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TUCoPS :: Unix :: General :: ciacg004.txt

XAuth Vulnerability



                       The U.S. Department of Energy
                    Computer Incident Advisory Capability
                           ___  __ __    _     ___
                          /       |     /_\   /
                          \___  __|__  /   \  \___

                             INFORMATION BULLETIN

     		         X Authentication Vulnerability

November 20, 1995 22:00 GMT                                          Number G-04

PROBLEM:        A bug exists in the X authorization scheme which can allow
                remote users unauthorized access to an X display.
PLATFORM:	Multiple - see below.
DAMAGE:         Access to an X display can lead to the obtaining of passwords
                or other personal information.
SOLUTION:       Apply either the fix or the patch described below.
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VULNERABILITY   This is a serious vulnerability. Systems have been compromised
ASSESSMENT:     and an exploitation program has been circulated within the
                intruder community.
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The X Consortium has made public a vulnerability in the X
Authorization software.  Below is the information they have released.

[ Start X Consortium Release ]

Two widely used X Window System authorization schemes have weaknesses
in the sample implementation.  These weaknesses could allow
unauthorized remote users to connect to X displays and are present in
X11 Release 6 and earlier releases of the X11 sample implementation.

There are reports that systems have been broken into using at
least one of these weaknesses and that there are now exploit
programs available in the intruder community.

MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 Description:

On systems on which xdm is built without the HasXdmAuth config option,
the MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 key generated by xdm may be guessable.

If you use MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 to authenticate X connections, and
your keys are generated by xdm, and xdm does not also support
XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 authentication (that is, your X tree was not
built with the HasXdmAuth config option), you may be at risk.

On systems with poor pseudo-random number generators, the key may be
guessable by remote users.  On other systems, users with access to the
file system where xdm stores its keys for use by local servers may be
able to use information in the file system to guess the key.

If your xdm program was built with HasXdmAuth set to YES (the compiler
command line includes the -DHASXDMAUTH flag), MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 keys
generated by xdm are not vulnerable; the DES code is used to generate
cryptographically secure keys.


Remote users anywhere on the Internet may be able to connect to your
X display server.  It is NOT necessary that they be able to snoop your
key first.


The X server does not correctly check the XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 data and
can be fooled into accepting invalid data.

A user who can snoop the encrypted authorization data of a valid
connection can create fake auth data that the X server will accept.

If you do not use XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1, you are not vulnerable.

Determining whether your server is vulnerable: this problem is fixed
in X servers from the X Consortium with a vendor release number of
6001 or higher.


Remote users may be able to connect to your X display server.


A.  Install a vendor supplied patch if available.

B.  If your site is using X11 built from X Consortium X11R6 sources,
install public patch #13.  This patch is available via anonymous 
FTP from as the file /pub/R6/fixes/fix-13.  It is also 
available from the many sites that mirror  Apply all patches 
not already applied, up to and including fix-13.  The file xc/bug-report
shows what public patches have been already applied to your source

The MD5 checksum of fix-13 is as follows:

MD5 (fix-13) = 0d81d843acf803a8bedf90d3a18b9ed6

C.  If your site is using an earlier version of the X Consortium's X11,
upgrade to X11R6.  Install all patches up to and including fix-13.

D.  Work arounds.

1.  Building with HasXdmAuth will eliminate the first vulnerability.
The necessary DES code is available for FTP from both inside the
US (for US sites only) and outside (for non-US sites).  Read
<> for details on obtaining
this code.

2.  If you cannot use DES, you can determine your exposure to
remote attackers by testing the strength of your rand() function
using the program rand-test; the source is available as

3.  Limiting use of X connections using XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1 to trusted
networks will prevent unauthorized parties from snooping X protocol
traffic, thus preventing exploitation of the second vulnerability.

Acknowledgements: The X Consortium would like to thank Chris Hall of
the University of Colorado for analyzing these problems and bringing
them to our attention.

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

                          Vendor Status

The following information was supplied by vendors for this bulletin.
The X Consortium and CERT have not verified this information.

Cray Research

UNICOS 8.0 and 9.0 are not vulnerable.  These systems have robust 
pseudo-random number generators, making them not vulnerable to the
first problem, and do not support an X server, making them not
vulnerable to the second problem.

GSSC (formerly Solbourne)

Has concluded they are not vulnerable.


All versions of X on HP-UX 9.x and 10.x (based on X11R5) do not
have the first vulnerability.

X Consortium

(Sample implementation of X.)  You can patch X11R6 by applying all
public patches up to and including fix-13.  Patches are available
via FTP from in /pub/R6/fixes/ and from mirroring sites.

You can check that the X server has fix-13 installed by verifying
that the server has a vendor release number of 6001 or higher.

General questions about the X Window System can be asked on the
xpert mailing list hosted at  Send a "subscribe" message to to subscribe.  This list is gatewayed with
the newsgroup.  The FAQ for this newsgroup is
available from <> and other
locations.  <>
describes other newsgroups and mailing lists for the discussion
of issues related to the X Window System.

Bugs encounted in X Consortium code can be reported to using the format in xc/bug-report.  Please see the
X11R6 Release Notes for additional details.

XFree86 Project

The XFree86 Project, Inc has patched binaries for XFree86 version 3.1.2
running on FreeBSD 1.1.5, FreeBSD 2.0.5, ISC, NetBSD and SVR4.  They
are available from
The files are:


The MD5 checksums are:

  MD5 (FreeBSD-1.1.5/X312Sxdm.tgz) = 43166109c88fcd623d27de1fa90e8f5b
  MD5 (FreeBSD-2.0.5/X312Sxdm.tgz) = 3314a623b2c31a9130445e9237ff65f9
  MD5 (ISC/X312Sxdm.tgz) = e4e16fc5f4d06ad455e572a2e1eb0eb5
  MD5 (NetBSD/X312Sxdm.tgz) = 0bc74cbee0214366ac15658bf5436853
  MD5 (SVR4/X312Sxdm.tgz) = bf5dfea2a86cdf92621421e3f68af203

Installation instructions (assuming X312xdm.tgz is in /tmp):

Kill any xdm processes that are running, then:

  For FreeBSD 1.1.5 and FreeBSD 2.0.5:

    cd /usr
    mv X11R6/bin/xdm X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
    chmod 0500 X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
    gzip -d < /tmp/X312xdm.tgz | tar vxf -

  For NetBSD:

    mv /usr/X11R6/bin/xdm /usr/X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
    chmod 0500 /usr/X11R6/bin/xdm-3.1.2
    pkg_add /tmp/X312Sxdm.tgz

  For ISC and SVR4:

    cd /usr/X11R6
    mv bin/xdm bin/xdm-3.1.2
    chmod 0500 bin/xdm-3.1.2
    gzip -d < /tmp/X312xdm.tgz | tar vxf -

[ End X Consortium Release ]


CIAC wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the X Consortium for
information contained in this bulletin.

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