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SACK Panic and three other vulnerabilities discovered in Linux and FreeBSD kernels

SACK Panic and three other vulnerabilities discovered in Linux and FreeBSD kernels
  • All these vulnerabilities are related to the minimum segment size (MSS) and TCP selective acknowledgment (SACK) capabilities.
  • ‘SACK Panic’ is the most severe vulnerability of all the flaws.

Four TCP networking vulnerabilities in FreeBSD and Linux kernels have been discovered by security researchers recently. All these vulnerabilities are related to the minimum segment size (MSS) and TCP selective acknowledgment (SACK) capabilities.

SACK PANIC, the serious one

In a report, Netflix Information Security’s Jonathan Looney has revealed that ‘SACK Panic’ is the most severe vulnerability of all the flaws. Tracked as CVE-2019-11477, the vulnerability has been marked with a CVSS score of 7.5. It could permit an attacker to remotely induce a kernel panic within recent Linux operating systems.

A kernel panic is a kind of vulnerability where an operating system cannot be recovered easily. This could force a restart of a targeted host, causing a temporary shutdown in services.

The SACK Panic flaw impacts Linux kernel version 2.6.29 and later. It can be addressed by deploying PATCH_net_1_4.patch. Additionally, the versions of the Linux kernel up to 4.14 require a second patch PATCH_net_1a.patch.

The other way to mitigate the issue is by completely disabling SACK processing on the system.

What are the other flaws?

As per Red Hat, the two other issues that impact the kernel’s TCP processing subsystem are CVE-2019-11478 (dubbed SACK Slowness) and CVE-2019-11479. These flaws are considered to be moderate severity vulnerabilities.

The CVE-2019-11478 can be exploited by sending a crafted sequence of SACKs which will fragment the TCP retransmission queue, while CVE-2019-11479 allows attackers to trigger a DoS attack.

CVE-2019-5599 is the FreeBSD counterpart of CVE-2019-11478. The flaw impacts FreeBSD 12 installations using the RACK TCP Stack. It can be abused by delivering "a crafted sequence of SACKs which will fragment the RACK send map."

Linux and FreeBSD admins and users can address CVE-2019-11478 by applying PATCH_net_2_4.patch. The second issue, CVE-2019-11479, can be addressed by using PATCH_net_3_4.patch and PATCH_net_4_4.patch security patches. CVE-2019-5599 can be patched only by applying ‘ ‘split_limit.patch’ and set the net.inet.tcp.rack.split_limit sysctl’’ to a reasonable value to limit the size of the SACK table.

A detailed description of the flaws along with their patches is available here.

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