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On September 28, the National Security Agency revealed a vulnerability in Ghidra, a free, open-source software reverse-engineering tool. The NSA released the Ghidra toolkit at the RSA security conference in San Francisco on March 6, this year.

The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2019-16941, allows a remote attacker to compromise exposed systems, according to a NIST National Vulnerability Database description. This vulnerability is reported as medium severity and currently does not have a fix available.

The NSA tweeted on its official account, “A flaw currently exists within Ghidra versions through 9.0.4. The conditions needed to exploit this flaw are rare and a patch is currently being worked. This flaw is not a serious issue as long as you don’t accept XML files from an untrusted source.”

According to the bug description, the flaw manifests itself “when [Ghidra] experimental mode is enabled.” This “allows arbitrary code execution if the Read XML Files feature of Bit Patterns Explorer is used with a modified XML document,” the description further reads.

“Researchers add since the feature is experimental, to begin with, it’s already an area to expect bugs and vulnerabilities. They also contend, that despite descriptions of how the bug can be exploited, it can’t be triggered remotely,” Threatpost reports.


Ghidra, a disassembler written in Java, breaks down executable files into assembly code that can then be analyzed. By deconstructing malicious code and malware, cybersecurity professionals can gain a better understanding of potential vulnerabilities in their networks and systems. The NSA has used it internally for years, and recently decided to open-source it.

Other instances when bugs have been found in Ghidra include, in March, a proof-of-concept was released showing how an XML external entity (XXE) vulnerability (rated serious) can be exploited to attack Ghidra project users (version 9.0 and below). In July, researchers found an additional path-retrieval bug (CVE-2019-13623) that was also rated high severity. The bug, similar to CVE-2019-1694, also impacts the ghidra.app.plugin.core.archive and allows an attacker to achieve arbitrary code execution on vulnerable systems, Threatpost reports.

Researchers said they are unaware that this most recent bug (CVE-2019-16941) has been exploited in the wild.

To know more about this news in detail, read the bug description.

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