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Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2011 10:10:38 +1100
Subject: Mathematica8 on Linux /tmp/MathLink vulnerability

The problem that was reported as below for Mathematica7, is present
also/still in (the "free trial" version of) Mathematica8.


Paul Szabo
School of Mathematics and Statistics   University of Sydney    Australia


I wrote on 14 May 2010:

> "If you're doing anything technical, think Mathematica --..."
> Mathematica7 on Linux uses the /tmp/MathLink directory in insecure ways.
> Mathematica creates or re-uses an existing /tmp/MathLink directory, and
> overwrites files within and follows symlinks. This type of behaviour is
> "known unsafe" on multi-user machines e.g. University login servers.
> As a classic example of a symlink attack, if an "attacker" uses:
>   mkdir /tmp/MathLink; ln -s /home/victim/.bashrc /tmp/MathLink/.gshmm
> then when the victim runs Mathematica his ~/.bashrc will be clobbered.
> New files are created world-writable, allowing a complete compromise of
> the user account by linking to ~/.bash_logout . (If root ever uses
> Mathematica then the damage is greater.)
> Mathematica uses also /tmp/fonts$$.conf in insecure ways.
> Workaround: use command-line math instead of pretty interface.
> Notified on 7 May 2010, was assigned [TS 16194].

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