Public Vulnerability Reports

HP UX passwd Binary Buffer Overflow Vulnerability



Hewlett-Packard Co.'s /sbin/passwd binary supplied with its HP UX B.10.20 operating system is an integral system process.


Hewlett-Packard Co.'s /sbin/passwd binary supplied with its HP UX B.10.20 operating system contains a buffer overflow that could allow a local privilege-escalation attack.

The environment variable LANG, which is used to control the language setting of the local subsystem, causes the /sbin/passwd binary to crash when filled with a string of approximately 4,240 bytes. This allows an attacker to gain control of the return address of the executing function, and, in turn, execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the /sbin/passwd binary. This binary is installed setuid to root by default.


Exploitation of this vulnerabilty allows a local attacker to assume root privilieges of the target computer. As no official patch is available, apply the workaround below.

iDEFENSE has proof of concept exploit code demonstrating the impact of this vulnerability.


iDEFENSE has verified that HPUX 10.20 is affected.


Remove the setuid bit on the executable with the chmod command:

chmod u-s /sbin/passwd


HP does not plan to develop a patch for this issue. HP recommends using chmod to remove the setuid bit.


A Mitre Corp. Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) number CAN-2003-0061 has been assigned to this issue.


01/11/2002   Exploit acquired by iDEFENSE
01/20/2003   Initial vendor notification
02/03/2003   iDEFENSE Clients notified
02/10/2003   Public Disclosure


Euan Briggs is credited with this discovery.

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