Follow @Openwall on Twitter for new release announcements and other news
[<prev] [next>] [<thread-prev] [thread-next>] [day] [month] [year] [list]
Date: Wed, 05 Aug 2020 14:51:49 -0700
From: Jerry Snitselaar <>
Cc:,, Matthias Gerstner <>
Subject: Re: Multiple Security Issues in the TrouSerS tpm1.2 tscd Daemon

Matthias Gerstner @ 2020-05-20 05:54 MST:

> Hello,
> I have discovered multiple security issues in the tcsd daemon of the TrouSerS
> [1] tpm 1.2 stack.
> Introduction
> ============
> The tcsd daemon manages access to the tpm 1.2 compliant /dev/tpm0 device on
> Linux systems. The daemon utilizes an unprivileged user and group account to
> run as. These are called tss:tss by default.
> The tcsd can be started directly as the tss user and group e.g. via systemd or
> via start-stop-daemon. In this case the /dev/tpm0 device needs to be owned by
> the tss user. This mode of operation is safe and is not affected by the
> following findings.
> If the tcsd is started with root privileges then it opens /dev/tpm0 as root
> and drops privileges to the unprivileged user afterwards. In this case the tss
> user can achieve privilege escalations. The following logic is performed by
> the tcsd:
> 1) the daemon reads in the configuration in /etc/tcsd.conf after making sure
>   that the config file is owned by tss:tss mode 0600 (function
>   `conf_file_init()`). From this configuration file the path `system_ps_file`
>   (by default /var/lib/tpm/ is parsed and used for further
>   operations.
> 2) the daemon makes sure that the directory where the `system_ps_file` is
>   contained in exists (function `ps_dirs_init()`, /var/lib/tpm by default).
>   The directory is created, if necessary, using `mkdir()` and mode 0700.
>   Afterwards an explicit `chown()` to mode 0700 is made in case the mode of
>   the directory doesn't match this mode yet.
> 3) in the function `ps_init_disk_cache()` the function `get_file()` is called
>   which opens the `system_ps_file` using `O_RDWR|O_CREAT` and mode 0600:
>   `openat(AT_FDCWD, "/var/lib/tpm/", O_RDWR|O_CREAT, 0600) = 4`
> 4) only after these steps a privilege drop to the tss uid is performed in
>    the `main()` function.
> Security Issues
> ===============
> The security issues resulting from this are as follows:
> a) Since /var/lib/tpm is owned by the tss user (as per dist/, the
>    creation of the `` file in step 3) is prone to symlink attacks. The
>    tss user can thereby cause the creation of new files or the corruption of
>    existing files. These new files end up with mode 0600 and no `chown()` to the
>    tss user is performed by the tcsd. Thus it looks like no full local root
>    privilege escalation can be achieved but only DoS attacks.
> b) The tcsd only drops the root uid, not the root gid in step 4). A call to
>    `setgid()` is missing. Therefore the tcsd continues to run with root group
>    privileges it doesn't actually require. This could allow further privilege
>    escalations when combined with other, yet unknown attack vectors.
> c) The configuration file /etc/tcsd.conf is _required_ by the tcsd to be
>    owned by tss:tss mode 0600. Therefore the unprivileged user can change all
>    daemon related settings, including the `system_ps_file` path. This means
>    the `mkdir()` and `chmod()` performed in step 2) can be directed to an
>    arbitrary path. This also includes the symlink attack described in a)
>    for arbitrary paths.
>    Further security issues could stem from this by manipulating other config
>    file options. I did not look deeper into this.
> d) Not directly related to the logic above. The example RPM spec file [5] in
>    the TrouSerS repository is using unsafe file and directory modes for
>    /var/lib/tpm and /usr/sbin/tcsd:
>    ```
>    # create the default location for the persistent store files
>    if test -e %{_localstatedir}/tpm; then
>         mkdir -p %{_localstatedir}/tpm
>         /bin/chown tss:tss %{_localstatedir}/tpm
>         /bin/chmod 1777 %{_localstatedir}/tpm
>    fi
>    # chown the daemon
>    /bin/chown tss:tss %{_sbindir}/tcsd
>    ```
>    So here a public sticky-bit directory is setup in /var/lib/tpm. This could
>    allow arbitrary users to setup the symlink attack mentioned in a). It could
>    also lead to an information leak. Once the tcsd is started as root the mode
>    of /var/lib/tpm will be corrected in step 1), however.
>    Passing ownership of /usr/sbin/tcsd to the tss user would allow the tss
>    user to replace the tcsd binary by malicious code that will potentially be
>    executed by the root user, leading to arbitrary code execution.
>    I'm not aware of any distribution actually using this spec file or parts of
>    it. Still it is a very bad example.
> Mitigation and Bugfixes
> =======================
> It seems best to me to run the tcsd as the tss:tss user and group right away
> and to not rely on the privilege drop logic implemented in the daemon itself.
> All of a), b) and c) should no longer be problematic in this case. I found
> that on Debian and Gentoo Linux this is already the case. To make this work a
> udev rule needs to be packaged that passes ownership of /dev/tpm0 device to
> the tss user. To prevent regressions when switching from the privilege drop
> approach to this new approach, a possibly already existing
> /var/lib/tpm/system.auth file needs to be safely chown()'ed to the tss user
> during package updates.

