Public Vulnerability Reports

Linux Kernel Socket Buffer Memory Exhaustion DoS Vulnerability



Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by
Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers
across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification

More information is available from the vendor website:


Local exploitation of a memory exhaustion vulnerability in Linux Kernel
versions 2.4 and 2.6 can allow attackers to cause a denial of service

The vulnerability specifically exists due to a lack of resource checking
during the buffering of data for transfer over a pair of sockets. An
attacker can create a situation that, depending on the amount of
available system resources, can cause the kernel to panic due to memory
resource exhaustion. The attack is conducted by opening up a number of
connected file descriptors or socketpairs and creating the largest
possible kernel buffer for the data transfer between the two sockets. By
causing the process to enter a zombie state or closing the file
descriptor while keeping a reference open, the data is kept in the
kernel until the transfer can complete. If done repeatedly, system
memory resources can be exhausted from the kernel.


Successful exploitation requires an attacker to have local access to an
affected Linux system and can result in complete system denial of
service. The system may not reboot after successful exploitation,
requiring human interaction to be restored to a working state. Depending
on available resources, systems with large amounts of physical memory
may not be affected.


iDefense has confirmed that Linux 2.4.22 and Linux 2.6.12 are


An effective workaround is not available for this vulnerability.


The maintainer acknowledges that this issue is a design limitation in
the Linux kernel. The following advice has been offered for creating a
patch. It should be noted that this patch has not been fully tested.

The patch requires three steps:

1) Add a "struct user *" reference to the "struct file" file structure.

2) Whenever creating a new "struct file" add the following code:

 struct user *user = current->user; if (atomic_read(&user->files) > MAX_FILES_FOR_THIS_USER) return -EMFILE; file->user = user; if(user) { atomic_inc(&user->count); atomic_inc(&user->files); }

3) Whenever a "struct file" is released apply the following code:

 struct user *user = file->user; if (user) { atomic_dec(&user->files); free_uid(user); }


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the
name CAN-2005-3660 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion in
the CVE list (, which standardizes names for
security problems.


11/17/2005 Initial vendor notification - Linux vendors
11/19/2005 Initial vendor responses
12/22/2005 Public disclosure


The discoverer of this vulnerability wishes to remain anonymous.

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Copyright © 2005 Verisign, Inc.

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