================================================================== 'Celebrating 40 years of Apollo and 20 years of buffer overflows'
INFIGO IS Security Advisory #ADV-2009-07-09
Title: NASA Common Data Format remote buffer overflow(s)
Advisory ID: INFIGO-2009-07-09
Advisory URL: http://www.infigo.hr/en/in_focus/advisories/INFIGO-2009-07-09
Vendor: NASA GODDARD Space Flight Center
Vendor URL: http://cdf.gsfc.nasa.gov/
Impact: Remote code execution
Risk Level: High
Vulnerability Type: Remote
CDF is the Common Data Format. It is a conceptual data abstraction for
storing, manipulating, and accessing multidimensional data sets.
The basic component of CDF is a software programming interface that is
a device-independent view of the CDF data model.
The CDF software package is used by hundreds of government agencies,
universities, and private and commercial organizations as well as
independent researchers on both national and international levels.
CDF has been adopted by the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics
(ISTP) project as well as the Central Data Handling Facilities (CDHF)
as their format of choice for storing and distributing key parameter
data. A list of some applications that use the CDF library can be found
Various memory corruption vulnerabilities have been identified during a
security audit of the CDF library. The vulnerabilities exist in the code
processing CDF files. This advisory contains technical information about
one of the identified vulnerabilities, that can be exploited when a
malformed CDF file is parsed by a CDF reading program.
The vulnerability exists in the ReadAEDRList64() function. This function
is used to read a list of attribute entries from a CDF file.
The attribute entries are stored in a list indexed by the entry number.
The relevant source code is shown below:
STATICforIDL CDFstatus ReadAEDRList64 (vFILE *fp,
struct AEDRstructExt64 ***AEDRList,
struct AEDRstructExt64 *TempAEDR;
Int32 LastAEDRNum = -1;
 *AEDRList = cdf_AllocateMemory((MaxEntry + 1) *
sizeof(struct AEDRstructExt64**), NULL);
while (NxtAEDR != 0 && LastAEDRNum != MaxEntry)
 TempAEDR = cdf_AllocateMemory(sizeof(struct AEDRstructExt64), NULL);
 if (!Read32_64(fp,&(TempAEDR->AEDR.Num))) return CRE;
 (*AEDRList)[TempAEDR->AEDR.Num] = TempAEDR;
The code marked as  creates an array of AEDRstructExt64 structures,
allocated on the heap and assigned to the AEDRList variable. The TempAEDR
structure  is also allocated on the heap. It is further used in the
while() loop to read the attributes from the CDF file that is being
The Read32_64() function  is used to read an integer from the
CDF file stream and store it in the TempAEDR->AEDR.Num. At  this value
is used as the index that specifies where in the AEDRList the address of
the TempAEDR structure is stored.
This is where the vulnerability exists as the code performs no sanity
checks on the TempAEDR->AEDR.Num value.
In other words, if the CDF file contains a value that is higher than the
number of allocated AEDRList entries, a malicious CDF file can overwrite
arbitrary heap data after the AEDRList array. The value that will be
written is the address of the TempAEDR structure. This can be further
exploited as the attacker can control the content of the TempAEDR
structure, in which malicious code can be embedded.
As the TempAEDR->AEDR.Num is used as the index, the attacker can write 4
bytes to an address higher than the AEDRList's address. Since this index
is added to the AEDRList address, an attacker can also specify a large
value which allows him to overflow the integer in the adding calculation,
effectively writing to any address mapped by the process.
Other protection mechanisms, such as ASLR, could make this exploitation
method less reliable.
Various other memory corruption vulnerabilities have been identified
in SearchForRecord_r_64(), LastRecord64(), CDFsel64() and other functions.
In cooperation with the vendor all identified vulnerable function have
been fixed, and a proper validation module was developed to verify CDF
files before processing them.
==[ Affected Version
The vulnerabilities has been identified in the latest available CDF
version 3.2.4. Previous versions are believed to be vulnerable as well.
The vendor has addressed vulnerabilities on 20.7.2009. with CDF
library version 3.3. New CDF library 3.3 has 'cdfvalidate' module
that will validate CDF files for potential malformed values.
New version is available at http://cdf.gsfc.nasa.gov/.
==[ PoC Exploit
PoC will not be released.
==[ Vendor status
20.08.2008 - Initial contact
20.08.2008 - 20.07.2009: Cooperation with vendor
20.07.2009 - Coordinated public disclosure
Vulnerability discovered by Leon Juranic