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Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2023 12:08:05 +0200
From: Matthias Gerstner <>
Subject: Mozilla VPN: CVE-2023-4104: Privileged vpndaemon on Linux wrongly
 and incompletely implements Polkit authentication

Hello list,

an openSUSE community packager wanted to add the Mozilla VPN client [1] to
openSUSE Tumbleweed, which required a review [2] by the SUSE security team,
as it contains a privileged D-Bus service running as root and a Polkit policy.
In the course of this review we noticed a broken and otherwise lacking Polkit
authorization logic in the privileged `mozillavpn linuxdaemon` process.

We publish this report today, because the maximum embargo period of 90 days we
offer has been exceeded. Most of the issues mentioned in this report are
currently not addressed by upstream, as is outlined in more detail below.


The Mozilla VPN client is a multi-platform VPN solution offered by Mozilla
based on technologies like Wireguard. For this review we did not look in
detail into the VPN protocol specifics and cryptography, but focused on the
privileged operations performed by the Mozilla VPN client daemon on Linux.

The findings in this report relate to the Mozilla VPN client version 2.14.1.

Broken Polkit Authentication Check

The code for the privileged component in Mozilla VPN on Linux is mostly
found in mozillavpn-2.14.1/src/apps/vpn/platforms/linux. The D-Bus
method callbacks are found in src/apps/vpn/platforms/linux/daemon/dbusservice.cpp.

Mozilla VPN ships a Polkit policy with the following content:

 <action id="org.mozilla.vpn.activate">
    <description>Activate the Mozilla VPN</description>
    <message>Activate the Mozilla VPN</message>

  <action id="org.mozilla.vpn.deactivate">
    <description>Deactivate the Mozilla VPN</description>
    <message>Deactivate the Mozilla VPN</message>

Of these two privileged actions, the Polkit authorization check is only
performed in the `activate` D-Bus method, while no such check is present
at all in the `deactivate` method.

For the activate D-Bus method the Polkit check is implemented in
`PolkitHelper::checkAuthorization()` in
src/apps/vpn/platforms/linux/daemon/polkithelper.cpp line 58:

h.m_subject = polkit_unix_process_new_for_owner(getpid(), 0, -1);

The UNIX process Polkit subject is deprecated and shouldn't be used
anymore for most cases, because it affected by race conditions by design.
Instead the D-Bus sender subject should be used, which is based on the UNIX
domain socket used by D-Bus, to obtain the credentials of the client via the
Linux kernel.

Even worse, the UNIX process Polkit subject is initialized here using
`getpid()` as the process ID and `-1` for the user ID. The latter asks
Polkit to determine the given PID's user ID by looking into /proc.
In summary this asks Polkit to check whether the privileged Mozilla VPN
D-Bus service _itself_ is authorized to perform the action. Since The
Mozilla VPN D-Bus service runs as root, this will always be true.

This can be verified from the command line using a minimal pseudo
configuration like this:

    nobody$ gdbus call -y -d org.mozilla.vpn.dbus -o / -m org.mozilla.vpn.dbus.activate \
        '{"privateKey": "nothing", "serverPublicKey": "nothing", "serverPort": 1234, "deviceIpv4Address": "", "serverIpv4AddrIn": "", "allowedIPAddressRanges": []}'

This D-Bus call will work without any authentication, even if a low privilege
user account like `nobody` runs it.

The impact is that arbitrary local users can configure arbitrary VPN
setups using Mozilla VPN and thus possibly redirect network traffic to
malicious parties, pretend that a secure VPN is present while it
actually isn't, perform a denial-of-service against an existing VPN connection
or other integrity violations.

Since the daemon does not perform any file system or otherwise dangerous
operations besides of the network setup, we don't see a possibility to
escalate privileges beyond the network aspect using this attack vector.

Missing Polkit Authentication Checks

Apart from the fact that the existing Polkit authentication check is
flawed, there isn't even an attempt to secure any of the other D-Bus
methods offered by the Mozilla VPN D-Bus service.

For the following methods Polkit authorization checks should be
considered, or their scope should be limited by other means:

- getLogs(): returns potentially problematic world-readable log data, even
  debug logs, e.g. about other users' activities in the system. The
  same data is publicly available in /var/log/mozillavpn.txt. These
  logs allow to track what applications other users start, for example.

