Mathematic7 on Linux symlink attack

Credit: Paul Szabo
Risk: Medium
Local: No
Remote: Yes

"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]. Cheers, Paul Szabo School of Mathematics and Statistics University of Sydney Australia

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