"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 support (at) wolfram (dot) com [email concealed] on 7 May 2010, was assigned [TS 16194].
Paul Szabo psz (at) maths.usyd.edu (dot) au [email concealed] http://www.maths.usyd.edu.au/u/psz/
School of Mathematics and Statistics University of Sydney Australia