Postfix: Local privilege escalation vulnerability
Gentoo Linux Security Advisory
||GLSA 200808-12 / postfix
||August 14, 2008
||October 23, 2008: 02
All supported architectures
Postfix incorrectly checks the ownership of a mailbox, allowing, in certain
circumstances, to append data to arbitrary files on a local system with
Postfix is Wietse Venema's mailer that attempts to be fast, easy to
administer, and secure, as an alternative to the widely-used Sendmail
Sebastian Krahmer of SuSE has found that Postfix allows to deliver mail
to root-owned symlinks in an insecure manner under certain conditions.
Normally, Postfix does not deliver mail to symlinks, except to
root-owned symlinks, for compatibility with the systems using symlinks
in /dev like Solaris. Furthermore, some systems like Linux allow to
hardlink a symlink, while the POSIX.1-2001 standard requires that the
symlink is followed. Depending on the write permissions and the
delivery agent being used, this can lead to an arbitrary local file
overwriting vulnerability (CVE-2008-2936). Furthermore, the Postfix
delivery agent does not properly verify the ownership of a mailbox
before delivering mail (CVE-2008-2937).
The combination of these features allows a local attacker to hardlink a
root-owned symlink such that the newly created symlink would be
root-owned and would point to a regular file (or another symlink) that
would be written by the Postfix built-in local(8) or virtual(8)
delivery agents, regardless the ownership of the final destination
regular file. Depending on the write permissions of the spool mail
directory, the delivery style, and the existence of a root mailbox,
this could allow a local attacker to append a mail to an arbitrary file
like /etc/passwd in order to gain root privileges.
The default configuration of Gentoo Linux does not permit any kind of
user privilege escalation.
The second vulnerability (CVE-2008-2937) allows a local attacker,
already having write permissions to the mail spool directory which is
not the case on Gentoo by default, to create a previously nonexistent
mailbox before Postfix creates it, allowing to read the mail of another
user on the system.
The following conditions should be met in order to be vulnerable to
local privilege escalation.
- The mail delivery style is mailbox, with the Postfix built-in
local(8) or virtual(8) delivery agents.
- The mail spool directory (/var/spool/mail) is user-writeable.
- The user can create hardlinks pointing to root-owned symlinks
located in other directories.
Consequently, each one of the following workarounds is efficient.
- Verify that your /var/spool/mail directory is not writeable by a
user. Normally on Gentoo, only the mail group has write access, and no
end-user should be granted the mail group ownership.
- Prevent the local users from being able to create hardlinks
pointing outside of the /var/spool/mail directory, e.g. with a
- Use a non-builtin Postfix delivery agent, like procmail or
- Use the maildir delivery style of Postfix ("home_mailbox=Maildir/"
Concerning the second vulnerability, check the write permissions of
/var/spool/mail, or check that every Unix account already has a
mailbox, by using Wietse Venema's Perl script available in the official
All Postfix users should upgrade to the latest version:
Code Listing 3.1: Resolution
# emerge --sync
# emerge --ask --oneshot --verbose ">=mail-mta/postfix-2.5.3-r1"