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TUCoPS :: Unix :: General :: ca-9810.txt

CERT Advisory 98-10 Buffer Overflows in MIME-Aware Mail and News Clients

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CERT* Advisory CA-98.10
Original issue date: August 11, 1998
Last Revised:	October 19, 1998
		Added vendor information for Compaq Computer Corporation

		A complete revision history is at the end of this file.

Topic: Buffer Overflow in MIME-aware Mail and News Clients

- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The CERT Coordination Center has received reports of a vulnerability in some
MIME-aware mail and news clients.

The CERT/CC team recommends updating any vulnerable mail or news clients
according to the information provided in Appendix A. In addition, network
administrators may be able to employ some risk mitigation strategies until
they are able to update all the vulnerable clients. These strategies are
described in Appendix B.

We will update this advisory as we receive additional information. Please
check our advisory files regularly for updates that relate to your site.

As of the publication date of this advisory, we have not received any
reports indicating this vulnerability has been successfully exploited.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

I.   Description

A vulnerability in some MIME-aware mail and news clients could allow
an intruder to execute arbitrary code, crash the system, or gain
administrative rights on vulnerable systems. The vulnerability has
been discovered by Marko Laakso and Ari Takanen of the Secure
Programming Group of the University of Oulu. It has received
considerable public attention in the media and through reports
published by Microsoft, Netscape, AUSCERT, CIAC, NTBugTraq, and

The vulnerability affects a number of mail and news clients in
addition to the ones which have been the subjects of those reports.

II.  Impact

An intruder who sends a carefully crafted mail message to a vulnerable
system can, under some circumstances, cause code of the intruder's
choosing to be executed on the vulnerable system. Additionally, an
intruder can cause a vulnerable mail program to crash unexpectedly.

Depending on the operating system on which the mail client is running
and the privileges of the user running the vulnerable mail client, the
intruder may be able to crash the entire system. If a privileged user
reads mail with a vulnerable mail user agent, an intruder can gain
administrative access to the system.

III. Solution

     A.  Obtain and install a patch for this problem as described in
         Appendix A.

     B.  Until you are able to install the appropriate patch, you may wish to
         install patches to sendmail or to use procmail filtering as described
         in Appendix B.


Appendix A - Vendor Information

Below is a list of the vendors who have provided information for this
advisory. We will update this appendix as we receive additional information.
If you do not see your vendor's name, the CERT/CC did not hear from that
vendor. Please contact the vendor directly.

Caldera Inc.

Caldera is currently investigating these issues and in the process of
releasing a fix. Updated RPMs will be uploaded to:

                9d2a8ca516c3bbbe920a72d365780fe3  mutt-0.93.1-2.i386.rpm
                a20383c9c6f73aac56731ab65c9525fd  mutt-0.93.1-2.src.rpm

Compaq Computer Corporation

(c) Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 Compaq Computer Corporation.
    All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Compaq Computer Corporation
        Compaq Services
        Software Security Response Team USA

        CIAC I-077,
        CERT CA-98.10
Subj.   mime-aware mail clients

    This reported problem is not present for the as shipped,
    Compaq's Digital ULTRIX or Compaq's Digital UNIX
    Operating Systems Software.

                                 - Compaq Computer Corporation

Data General Corporation

DG/UX is not vulnerable to this report as it includes no native utilities with
mime support.


Fujitsu's operating system, UXP/V, does not support any mail client
which can handle MIME encoding/decoding. Therefore, Fujitsu UXP/V is
not vulnerable.

Hewlett-Packard Company

The version of dtmail supplied by HP, as part of HP's CDE product, is
vulnerable. Patches in process.


Iris is aware of this problem and is investigating to determine if Lotus Notes
is vulnerable.

Microsoft Corporation

Previously released information regarding this vulnerability is
available from Microsoft at


  Mutt versions up to 0.93.1(i) were vulnerable to a
  remotely exploitable buffer overflow.  The bug has been
  fixed as of mutt 0.93.2(i).  A patch was distributed on
  Usenet on July 29.

