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Kernel Traffic #37 For 4 Oct 1999

By Zack Brown

Table Of Contents


There are now printer-friendly versions of KT and KC issues. We're in the process of adding links to reference them. The basic rule is, to get the printer-friendly version of an issue, change the URL from <something.html> to <something_print.html>.

Mailing List Stats For This Week

We looked at 1096 posts in 4292K.

There were 423 different contributors. 176 posted more than once. 152 posted last week too.

The top posters of the week were:

1. Implementation Of Generic ACPI Support Debated

16 Sep 1999 - 21 Sep 1999 (6 posts) Archive Link: "[PATCH] generic ACPI support"

Topics: Disks: IDE, Power Management: ACPI, USB, Virtual Memory

People: Andy HenroidSimon RichterJeff Garzik

Andy Henroid posted a pointer to his patch and announced, "I've gone a couple rounds with Linus on this patch for generic (ie. not PIIX4 specific) ACPI support and I think I've won his tentative approval. I would appreciate feedback from anybody else that is interested. The patch is very minimal and most of the work (the AML interpreter) will be done by a user-space daemon (acpid)." Jeff Garzik asked how Andy's work related to the ACPI4Linux Project, and Andy explained, "This is one of the two ideas floating around in the ACPI4Linux project. I'm calling this one the "thin ACPI driver" model. The alternate idea basically integrates the AML interpreter directly into the kernel which adds quite a bit of size to the kernel (guessing maybe 300k+, ouch)"

Simon Richter (a proponant of integrating directly into the kernel) felt that Andy's idea had drawbacks:

ACPI does device enumeration, and although current systems do not require that for booting, doing the enumeration after booting (when the daemon is running) means shutting down all affected subsystems (IDE, USB, PCMCIA, ...), reinitializing the hardware using the AML method the BIOS provided for this (there is no way to circumvent this, as only this AML code knows about the ACPI specific registers in the chipset) and then restart the drivers. Also, even if we do this, we still have to go to a solid VM when hardware is available that relies on ACPI enum.

The second big drawback is that not only sleeping but also proper waking depends on a userspace program, which needs to take precautions not to get swapped out because it needs to work even when only the CPU and memory are powered. You can easily shoot yourself in the foot with that. :-)

The third thing that disturbs me is that a userspace program tells the kernel where to peek and poke. This program can easily be replaced by someone breaking in from the network, while this is harder to do for the kernel. Also, you cannot easily determine what accesses are legal because the driver needs to be able to access all hardware. By a skilled attacker, this can be used to circumvent the file system and low level harddisk drivers, or to read or write arbitrary memory. Short, a huge security hole.

This is why I favor the static solution, even if it bloats the kernel and is hard to debug.

Andy replied:

1. device enumeration/initialization

This will not be an issue until hardware that depends on ACPI for initialization appears. That's going to be a while and, even then, boot devices will always be initialized by the system so the OS can be loaded.

Yes, with the thin driver model, device re-initialization is going to be necessary on platforms without legacy initialization. And yes, that's going to be complicated but I think it is definitely workable.

2. device sleep/wake

Right, we can't rely on user-space for turning storage devices on and off. What we can do is pre-run the AML in user-space and upload the I/O access sequence to the kernel for execution.

3. security

It's just as easy to install a new kernel or kernel module as it is to replace a system daemon. If someone has root access you are vulnerable with either model.

He concluded:

#1 and #2 are definitely important issues but I think there are solutions to both while keeping the bulk of ACPI code in user-space.

You are going to need a much more convincing argument to get that much code into the kernel initially. Why don't we go the thin way and as specific issues arise or new hardware appears, then push more of the code into the kernel?

Simon wasn't convinced, but had network connectivity problems that made continuing the debate difficult, and it ended.

2. Including Kernel Headers In C++ Programs

17 Sep 1999 - 21 Sep 1999 (23 posts) Archive Link: "bug in socket.h (and maybe many other kernel headerfiles)"

People: Michael Elizabeth ChastainJeff DikeSean HunterAnthony Barbachan

Uwe Koloska was writing a C++ program that needed kernel functions, but found that including kernel headers (which are in C) would produce errors. Anthony Barbachan recommended just editing the header files, since the problem was only with null pointers handling; and Sean Hunter recommended using 'extern "C" {}'. Later and elsewhere, Sean posted a one-line patch to give an explicit cast to a null value (as he'd seen elsewhere in the patched file), and Michael Elizabeth Chastain reported:

It Works For Me (tm).

