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Multiple Vendor X Server BDF Font Parsing Integer Overflow Vulnerability



The X Window System (or X11) is a graphical windowing system used on Unix-like systems. It is based on a client/server model. More information about about The X Window system is available at the following URL.



Local exploitation of an integer overflow vulnerability in multiple vendors' implementations of the X Window System server BDF font parsing component could allow execution of arbitrary commands with elevated privileges.

The vulnerability specifically exists in the parsing of BDF fonts. When the X server encounters a specially crafted BDF font, an integer overflow occurs leading to a potentially exploitable heap overflow condition.


Exploitation allows attackers to execute arbitrary code with elevated privileges.

As the X11 server requires direct access to video hardware, it runs with elevated privileges. A user compromising an X server would gain those permissions.

In order to exploit this vulnerability, an attacker would need to be able to cause the X server to use a maliciously constructed font. The X11 server contains multiple methods for a user to define additional paths to look for fonts. An exploit has been developed using the "-fp" command line option to the X11 server to pass the location of the attack to the server. It is also possible to use "xset" command with the "fp" option to perform an attack on an already running server.

Some distributions allow users to start the X11 server only if they are logged on at the console, while others will allow any user to start it.

Attempts at exploiting this vulnerability may put the console into an unusable state. This will not prevent repeated exploitation attempts.


iDefense has confirmed the existence of this vulnerability in X.Org X11R7.1. Older versions are suspected to be vulnerable. Additionally, it is reported that the freetype library is also vulnerable.


iDefense is currently unaware of any effective workaround for this issue.


The X.Org Foundation has addressed this vulnerability with source code patches. More information can be found from their advisory at the following URL.


The freetype developers have committed a fix for this issue to their CVS repository. Future releases will contain this fix.


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the name CVE-2007-1351 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion in the CVE list (http://cve.mitre.org/), which standardizes names for security problems.


02/21/2007 Initial vendor notification
03/28/2007 Initial vendor response
04/03/2007 Coordinated public disclosure


This vulnerability was discovered by Greg MacManus of iDefense Labs.

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Copyright © 2007 Verisign, Inc.

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Disclaimer: The information in the advisory is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing based on currently available information. Use of the information constitutes acceptance for use in an AS IS condition. There are no warranties with regard to this information. Neither the author nor the publisher accepts any liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential loss or damage arising from use of, or reliance on, this information.