On Fedora and RHEL there currently is a udev rule (from upstream) that
ships with the tpm2-tss package that is setting ownership of /dev/tpm0
to tss:root. I don't recall what the reasoning was for the group being
root. For /dev/tpmrm0 it sets it to tss:tss, so not sure what the reason
was for /dev/tpm0. I believe that package is part of a default install,
so that will need to be worked out. I don't know if you run into that
with SUSE as well.

> On SUSE and Fedora Linux the tcsd is started as root via systemd, thus they
> are affected by the security issues. A preliminary suggested source code fix
> is attached to this mail. It makes sure that `O_NOFOLLOW` is added to step 3)
> to prevent a symlink attack. It also adds a drop of the root gid to the tss
> gid. And it modifies the check of /etc/tcsd.conf such that ownership root:tss
> and mode 0640 are necessary. The packaging needs to be adjusted accordingly.
> The correct long term fix should probably be to *only* open /dev/tpm0 as root,
> immediately drop to tss:tss and only then perform the further initialization
> steps. The initialization sequence in `tcsd_startup()` is currently running
> completely in the root user context and seems rather complex. Maybe there are
> more details to this that I don't know of yet. For this reason I didn't try a
> patch in this direction yet.
> Upstream Reporting
> ==================
> I reported issues a), b) and d) privately to the documented upstream contacts
> without much success (see Timeline below). The SUSE Security Team 90 days
> maximum disclosure time has been reached, therefore I'm publishing this now in
> an uncoordinated way. While working on a fix I additionally discovered issue
> c). SUSE is tracking the issues in bsc#1164472 [6] currently.
> Issues a), b) and c) deserve CVE assignments in my opinion. I can't request
> CVEs myself though, because IBM upstream is a CNA themselves. Therefore
> upstream is required to assign their own CVEs.
> Timeline
> ========
> 2020-02-19: I reported findings a), b) and d) to,
>             the security contact of the project according to the README file [2].
> 2020-02-28: I reported findings a), b) and d) to, the
>             maintainer of the project according to the AUTHORS file [3].
> 2020-03-16: I received a reply from, stating that she
>             will look into the findings.
> 2020-05-06: I reminded that the latest disclosure time
>             [4] for the findings is approaching and asked for any updates.
> 2020-05-20: I started working on a bugfix and mitigations, discovered the
>             additional finding c) and started publishing the findings.
> [1]:
> [2]:
> [3]:
> [4]:
> [5]:
> [6]:
> Best Regards
> Matthias

Powered by blists - more mailing lists

Please check out the Open Source Software Security Wiki, which is counterpart to this mailing list.

Confused about mailing lists and their use? Read about mailing lists on Wikipedia and check out these guidelines on proper formatting of your messages.