Public Vulnerability Reports

SAP MaxDB sdbstarter Privilege Escalation Vulnerability



SAP's MaxDB is a database software product. MaxDB was released as open source from version 7.5 up to version 7.6.00. Later versions are no longer open source but are available for download from the SAP SDN website ( as a community edition with free community support for public use beyond the scope of SAP applications. The "sdbstarter" program is set-uid root and installed by default. For more information, visit the product's website at the following URL.


Local exploitation of a design error in the "sdbstarter" program, as distributed with SAP AG's MaxDB, could allow attackers to elevate privileges to root.

This vulnerability exists due to a design error in the handling of certain environment variables. These variables are used to specify the configuration settings to be used by various MaxDB components. Since the "sdbstarter" program honors these settings, an attacker can execute arbitrary code with root privileges.


Exploitation allows an attacker to execute arbitrary code with root privileges. To exploit this vulnerability, an attacker must be able to execute the "sdbstarter" program. In a default installation, this requires that the attacker be a member of the "sdba" group.

It is important to note that this vulnerability is not architecture dependent. This vulnerability is trivially exploitable on any Unix-based SAP MaxDB installation.


iDefense has confirmed the existence of this vulnerability in SAP AG's MaxDB version on both Linux and Solaris. Other versions for Unix-like systems are suspected to be vulnerable. Windows releases do not include the "sdbstarter" program.


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


SAP AG has addressed this vulnerability by releasing a new version of MaxDB. For more information, consult SAP note 1140135.


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the name CVE-2008-0306 to this issue. This is a candidate for inclusion in the CVE list (, which standardizes names for security problems.


12/05/2007 Initial vendor notification
12/06/2007 Initial vendor response
03/10/2008 Coordinated public disclosure


This vulnerability was discovered by Joshua J. Drake of VeriSign iDefense Labs.

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Copyright © 2008 Verisign, Inc.

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