  Users of older versions should upgrade as soon as

  Mutt 0.93.2(i) is available from

  The distribution files with their MD5 checksums:

  diff-0.93.1-0.93.2.gz    39918e8c27e1a762af77052ea1164dbb
  diff-0.93.1i-0.93.2i.gz  aa08b3b3ade6e733c9bb01809199e3e7
  mutt-0.93.2i.tar.gz      9ce8f1020a638d07cb3772b1ebe9887d
  mutt-0.93.2.tar.gz       89a0888b1d25895cdc74f0999713f52b

  SHA1 checksums:

  diff-0.93.1-0.93.2.gz    326b4dd8479717ab1bc073a1a3eaa13ef6d551df
  diff-0.93.1i-0.93.2i.gz  1358d1462d76c1c41a2070bdf5eee1b60a216ee8
  mutt-0.93.2i.tar.gz      2a16bd1ee9edf24222d39998e80d8adafa6d45fa
  mutt-0.93.2.tar.gz       1048f600395b328783bf58dedddd9a18ad4e36d1

  Credits for noting this bug and giving a first fix on
  bugtraq go to Paul Boehm <>.


No products are affected.

NetBSD Foundation

The NetBSD Foundation package system contains packages for mutt and pine. All
users should upgrade to the latest version of these packages as soon as
possible. Updated binary packages will become available on the NetBSD FTP
server as soon as possible, and will be announced on the list. To join this list, or more information about
NetBSD, please see http://www.NetBSD.ORG/


Previously released information regarding this vulnerability is
available from Netscape at

Not affected. OpenBSD does not ship any of the affected products.

Pegasus Mail

We have conducted a strenuous examination of the equivalent code in
Pegasus Mail and can confirm that Pegasus Mail is *not* vulnerable
to this particular attack. Pegasus Mail handles attachments in a
different manner from the affected Netscape and Microsoft products,
and does proper bounds checking on filename lengths in all cases.

In the course of following up on this problem, we *have* unearthed a
related problem, though: there are conceivable scenarios where
Pegasus Mail may be made to crash when it attempts to parse a
particular class of improperly-formatted MIME headers. The crash
does not result from a buffer overflow, and hence has none of the
security ramifications of the Netscape/OE problem - the crash itself
is the worst that can happen. We have corrected this particular
parser problem for the v3.01c release of Pegasus Mail, which will be
out early next week.

To reiterate: Pegasus Mail is *not* vulnerable to the problem
currently being publicized.

Mercury users: our Mercury Mail Transport System is not currently
required to perform MIME parsing, and is hence completely immune
to this problem.

QUALCOMM Incorporated

Eudora Pro Email, Eudora Pro CommCenter and Eudora Light not
susceptible to buffer overflow security problem

QUALCOMM tested its line of Eudora email software after becoming aware
of the buffer overflow security problems recently found in Microsoft
and Netscape email programs. QUALCOMM is pleased to announce that its
Eudora email products are not susceptible to the types of attacks that
can harm the computers of users of these other products. QUALCOMM
tested the latest versions of Eudora Pro and Eudora CommCenter
versions 4.0, 4.0.1 and 4.1 (beta), as well as Eudora Pro and Eudora
Light versions 3.0 through 3.0.5 (Windows) and 3.1.3 (Mac). In all
cases, Eudora does not allow any unauthorized programs to be
automatically executed on a user's system by exploiting buffer
overflow flaws.

Internally, Eudora 4.0.1 (shipping) and 4.1 (beta) checks incoming
header sizes and in particular attachment name lengths and truncates
where appropriate to avoid buffer overrun. Previous versions of
Eudora, specifically the Windows Eudora versions 3.0 through 3.0.5 and
4.0, long attachment names under certain conditions could cause the
program to terminate prematurely, but most importantly, not in such a
way as to allow unauthorized execution of code. Upgrading to Windows
Eudora 4.0.1 or 4.0.2 (both shipping) or 4.1 (beta) resolves that
particular issue.

An unrelated security issue has recently been made public regarding
the use of Java scripts and attachments in email messages received by
Eudora 4.x.  Full details of this issue, along with links to Eudora
Pro 4.0.2 and 4.1 updaters is available at
<>.  The available Eudora Pro
4.0.2 and 4.1 updaters correct the potential security risk.

The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc. (SCO)

The following SCO products are not vulnerable:

- - SCO CMW+
- - SCO Open Desktop / Open Server 3.0, SCO UNIX 3.2v4
- - SCO OpenServer 5, SCO Internet FastStart
- - SCO UnixWare 2.1

SCO UnixWare 7 dtmail may be vulnerable - investigation is
continuing.  Pending this investigation, SCO recommends that
dtmail not be used on UnixWare 7; mail may be safely read
using mailx or Netscape Navigator.

Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Please refer to Sun Microsystems, Inc. Security Bulletin, "mailtool",
Number: 00175, distributed September 9, 1998 for additional information
relating to this vulnerability.

