Public Vulnerability Reports

Mac OS X CF_CHARSET_PATH Buffer Overflow Vulnerability



Mac OS X is an operating system for the Apple family of microcomputers.

More information is available at the following link:


Local exploitation of a buffer overflow vulnerability within the Core
Foundation Library included by default in Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS X
could allow an attacker to gain root privileges.

The vulnerability specifically exists due to improper handling of the
CF_CHARSET_PATH environment variable. When a string greater than 1,024
characters is passed via this variable, a stack-based overflow occurs,
allowing the attacker to control program flow by overwriting the
function's return address on the stack.

Any application linked against the Core Foundation Library can be used
as an exploit vector for this vulnerability. Some of the setuid root
binaries that are vulnerable include su, pppd and login.


Successful exploitation of this vulnerability allows for root access. An
attacker needs local access to the victim's system to exploit this
vulnerability. This vulnerability is difficult to workaround due to the
fact that a large number of system binaries are linked against the
vulnerable code.


iDEFENSE has confirmed this vulnerability in Mac OS X 10.3.5 and Mac OS
X 10.3.6. Earlier versions are suspected vulnerable.


Restrict local access to trusted users only, as it is impossible to
remove the setuid bit from the affected binaries without severely
limiting the function of the system.


This vulnerability is addressed in Apple Security Update 2005-003
available at:


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the
name CAN-2005-0716 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion
in the CVE list (, which standardizes names for
security problems.


02/04/2005   Initial vendor notification
02/04/2005   Initial vendor response
03/21/2005   Coordinated public disclosure


The discoverer of this vulnerability wishes to remain anonymous.

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Copyright © 2005 Verisign, Inc.

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