Public Vulnerability Reports

wvWare Library Buffer Overflow Vulnerability



Caolán McNamara and Dom Lachowicz's wvWare is a library used to load and
parse Microsoft Word files on unix-based systems. wvWare is used in some
third-party programs to view and convert Microsoft Word documents to
other formats.


Caolán McNamara and Dom Lachowicz's wv library has been found to contain
a buffer overflow condition that can be exploited through a specially
crafted document.

The issue lies in the handling of the DateTime field of a document as
can be seen from the following lines of code taken from field.c and the
function wvHandleDateTimePicture():

                temp[0] = *token;
                temp[1] = '';
                strcat (timestr, temp);

The above section of code can be reached if the wv library is presented
with a token that it does not recognize. The utilization of the insecure
function call strcat() without appropriate bounds checking leads to a
classic and exploitable buffer overflow.

The following is a walkthrough of a sample exploitation of the buffer
overflow that will execute the command "id > /tmp/wv_exploit" upon

$ id
luid=501(farmer) gid=501(farmer) groups=501(farmer)

$ ls /tmp/wv_exploit
ls: /tmp/wv_exploit: No such file or directory

$ dd if=wv_exploit.doc of=a3.doc ibs=1 count=42945
42945+0 records in
83+1 records out

$ perl >> a3.doc

$ wvHtml wv_exploit.doc exploit.html

$ cat /tmp/wv_exploit
uid=501(farmer) gid=501(farmer) groups=501(farmer)

The final exploit document size must be a multiple of 4096 bytes to be
valid. Because of some input filtering the shellcode and return address
can only contain ASCII characters (00-7f) not including any of the
following: 0x22, 0x60, 0x48, 0x68, 0x41, 0x61, 0x4d, 0x6d, 0x53, 0x73,
0x44, 0x64, 0x59, 0x79.


If an attacker can convince a user to open an exploit document in HTML
mode using an application that builds upon the wv library, it is
possible for the attacker to execute arbitrary code under the privileges
of that user.


iDEFENSE has confirmed the existence of this vulnerability in version
0.7.4, and a slight variant of this vulnerability in versions 0.7.5,
0.7.6 and 1.0.0.


Users should be careful to open documents from only trusted sources.
When opening Microsoft Word documents with applications utilizing the wv
library ensure that HTML view is not enabled. Careful low-level scrutiny
of the document in question can also reveal whether or not the document
is valid or not.


Dom Lachowicz has posted the following patch details:


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the
name CAN-2004-0645 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion in
the CVE list (, which standardizes names for
security problems.


06/29/2004    Initial vendor contact
07/06/2004    Vendor response
07/09/2004    Public disclosure


Karol Weisek is credited with discovering this vulnerability.


Copyright © 2004 Verisign, Inc.

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