MB_CUR_MAX)."

I don't follow the logic behind "otherwise the bug would not have
happend".  The bug was reported against glibc after the 2011 commit, and
I found no evidence of it manifesting itself against pre-2011 glibc.
"bufs_len starts out pretty small (MB_CUR_MAX)" makes sense to me, but
isn't convincing that this size was necessarily too small.

I failed to visibly trigger the bug in pre-2011 glibc with bug-regex34.c
(yes, with a en_US.UTF-8 locale built) as included in the 2013 commit,
as well as with its revisions e.g. adding the below hack near the end of

  /* Additional attempt to trigger a buffer overflow on older glibc */
  re_compile_pattern ("[^y]y", 5, &r);
  while (1) {
    char *q;
    int n = asprintf(&q, "%s%s", s, s);
    if (n < 0 || n > 10000000)
    q[n] = 'y';
    re_search (&r, q, strlen (q), 0, strlen (q), 0);
    q[n] = 'x';
    s = q;

as well as other tricks (e.g., so that the string length increases one
char at a time rather than by powers of 2).  Watching such tests run
under ltrace, they appear to work as intended - sane return values, and
indeed no crash.  This doesn't convincingly say there were no out of
bounds accesses, though - maybe they just happened to be benign here.

This makes me question whether the issue fully existed (as in allowing
one to trigger a "buffer overrun" as the Subject says) prior to the 2011
commit.  Maybe the doubling of buffer size (without the MIN()
constraint) happened to be sufficient, and thus the issue only fully
existed in the 2011 to 2013 period (as it relates to upstream glibc)?

Looking at how Red Hat patched it in their older distros, I see that
for RHEL5 and RHEL6 glibc-rh905874.patch effectively makes both changes
at once (even though it does not reference the 2011 commit):

-  /* Double the lengthes of the buffers.  */
-  ret = re_string_realloc_buffers (pstr, pstr->bufs_len * 2);
+  /* Double the lengthes of the buffers, but allocate at least MIN_LEN.  */
+  ret = re_string_realloc_buffers (pstr,
+                                  MAX (min_len,
+                                       MIN (pstr->len, pstr->bufs_len * 2)));

This implies there was never a RHEL5 or RHEL6 package of glibc with one
change without the other, and thus maybe (only if the guess above that
the buffer doubling happened to be sufficient is right) never a package
vulnerable to this issue.

Of course, I don't recommend anyone to rely on this without proper
analysis (the above analysis isn't sufficiently complete yet), and now
that the issue has been patched it is probably not worth further
analysis.  Thus, now this is mostly a curiosity and a remaining
uncertainty whether backporting the fix to pre-2011 glibc was needed or
not.  This could be of practical relevance to someone intending to use
the bug against older unpatched systems in a penetration test, though.


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