Mac OS X Arbitrary File Overwrite via Core Files

Type securityvulns
Reporter Securityvulns
Modified 2003-10-29T00:00:00



                            @stake, Inc.

                         Security Advisory

Advisory Name: Arbitrary File Overwrite via Core Files Release Date: 10/24/2003 Application: Kernel Platform: Mac OS X Severity: High Author: Dave G. <> Vendor Status: Vendor has new release with fix CVE Candidate: CAN-2003-0877 Reference:


In the event a system is running with core files enabled, attackers with interactive shell access can overwrite arbitrary files, and read core files created by root owned processes. This may result in sensitive information like authentication credentials being compromised.


Core file creation is disabled by default in Mac OS X. In the event that core files are enabled on an Mac OS X system, root owned processes will write a core file to the /cores directory. The name of the core file will be: core.PID(*). This file will be owned by root, and is set with 0400 permissions (read only for root, no privileges for anyone else).

(*) PID would be the process ID of the process that dumped core

Since the /cores directory is world writable and core file names are predictable, an attacker with interactive shell access can create symbolic links in this directory, pointing them to files that exist elsewhere on the file system. Through this mechanism, we can overwrite files by symbolically linking to them.

At this point, an attacker can overwrite any file with the contents of a core file. In order to read the core files, one can make a symbolic link to a file on a mounted DMG image. Any user can mount a disk image, allowing them to effectively 'steal' core files. Depending on what was in the memory of the process that dumped core, an attacker may be able to find out private information, including authentication credentials.

Vendor Response:

This is fixed in Mac OS X 10.3. The core files setting is off by default on all shipping versions of Mac OS X. For further information on Mac OS X 10.3, please see


1) Upgrade to Panther (Mac OS X 10.3).

2) If upgrading to Panther is not an option, ensure that core file creation is disabled.

Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Information:

The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the following names to these issues. These are candidates for inclusion in the CVE list (, which standardizes names for security problems.

CAN-2003-0877 Arbitrary File Overwrite via Core Files

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