Sun IDM Arbitrary Commands Execution Vulnerability

Type securityvulns
Reporter Securityvulns
Modified 2009-05-13T00:00:00


1) Summary

Affected Software: Sun IDM 7.1, 8.0 Vendor URL: Severity: Medium

2) Description

Sun Identity Manager facilitates centralized identity provisioning for variety of application and platforms. Its web interface allows end users to request password change. To handle such requests the system has to manipulate account databases on the target resources. In the case of *NIX-based systems the management server remotely logs in to a target server and issues a series of shell command, using send-expect technique.

The system allows users to submit passwords containing control characters including new line (ASCII 0x0A). The implementation of send-expect mechanism fails to handle such passwords correctly. This flaw allows an unprivileged Sun IDM user to execute an arbitrary UNIX shell command by requesting a password to be changed to a specially crafted value. The injected command will be executed with root privileges on all UNIX systems the user is provisioned on.

3) Details

The attack is enabled by two factors:

1. New line character (ASCII 0x0A) is allowed in user passwords
2. *NIX connectors utilize send-expect technique to interact
    with 'passwd' program, but fails to handle passwords
    containing new line characters.

In the process of changing the user password to a value containing a newline the interaction between the IDM connector and UNIX shell goes out of sync and the password gets executed by UNIX shell running as root.

To reproduce, request a password change for a user provisioned on some Solaris server. The password has to consist of a UNIX shell command to be executed repeated twice and separated by the new line character. One way of doing it is to use an intercepting web proxy (such as Webscarab) to modify HTTP message carrying the password change request. For example, to inject 'id > /x' command, the modified request will look as following:

POST /idm/user/changePassword.jsp?lang=en&cntry=US HTTP/1.1


In the request above the values of resourceAccounts.password and resourceAccounts.confirmPassword parameters contain %0a, which is URL-encoding for the new line character. After the request is submitted, /x file will appear on resources the user is provisioned at:

# ls -l /x
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 24 Dec 22 15:52 /x
# cat /x
uid=0(root) gid=0(root)

4) Solution

This vulnerability is addressed by security patches released by the vendor. Sun Alert document #253267 ( contains information about suitable patches.

5) Workaround

The password policy can be used to prohibit new line characters in passwords. This can be done by editing the password policy object through the debugging interface of IDM, the relevant portion of the object should look as follows:

<Attribute name='Must Not Contain Words'>

The workaround is somewhat fragile, it must be re-applied each time after the password policy gets edited via GUI, because GUI drops the new line character from the rule.

6) Time Table

2008/12/24 The vendor was informed
2009/01/14 The vendor has confirmed the problem
2009/03/23 Sun Security Alert #253267 was published
2009/05/12 Scanit Advisory was published

7) Additional Information

The original advisory can be found here:

8) About Scanit

Scanit is a security company located in Brussels, Belgium. We specialize in security assessments, offering services such as penetration tests, application source code reviews, and risk assessments. More information can be found at

-- Alexandre Bezroutchko