Revised: Portable OpenSSH security advisory: portable-keysign-rand-helper.adv

Damien Miller djm at
Tue May 3 10:48:57 EST 2011

OpenSSH Security Advisory: portable-keysign-rand-helper.adv

This document may be found at:

1. Vulnerability

        Portable OpenSSH's ssh-keysign utility may allow unauthorised
        local access to host keys on platforms if ssh-rand-helper is

2. Affected configurations

        Portable OpenSSH prior to version 5.8p2 only on platforms
        that are configured to use ssh-rand-helper for entropy

        ssh-rand-helper is enabled at configure time when it is
        detected that OpenSSL does not have a built-in source of
        randomness, and only used at runtime if this condition
        remains. Platforms that support /dev/random or otherwise
        configure OpenSSL with a random number provider are not

        In particular, *BSD, OS X, Cygwin and Linux are not

3. Mitigation

        If host-based authentication is not in use (enabled using
        HostBasedAuthentication or RhostsRSAAuthentication in
        sshd_config), then remove the setuid bit from ssh-keysign.

4. Details

        ssh-keysign is a setuid helper program that is used to mediate
        access to the host's private host keys during host-based
        authentication. It would use its elevated privilege to open
        the keys and then immediately drop privileges to complete its
        cryptographic signing operations.

        After privilege was dropped, ssh-keysign would ensure that
        the OpenSSL random number generator that it depends upon was
        adequately prepared. On configurations that lacked a built-in
        source of entropy in OpenSSL, ssh-keysign would execute the
        ssh-rand-helper program to attempt to retrieve some from the
        system environment.

        However, the file descriptors to the host private key files
        were not closed prior to executing ssh-rand-helper. Since this
        process was "born unprivileged" and inherited the sensitive
        file descriptors, there was no protection against an attacker
        using ptrace(2) to attach to it and instructing it to read out
        the private keys.

5. Credit

        This issue was privately reported by Tomas Mraz on April 26,

6. Fix

        OpenSSH 5.8p2 contains a fix for this vulnerability.

        Future releases of portable OpenSSH will remove support for
        ssh-rand-helper - in 2011, there is no excuse for not
        providing a /dev/random-like interface as part of the OS.
        Users stuck on one of these platforms may use PRNGd
        ( to provide a host-wide random pool.

        Users of older versions that do not wish to upgrade
        immediately may apply this patch:

Index: ssh-keysign.c
RCS file: /var/cvs/openssh/ssh-keysign.c,v
retrieving revision 1.43
diff -u -p -r1.43 ssh-keysign.c
--- ssh-keysign.c	10 Sep 2010 01:12:09 -0000	1.43
+++ ssh-keysign.c	29 Apr 2011 01:25:55 -0000
@@ -167,6 +167,9 @@ main(int argc, char **argv)
 	key_fd[0] = open(_PATH_HOST_RSA_KEY_FILE, O_RDONLY);
 	key_fd[1] = open(_PATH_HOST_DSA_KEY_FILE, O_RDONLY);
+	if (fcntl(key_fd[0], F_SETFD, FD_CLOEXEC) != 0 ||
+	    fcntl(key_fd[1], F_SETFD, FD_CLOEXEC) != 0)
+		fatal("fcntl failed");
 	original_real_uid = getuid();	/* XXX readconf.c needs this */
 	if ((pw = getpwuid(original_real_uid)) == NULL)

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