Public Vulnerability Reports

IBM AIX 5.2 crontab BSS Buffer Overflow Vulnerability



The crontab program is a user utility that enables users to create, remove, and edit cron jobs. The cron jobs will then later be executed, on behalf of the user, at the specified time. Under AIX, the crontab program is installed by default and is set-uid root. More information can be found at the URL shown.


Local exploitation of a buffer overflow vulnerability in the crontab program of IBM Corp.'s AIX 5.2 operating system allows attackers to execute arbitrary code with root privileges.

The problem specifically exists within the main function. While processing command line arguments, the crontab program will copy a user-supplied argument to a fixed size BSS (data segment) buffer. Since no bounds checking is performed, it's possible to overwrite a large portion of the data stored in the BSS memory area.


Exploitation allows an attacker to execute arbitrary code with root privileges. Local access is required to execute the crontab program.


iDefense has confirmed the existence of this vulnerability within AIX version 5.2. Previous versions are suspected to be vulnerable. AIX 5.3 does not appear to be vulnerable.


Removing the set-uid bit from the crontab program will protect against exploitation. However, doing so will render the program unusable.


IBM Corp. has addressed this vulnerability by releasing interim fixes. More information can be found via the Bulletins tab of IBM's Subscription Service for UNIX and Linux servers. You can reach this service by clicking the URL shown below.


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the name CVE-2007-4621 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion in the CVE list (, which standardizes names for security problems.


08/29/2007 Initial vendor notification
09/12/2007 Initial vendor response
10/30/2007 Coordinated public disclosure


The discoverer of this vulnerability wishes to remain anonymous.

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Copyright © 2007 Verisign, Inc.

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