Security Bulletin MS02-035: SQL Server Installation Process May Leave Passwords on System (Q263968)

2002-07-11T00:00:00
ID SECURITYVULNS:DOC:3192
Type securityvulns
Reporter Securityvulns
Modified 2002-07-11T00:00:00

Description

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Title: SQL Server Installation Process May Leave Passwords on System (Q263968) Date: July 10, 2002 Software: Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, Microsoft Data Engine 1.0 (MSDE 1.0), or SQL Server 2000 Impact: Elevation of privilege Max Risk: Moderate Bulletin: MS02-035

Microsoft encourages customers to review the Security Bulletin at: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS02-035.asp.


Issue:

When installing SQL Server 7.0 (including MSDE 1.0), SQL Server 2000, or a service pack for SQL Server 7.0 or SQL Server 2000, the information provided for the install process is collected and stored in a setup file called setup.iss. The setup.iss file can then be used to automate the installation of additional SQL Server systems. SQL Server 2000 also includes the ability to record an unattended install to the setup.iss file without having to actually perform an installation. The administrator setting up the SQL Server can supply a password to the installation routine under the following circumstances:

  • If the SQL Server is being set up in "Mixed Mode", a password for the SQL Server administrator (the "sa" account) must be supplied.
  • Whether in Mixed Mode or Windows Authentication Mode, a User ID and password can optionally be supplied for the purpose of starting up SQL Server service accounts.

In either case, the password would be stored in the setup.iss file. Prior to SQL Server 7.0 Service Pack 4, the passwords were stored in clear text. For SQL Server 7.0 Service Pack 4 and SQL Server 2000 Service Packs 1 and 2, the passwords are encrypted and then stored. Additionally, a log file is created during the installation process that shows the results of the installation. The log file would also include any passwords that had been stored in the setup.iss file.

A security vulnerability results because of two factors:

  • The files remain on the server after the installation is complete. Except for the setup.iss file created by SQL Server 2000, the files are in directories that can be accessed by anyone who can interactively log on to the system.
  • The password information stored in the files is either in clear text (for SQL Server 7.0 prior to Service Pack 4) or encrypted using fairly weak protection. An attacker who recovered the files could subject them to a password cracking attack to learn the passwords, potentially compromising the sa password and/or a domain account password.

Mitigating Factors:

  • The vulnerability could only be exploited by an attacker who had the ability to interactively log onto an affected system. However, best practices suggest that unprivileged users not be allowed to interactively log onto business-critical servers, including database servers.
  • The vulnerability with regard to the sa password only affects servers configured to use Mixed Mode. Customers using Windows Authentication Mode (which is the recommended mode) would only have credentials at risk if they had chosen to provide a domain credential to be used in starting the SQL Server services.
  • The passwords stored in the setup.iss and log files are those provided at installation time and are not kept up-to-date when password changes are made. As a result, if the administrator changed a password, the information in the setup.iss and log files would not allow any access.
  • In the case of SQL 2000, setup.iss is stored in a directory that only allows access by administrators and the user installing SQL Server.
  • If the setup.iss and log files containing domain user and/or sa passwords are deleted, the passwords could not be retrieved.

Risk Rating:

  • Internet systems: Moderate
  • Intranet systems: Moderate
  • Client systems: Moderate

Patch Availability:

  • A patch is available to fix this vulnerability. Please read the Security Bulletin at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms02-035.asp for information on obtaining this patch.

Acknowledgment:

  • Cesar Cerrudo

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