I have the same problem -- a C++ program that includes kernel header files -- and your patch does indeed fix my problem. If it gets into the kernel then I can take some nasty preprocessor kludges out of my source.

Here's a little background: I have a program like strace, which monitors the system calls that *other programs* make. I need to #include the entire userspace-to-kernel ABI so that I can monitor properly. Using glibc headers doesn't meet my needs at all, because I am not calling these services, I am using ptrace to watching other processes call these services.

I chose to write my program in C++ because I like OO programming.

Jeff Dike replied:

I ran into a similar problem with the user-mode kernel, and my fix for it might be applicable. I need to #include both user and kernel headers, the kernel headers because I'm building a kernel, the user headers because the lowest levels are implemented in terms of system calls.

I found out that you are asking for a world of hurt if you include both user and kernel headers into the same file. What I did was split my sources into "user" and "kernel" files, which include only user and kernel headers, respectively. Communication between these two groups happens in terms of basic C types.

So, what might work for C++ is to have little C files which include the kernel headers, which pass their information back out to the C++ files using types that everyone agrees on.

3. Unsolved SMP Races Explored

17 Sep 1999 - 20 Sep 1999 (16 posts) Archive Link: "[patch] stime/settimeofday/adjtimex SMP races (2.2.12 and 2.3.18ac5)"

Topics: SMP

People: Andrea ArcangeliDave MaddenJonathan Disher

Andrea Arcangeli posted a patch, and said:

I reviewed the time-related stuff in 2.2.12 and I found potential SMP races in the time-related syscalls. Basically the only problem is that the time-syscalls are not protecting against each other. They are only protecting themself against the timer irq. And this may lead to SMP races.

Actually I don't know if these SMP races may be the source of the RTC screwedup with ntpd enabled (also considering that ntpd seems single threaded...). Anyway here it is the fix for the races I spotted so far. It's against 2.2.12 but it applyes cleanly to all 2.2.x 2.3.x kernels out there as there aren't been NTP/time changes since 2.2.0. You may want to try to reproduce the RTC SMP race with this fix applyed (I can't reproduce in any way here, but I am not sure I configured xntp hard enough to trigger the race).

Dave Madden reported failure with this patch, saying, "I still see gettimeofday() returning values smaller than were previously returned from a userspace program, and a prink() I put in arch/i386/kernel/time.c shows many more (smaller) time backups." Ryan Murray reported initial success and was very happy, but on reboot found that his hardware clock had warped to 2002, which wasn't a good sign (Jonathan Disher cracked, "At least it handled the Y2K rollover correctly ;-)." ).

There was no resolution during the thread.

4. Kernel-Hacking HOWTO

18 Sep 1999 - 23 Sep 1999 (10 posts) Archive Link: "kernel-hacking-HOWTO: An lk primer seeks feedback"

Topics: FS: NFS, Samba

People: Paul Rusty RussellPhilipp RumpfNeil BrownAndi KleenRusty Russell

Paul Rusty Russell thanked Andi Kleen and Philipp Rumpf for their help, and gave a pointer to his Kernel-Hacking HOWTO. He explained, "This document describes the common routines, locking systems and general requirements for kernel code: its goal is to serve as a primer for Linux kernel development."

Everyone loved the document, and Neil Brown also posted a link to his documentation on the VFS layer and kNFSD.

5. GCC Bug, Workaround, And Controversy

20 Sep 1999 - 25 Sep 1999 (39 posts) Archive Link: "Possible GCC contamination of Linux"

Topics: Assembly

People: Richard B. JohnsonArtur FrysiakAndrea Arcangeli

Richard B. Johnson made a horrifying discovery. Apparently the C compiler, compiled on a 686, had been generating binaries containing 686 opcodes, even when explicitly told to compile for earlier processors. He guessed, "So, is there the possibility that something from the gcc library gets linked into the kernel? If so, how would I prevent it from happening?"

Artur Frysiak said, "Probably bug in gcc. Please add -mcpu=i486 and recompile Linux kernel on i686. If works add this as workaround for i386 arch." Richard tried this, in addition to compiling with "-fno-builtins", and ran into a new difficulty: abs() was an undefined symbol. He added the macro somewhere, and the problem went away: kernels compiled on a 686 would now boot on a 486.

There followed a bit of discussion, and Richard said he'd post a patch after the next clean Linux release; but Andrea Arcangeli objected:

IMHO there's nothing to change into the kernel.

I don't care at all how my gcc is been compiled for, the gcc output _must_ be the same for all GCC of such same version careless about which optimizations are been used to compile gcc itself. The makefiles must ensure that the libgcc is been compiled for i386 and the gcc build process may also create a different libgcc.a for each different architecture supported by gcc and then link the right one statically into the binary in function of the flag specifyed to the gcc executable.

