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Date: Tue, 21 Jan 2020 13:17:11 -0500
From: Michael Orlitzky <>
Subject: CVE-2019-20384: Portage insecure temporary location

Product: Gentoo portage package manager
Versions-affected: 2.3.84 and earlier (all versions)
Author: Michael Orlitzky

== Summary ==

The Gentoo portage package manager builds packages in a temporary
location. By default, that temporary location is accessible to
unprivileged users even though the build essentially takes place as
root. In some common situations (during reinstalls, for example), this
leaves the source tree momentarily writable by an existing system user
who can exploit the situation to gain root.

== Details ==

Portage is the default package manager on Gentoo Linux, a source-based
distribution. To install a package, portage runs through a series of
configuration, compilation, and installation phases consisting of bash
script. These all run with root privileges in a temporary subdirectory
of the location specified by the PORTAGE_TMPDIR variable. The install
phase performs a "mock" installation, in a self-contained directory,
that can be tweaked before proceeding to the next step. When the build
and mock-install are complete, the final result is merged onto the live
filesystem, again using root privileges.

Gentoo developers and portage itself take some care to ensure that
nothing objectionable reaches the live filesystem. Subdirectories of
PORTAGE_TMPDIR, on the other hand, are the wild wild west. Much of
PORTAGE_TMPDIR is world-traversable, and that lack of access control
turns out to be exploitable by users who are granted ephemeral write
access to the source tree of a package being installed. If an
unprivileged user can write to the mock-installation image of a package,
then in essence he can write to the live filesystem as well because
everything in the mock image is merged onto the live filesystem eventually.

It is the nature of package maintenance that illicit things must take
during the build and installation phases. For example, many upstream
build systems set incorrect permissions on the files they produce, and
those permissions must be corrected before the files are merged onto the
system. But before problems are fixed in the mock-install, they exist in
the mock-install. And many of them allow an unprivileged user to modify
the source tree.

== Exploitation ==

The nagioscore package is available in Gentoo as
net-analyzer/nagios-core. By default its build system gives ownership of
/usr/lib64/nagios/plugins to the nagios user, but this gets corrected to
root:root to avoid surprises. The two lines that accomplish that in the
net-analyzer/nagios-core ebuild are,

  emake DESTDIR="${D}" install-basic
  fowners root:root /usr/lib64/nagios/plugins

The $D variable refers to the mock-installation path under
PORTAGE_TMPDIR, and fowners implicitly acts there. But between the call
to emake and the call to fowners, the plugin directory in the mock
installation image is writable by the nagios user. Below we demonstrate
how "nagios" can abuse this to install a malicious plugin.

1. First, add a sleep call to the ebuild to make it easier to exploit

     emake DESTDIR="${D}" install-basic
     echo "I'm vulnerable, is it nap time?"
     sleep 15
     fowners root:root /usr/lib64/nagios/plugins

2. Install acct-user/nagios once, so that the unprivileged nagios is
created on the system (in real life, this happens automatically):

    root # emerge -1 acct-user/nagios

3. Initiate an install of net-analyzer/nagios-core:

    root # emerge net-analyzer/nagios-core

4. When the ebuild reaches the sleep call that we added, the plugin
directory in the mock-install image is writable by the nagios user.
Commandeer the nagios user with "su", and place a malicious plugin there:

     root # su -s /bin/sh nagios
     nagios $ touch

5. Wait for the sleep() to pass, and watch the exploit be installed to
the live system:

     >>> /usr/lib64/nagios/cgi-bin/tac.cgi
     >>> /usr/lib64/nagios/cgi-bin/extinfo.cgi
     >>> /usr/lib64/nagios/cgi-bin/config.cgi
     --- /usr/lib64/nagios/plugins/
     >>> /usr/lib64/nagios/plugins/exploit.txt

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