2 min read

Yesterday a remote code execution bug was found in the APT high-level package manager used by Debian, Ubuntu, and other related Linux distributions. Max Justicz, the security researcher who discovered the bug, says that the bug “allows a network man-in-the-middle (or a malicious package mirror) to execute arbitrary code as root on a machine installing any package.”

Justicz’s blog post states that the vulnerable versions of APT don’t properly sanitize certain parameters during HTTP redirects. An attacker can take advantage of this and perform a remote man-in-the-middle attack to inject malicious content, thus tricking the system to install certain altered packages.
HTTP redirects while using apt-get command help Linux machines to automatically request packages from an appropriate mirror server when other servers are unavailable. If the first server fails, it returns the location of the next server from where the client should request the package.

Justicz has also demonstrated this man-in-the-middle attack in a short video:

Justicz told The Hacker News that a malicious actor intercepting HTTP traffic between APT utility and a mirror server, or just a malicious mirror, could execute arbitrary code on the targeted system with the highest level of privileges, i.e. root. He further adds, “You can completely replace the requested package, as in my proof of concept. You could substitute a modified package as well if you wanted to”.

The APT is also used by major Linux distributions like Debian and Ubuntu, who have also acknowledged and released security patches for this vulnerability.

Hacker News also points how this flaw comes around the time when cybersecurity experts are fighting over Twitter, in favor of not using HTTPS and suggesting software developers to rely on signature-based package verification since the APT on Linux also does the same. They further add that the APT exploitation could have been mitigated if the software download manager was strictly using HTTPS to communicate securely.

The developers of APT have released version 1.4.9 that fixes the issue. The bug has also been fixed in APT 1.2.29ubuntu0.1, 1.7.0ubuntu0.1, 1.0.1ubuntu2.19, and 1.6.6ubuntu0.1 packages, as well as in APT 1.4.9 for the Debian distribution.

You can head over to Max Justicz official blog for more insights on this news.

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