Patches and Checksums are available to all Sun customers via World Wide Web at:

Sun security bulletins are available via World Wide Web at:

University of Washington

Pursuant to recent reports of vulnerability to mal-formed or malicious
MIME attachments, the UW Pine Team has corrected a few cases of
potential buffer overrun in the latest Pine Message System release,
version 4.02, that might cause Pine to crash when inordinately long
MIME-header information is encountered.

It has been speculated that these problems could be exploited to allow
a message sender to execute an arbitrary command on behalf of the
receiving user, although with no more privilege than the receiving
user.  While the UW Pine Team is not aware of any specific attacks
involving this bug, they have made a source patch available to address
this threat.

The source patch is available from:

Or via links found within the Pine Information Center at:

The patch is intended for the Pine Mail System version 4.02 (released
21 July 1998).  The file is in context-diff format, and should be
understood by the "patch" utility.  To update Pine 4.02 source, simply
copy the patch file into the same directory as the pine4.02 source
tree and type:

        patch -p < pine4.02A.patch

The UW Pine Team strongly encourages sites running version 4.00 or
greater to upgrade to the latest release, and apply the published
patch.  While versions prior to 4.00 are less sensitive to malicious
messages, upgrading to version 4.02A (including the patch) is


Appendix B - Risk Mitigation

Although the vulnerability described in this advisory affects mail
user agents, it may be possible to reduce the risk by modifying mail
transfer agents to detect the vulnerability before it reaches the mail
user agent, or by filtering the message.

Below is a list of vendors who have provided us information on
strategies that can mitigate the risk. Note that these vendors are not
themselves vulnerable to this problem.

Sendmail, Inc.

Sendmail, Inc. has produced a patch for version 8.9.1 of sendmail
as a service to their user base to assist system administrators
in proactively defending against these problems.
Sites who choose not to install the patch at this time will
not increase their exposure to the problem in this case.

This patch and installation instructions are available at .

Note that the patch is specific to sendmail version 8.9.1 only.
If you are unable to upgrade to this version, do not attempt to
use the patch.

John Hardin

John Hardin has modified his procmail Filters Kit to include filters
which may be able to assist sites in defending against these problems.

More information about the procmail Filters Kit is available at

- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Our thanks go to Marko Laakso and Ari Takanen of the Secure Programming
Group of the University of Oulu; Eric Allman and Gregory Shapiro
of Sendmail, Inc; AUSCERT; DFN-CERT; John Hardin; and Gene Spafford of
Purdue University for their input.
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

- -----------

Any material furnished by Carnegie Mellon University and the Software
Engineering Institute is furnished on an "as is" basis. Carnegie
Mellon University makes no warranties of any kind, either expressed or
implied as to any matter including, but not limited to, warranty of
fitness for a particular purpose or merchantability, exclusivity or
results obtained from use of the material. Carnegie Mellon University
does not make any warranty of any kind with respect to freedom from
patent, trademark, or copyright infringement.

- ---------

If you believe that your system has been compromised, contact the CERT
Coordination Center or your representative in the Forum of Incident
Response and Security Teams (see

CERT/CC Contact Information
- ----------------------------

Phone    +1 412-268-7090 (24-hour hotline)
                CERT personnel answer 8:30-5:00 p.m. EST(GMT-5) / EDT(GMT-4)
                and are on call for emergencies during other hours.

Fax      +1 412-268-6989

Postal address
         CERT Coordination Center
         Software Engineering Institute
         Carnegie Mellon University
         Pittsburgh PA 15213-3890

Using encryption
   We strongly urge you to encrypt sensitive information sent by email. We can
   support a shared DES key or PGP. Contact the CERT/CC for more information.
   Location of CERT PGP key

Getting security information
   CERT publications and other security information are available from

   CERT advisories and bulletins are also posted on the USENET newsgroup

   To be added to our mailing list for advisories and bulletins, send
   email to
   In the subject line, type
	SUBSCRIBE  your-email-address

- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright 1998 Carnegie Mellon University. Conditions for use, disclaimers,
and sponsorship information can be found in and .
If you do not have FTP or web access, send mail to with
"copyright" in the subject line.

*CERT is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

This file:

Revision history

Oct. 19, 1998   Added vendor information for Compaq Computer Corporation

Sept. 18, 1998  Added vendor information for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Aug. 12, 1998   Added vendor information, see Appendix A
		Updated risk mitigation information, see Appendix B

Aug. 11, 1998   Added vendor information for Pegasus Mail

Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.0
Charset: noconv


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