The output of gcc must be the same even if I'm cross compiling the kernel for i386 on an Alpha. If I choose -march=386 and some 686 assembler goes into the binary then gcc is definitly buggy and must be fixed.

Richard agreed in theory, but pointed out that simple workarounds for these kinds of compiler bugs were essential, since they couldn't depend upon those other packages (whatever they happened to be) being properly maintained. But Andrea stood firm, with:

So the buggy compiler must _not_ be used. If you don't fix the kernel then the debugger will be sure fixed.

You just know the workaround and you can implement it by hand in the meantime.

That's MHO at least.

There was a bit of discussion around this point, with various folks taking various positions.

6. Support For Soundcard In Dell Latitude CPi 400 PPX

21 Sep 1999 (2 posts) Archive Link: "Support for Neomagic audio controller requested."

Topics: PCI, Sound

People: Alan CoxRoy Sigurd Karlsbakk

Roy Sigurd Karlsbakk had a Dell Latitude CPi 400 PPX, with a sound card listed in /proc/pci as follows:

  Bus  1, device   0, function  1:
    Multimedia audio controller: Neomagic Unknown device (rev 0).
      Vendor id=10c8. Device id=8006.
      Medium devsel.  Fast back-to-back capable.  IRQ 5.
      Prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0xf5800000 [0xf5800008].
      Non-prefetchable 32 bit memory at 0xfda00000 [0xfda00000].

The sound card didn't seem to be supported, and he asked for some help. Alan Cox replied, "It is supported in 2.2.13pre10 onwards"

7. smbfs In 2.3.x

21 Sep 1999 - 22 Sep 1999 (2 posts) Archive Link: "[patch] smbfs in 2.3.18(ac#)"

Topics: FS: smbfs, Samba

People: Urban WidmarkAndrew Tridgell

Urban Widmark posted a patch and announced:

This is my attempt at getting smbfs to work with 2.3.x.

This patch:

This should apply cleanly to any 2.3.18 (+ac#).

I have tested this on a few machines (plain 2.3.18, ac5, ac7). Me and at least one more person have been unable to crash it so maybe it is fit for a development kernel. Oh, not only does it not crash, it shows files and allows reading & writing. :)

Andrew Tridgell replied, "thanks! I also have some other changes pending for smbfs that I'll send to Linus shortly. Jeremy and I are trying to get Samba 2.0.6 out in the next 10 days and I should have all the smbfs changes done by then."

8. GCC v2.95 Or Higher Still Out Of Favor For 2.2.13pre11

22 Sep 1999 - 24 Sep 1999 (7 posts) Archive Link: "Linux 2.2.13pre11 aka "Release Candidate #1""

Topics: SMP

People: Alan CoxJeff Epler

Alan Cox posted the changelog and announced 2.2.13pre11, saying:

Ok this should fix the last few bugs that needed closing, and some small fixes for the token ring (afaik sktr still doesnt work but someone now seems to know why which is good)

I've got several other drivers and good patches that are queued. I'm going to sit on most of them until 2.2.14. The only stuff I want for 2.2.13 now is bug reports (and preferably fixes). Just bug fixes.

I'd like to get the reported network delay stuff nailed if possible and also the SMP hang reports. I'm not interested in reports that include the knfsd, nfs client or Ingo raid patches. Not because I think they are bound to be the cause but because I want less variables - ditto stuff built with gcc 2.95 or later on x86

If you see hangs on unadulterated 2.2.13pre11 I definitely want to know. If you can run the ikd patch and other tools to get dumps even better.

Oliver Teuber reported that the new version broke Java on his system. He posted his exploit:

olibox:~ # java -version
java_ns version "1.1.7B"
olibox:~ # javac
Cannot open /proc/01129 for GC

It seemed to him to be a problem with the leading 0, and Jeff Epler replied, "Yes, this was mentioned to be a deliberate change. Unfortunately, broken stuff like that risk forcing the old behavior to be returned. The answer instead is to use a sprintf("%d") instead of (apparently) %05d in the java bytecode interpreter's garbage collection routines."

9. Problems With Logitech Mice In 2.2.x/2.3.x

23 Sep 1999 - 24 Sep 1999 (3 posts) Archive Link: "Mouse Problems W/Logitech"

Sean King had a Logitech mouse model M-BA47, which worked fine under 2.0, but who's wheel was not being recognized under 2.2.x kernels. Mark Henry reported virtually the identical problem, only with a model M-RG45. Dag Brattli also reported virtually the identical problem, with his MouseMan+ and TrackMan Marble+ not working on his laptop in the 2.2/2.3 series (although he reported that they did work on his HP Vectra).

