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Linux kernel 'give me root, now' security hole sighted, dubbed 'Mutagen Astronomy'

Red Hat Enterprise and CentOS users at risk

A Linux kernel vulnerability that can only be exploited locally is nonetheless proving a bit of a nuisance.

It's a classic local privilege escalation bug, dubbed CVE-2018-14634, and lets an intruder or logged-in rogue user obtain root-level control over the machine.

Eggheads at cloud security biz Qualys discovered the programming blunder, which stems from an integer overflow in the open-source kernel's create_elf_tables() function. It's not remotely exploitable, thank $deity, but on a vulnerable 64-bit system, a "local attacker can exploit this vulnerability via a SUID-root binary and obtain full root privileges," Qualys warned this week.

Team Qualys continued by saying most Linux users will be unaffected – although Red Hat and CentOS folks should pay attention to the following:

Even though all Linux kernels are technically vulnerable, this issue is mitigated by a one-year-old patch that was backported to most long-term kernels and makes exploitation impossible.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS hadn't yet backported this patch leaving them both initially still vulnerable. Some versions of Debian 8 were also at risk at the time of the bug's discovery. These various shortcomings have since been addressed.

Job done, the Qualys bods took time out to come up with a name for the vulnerability, which they subsequently dubbed "Mutagen Astronomy" – an anagram of "Too Many Arguments". This references "Setec Astronomy" from the hacker film Sneakers, Qualys confirmed. ®

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