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Date: Sat, 7 May 2005 16:37:22 +0200 (CEST)
From: Lars Olsson <>
Subject: 32-bit qmail fun (qmail-pop3d)

As noted in my previous mail, there's a potential problem in alloc() in
alloc.c in the qmail package. Similar routines are also used in djbdns.

To reiterate:

#define ALIGNMENT 16 /* XXX: assuming that this alignment is enough */
#define SPACE 4096 /* must be multiple of ALIGNMENT */

typedef union { char irrelevant[ALIGNMENT]; double d; } aligned;
static aligned realspace[SPACE / ALIGNMENT];
#define space ((char *) realspace)
static unsigned int avail = SPACE; /* multiple of ALIGNMENT; 
0<=avail<=SPACE */

/*@...l@...*@out@...har *alloc(n)
unsigned int n;
   char *x;
   n = ALIGNMENT + n - (n & (ALIGNMENT - 1)); /* XXX: could overflow */
   if (n <= avail) { avail -= n; return space + avail; }
   x = malloc(n);
   if (!x) errno = error_nomem;
   return x;

As noted in the sourcecode (and why wasn't this fixed if it was noticed, I
wonder?), an overflow is indeed possible if n >= 0xfffffff0. This causes n
to truncate to 0 and the function will return a valid pointer that points
to somewhere in the static realspace buffer.

As noted by Guninski, qmail can be made to crash on 64-bit architectures
with lots of memory. One of the examples he provided was of qmail-smtpd
crashing in the commands() loop. I believe this is due to the overflow
listed above as I had theoretically mapped out just this scenario:

from commands()
     for (;;) {
       if (!stralloc_readyplus(&cmd,1)) return -1;
       i = substdio_get(ss,cmd.s + cmd.len,1);
       if (i != 1) return i;
       if (cmd.s[cmd.len] == '\n') break;

stralloc_readyplus() allocates one extra byte via alloc_re() which in
turn uses alloc() and then byte_copy(). With a 64-bit arch and enough
memory this will trigger the alloc() overflow eventually and byte_copy()
will then overwrite the realspace buffer and beyond until it hits an
invalid memory address and crashes (thus not exploitable, I don't think.)

The problem with alloc() is rather fundamental though and it's not related
to 64-bit architectures or lots of memory.

However, it's not as easy to trigger as it may first seem. I've found
several instances where at first it appeared it would lead to an
exploitable overwrite but various obstacles turned out to prevent it. For
example, stralloc_* calls like the one in commands() are of less interest
since they seem to inevitably lead to a crash (which means DoS at most,
right?) Focusing on direct *alloc() calls, I found that there were
usually sanity checks on the size argument or else something else
prevented the attacker from specifying arbitrary numbers.

However, I think I might have possibly found something in qmail-pop3d.c:

struct message {
   int flagdeleted;
   unsigned long size;
   char *fn;
} *m;
int numm;

int last = 0;

void getlist()
   struct prioq_elt pe;
   struct stat st;
   int i;

   if (maildir_scan(&pq,&filenames,1,1) == -1) die_scan();

   numm = pq.p ? pq.len : 0;
   m = (struct message *) alloc(numm * sizeof(struct message));
   if (!m) die_nomem();

   for (i = 0;i < numm;++i) {
     if (!prioq_min(&pq,&pe)) { numm = i; break; }
     m[i].fn = filenames.s +;
     m[i].flagdeleted = 0;
     if (stat(m[i].fn,&st) == -1)
       m[i].size = 0;
       m[i].size = st.st_size;

if numm is made large enough, the call to alloc() will return a pointer to
somewhere in the realspace buffer. The m[i].* assignments can then be made
to overwrite interesting memory locations.

numm is the number of files (= mails) in the user's Maildir. This is
controllable by an attacker (but the number of files must be >=
(0xfffffff0 / sizeof(struct message)) which needs quite a lot of memory to
hold the required structures and could also put some strain on the
filesystem, I guess?)

To break out of the loop before hitting invalid memory, either the
prioq_min() must be made to fail or numm could be overwritten with a
smaller number, provided that the variable is located after realspace
(depends on the compiler I guess.)

Then there's the question of what to overwrite, provided that the above
actually works (of which I'm far from certain.)

A good candidate would be ssmsg, once again with the proviso that it's
been placed after realspace, since it contains a function pointer.

Then there's the question of how to spawn a shell. I'm not even going to
touch that at all....

Also, qmail-pop3d is only run after the user has been authenticated by
qmail-popup so an attacker must have at least a POP3 account.

This is but a sketch of an attack scenario and it's quite complex. I
wouldn't be the least surprised if it turns out to be a non-issue; like I
said, I have found things before that weren't exploitable because some
pesky details...And it's quite possible that I have misunderstood
something that invalidates the above scenario. I trust that someone will
point this out :)

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