  Log data of system services should generally not be world readable, so
  this item refers to both the D-Bus API and the logfile in /var/log.
  This is an information leak (especially since there is also debug data
  found here) that might facilitate other security issues or might allow
  other users in the system to deduce what a Mozilla VPN user is doing.

- cleanupLogs(): allows everybody to clear the current logs. This should
  be restricted to authorized users, otherwise it might be used to clear
  traces of attacks etc.

- runningApps(): this leaks information from other users'
  sessions and their apps to everybody in the system. Most of this data
  is probably also available via `ps` or /proc, respectively. Some
  hardened systems may not allow this, though. A solution might be to
  only return data here that belongs to the user making the request on

- firewallApp(): allows to put arbitrary appIDs into split tunneling /
  exclude, even for other users. This should be restricted to
  applications of the requesting D-Bus user.

- firewallClear(): clears the exclude list. should also be restricted to
  entries affecting the calling user.

- deactivate(): everybody may shutdown the whole VPN. There is a
  deactivate() Polkit action declared but is is never used, as was explained
  before already.

Suggested Fixes

From looking at the D-Bus implementation it is apparent that Mozilla VPN on
Linux doesn't have a proper multi user concept. We recommended to upstream, as
a simple way out of this, to store the UID of the user that successfully
authenticates during `activate()` and then only allow the other D-Bus methods
for the same user until `deactivate()` is called. Mixing different user
contexts would be avoided this way.

For this to work, of course, all D-Bus methods would need to be properly
Polkit authenticated, based on the D-Bus sender subject.

Furthermore we observed that the Mozilla VPN linux daemon only uses its high
privileges for two things:

- setting up the network
- monitoring user sessions and attaching to their D-Bus session busses
  to keep track of running applications ("AppTracker" class).

It could be considered running this service not as root but only with
the `CAP_NET_ADMIN` capability. This would limit the potential attack
surface considerably.

Upstream Fixes

As a first measure Upstream removed the use Polkit authentication completely [3].
This change will be included in an upcoming v2.16.0 release. This
doesn't really change anything in the security posture of the privileged
daemon on Linux though, since all D-Bus APIs are still unauthenticated and
usable by any local user.

In another effort upstream is attempting to introduce better authorization
controls on the D-Bus API by requiring the caller to possess `CAP_NET_ADMIN`
permission, or matching the UID of the user that activated the connection. This
is anticipated to be included in a 2.17.0 release, for which no release date
is known yet (supposedly in one to two months).

Whether the minor information leaks outlined above like world readable logs
and keeping track of other users' activities will be addressed by this is

Timeline and Disclosure Process

2023-05-04: We privately shared the findings with,
offering coordinated disclosure according to the openSUSE disclosure policy.
Upstream created a private bugzilla bug [4] to keep track of the issue.

Until 2023-06-12: There has been a lack of communication by upstream. Relevant
questions about the disclosure process remained unanswered, there was no
formal reply to our report and no wishes have been expressed about how to
continue the coordinated disclosure, or what the next steps would be.

2023-06-12: We learned that the embargo over this issue was violated by
upstream via a GitHub PR [3] and, inspired by that, our community packager
followed suit via another GitHub PR [5].

We asked upstream once more what their intentions are regarding coordinated
disclosure but did not get a proper response.

2023-08-02: Even though the embargo was already violated and there was no
clear statement from upstream about the coordinated disclosure process, we
held back the full report until the 90 days maximum embargo time we offer

We tried to get additional information from upstream once more and only now
learned more details about their plans on how to address this, which we
outlined in the previous section.

2023-08-03: Our continued requests to assign a CVE for this issue (Mozilla is a
CVE CNA) resulted in a last minute assignment of CVE-2023-4104.



Best Regards


Matthias Gerstner <>
Security Engineer
GPG Key ID: 0x14C405C971923553
SUSE Software Solutions Germany GmbH
HRB 36809, AG Nürnberg
Geschäftsführer: Ivo Totev, Andrew McDonald, Werner Knoblich

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