Mathematica10.0.0 on Linux /tmp/MathLink vulnerability

Subject: Mathematica10.0.0 on Linux /tmp/MathLink vulnerability

The problem reported for Mathematica is present still at version 10.0.0
for the GUI interface (the command-line interface may be "safe").


Paul Szabo
School of Mathematics and Statistics   University of Sydney    Australia


Paraphrasing what I wrote on 14 May 2010:

"The world's definitive system for modern technical computing"

Mathematica 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, while a "victim" is running
Mathematica, if an "attacker" uses:

  cd /tmp/MathLink; for x in *; do rm $x; ln -s /home/victim/.bashrc $x; done

then the victim's ~/.bashrc will be clobbered and permissions changed
to wide-open, allowing a complete compromise of the account. (If root
ever uses Mathematica then the damage is greater.)

There is no workaround. - The command-line math interface may be safe.

Notified on 7 May 2010, was assigned [TS 16194].

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