End Of Thread.

10. Mailbox Corruption Under 2.3.18ac

23 Sep 1999 - 27 Sep 1999 (15 posts) Archive Link: "Mailbox corruption under 2.3.18ac7"

People: Alan CoxJeff Garzik

Someone started experiencing mailbox corruption under 2.3.18ac7, which went away when downgrading to 2.2.12; and several other folks confirmed the problem. Jeff Garzik also confirmed it, and pointed out that it didn't seem to occur in the stock 2.3.18; Alan Cox asked if the problem occurred under 2.3.18ac2, which might imply that the culprit was the flushpage fix; under 2.3.18ac4, which might imply that the culprit was kupdated; or under 2.3.18ac6, which would still leave several candidates. Later, Alan reported that Jeff had found ac4 to be OK; and added that he suspected ac6, which added several changes that might be related to the problem. No solution presented itself during the thread.

11. Situation Of Linux Networking Code

23 Sep 1999 - 27 Sep 1999 (14 posts) Archive Link: "Headerless packets hitting ethernet?"

Topics: Networking

People: Paul Rusty RussellPeter BenieAlan CoxRusty Russell

In the course of discussion, Paul Rusty Russell said:

I'm not going to make myself popular here, but the network code is *not* easy to read.

#ifdef RANT

Consider: ip_route_output() returns a route, but you wonder if you have to free it somehow? You look through ip_route_input, then ip_route_input_slow, and verify that it's using a reference count.

Looking for _release, _unref etc. gets you nowhere; eventually you find some code that uses ip_rt_put. Cool, so the networking jargon for release is xxx_put().

So skb_put releases skbs then? Not fucking likely. kfree_skb does that: of course, it doesn't actually kfree the skb unless the refcnt is 0. skb_push and skb_pull have nothing to do with putting skbs on a stack. skb_realloc_headroom is not really realloc: it returns a copy of the packet with more headroom, without freeing the old one. Of course, the definition for `struct sk_buff' is not in `sk_buff.h', but `skbuff.h'.

Consider tracing the code path of an IP packet from one NIC to another involves 3 chained strategy functions (unless it's fast routed!): packet_type's descriptive `func()', the routing code's output(), and then the queuing disc's function if there is one.

Figuring out the packet_type's func is a simple matter of finding how they're registered (dev_add_pack of course!) and looking for it in ipv4/, to see that it's going to be ip_rcv().

Figuring out how the packet gets from ip_finish_output2 to dev_queue_xmit is something I've NEVER managed to do; grepping for dev_queue_xmit or hh_output gives nothing I can see, neither does the desparate resort of grepping for `output'.

But if you manage to get through that, can you figure out that the queuing discipline on the device has a queue: ethertap.c: doesn't set it statically, or in init_module, nor register_netdev(), try ethertap_probe(), no, but it calls net_init.c's ether_setup(), which doesn't set it either. grep'ing the directory reveals that noone mentions `qdisc'.

By guessing, I look in sched/sch_generic.c: my, this dev_init_scheduler() looks like it might be something, and grepping again finds it.

After all this, there's NO WAY you're going to bet that you didn't miss something, or get it wrong: trying to figure what fields are going to be valid in the skb at the end (and which of those is coincidence which won't be true in the next kernel version) is not realistic.

#endif /*RANT*/

There are *reasons* why none of the external add-ins to the networking stack have never been reliable worth a damn (masquerading, CIPE, Free/SWAN, redirection etc) and there have been holes in our packet filtering (early 2.0 iirc). The network code simply isn't readable on any scale larger than a single function, and it's not documented.

I have a huge respect for the hacking skills of the IP maintainers, but don't be under any illusions that outsiders can make mods to the 500,000 lines of networking code. They can't.

Alan Cox completely agreed that the networking code was tough to read, but pointed out that changing the naming conventions (as Paul had seemed to suggest) would break drivers and wreak havoc with driver writers. Peter Benie replied:

Changing the names now would be a crazy idea, but a few more comments in the code wouldn't go amiss.

A lot of the networking code is conceptually simple. There's a lot of it, which makes it tedious, but with a little time and patience, the code can be followed. However, every so often, you hit a function pointer, such as dst_entry.input or dst_entry.output. The problem with function pointers is that once you dereference one, to understand the code, you need to find where and why the pointer was set. A few lines of comments pointing people in the right direction would be incredibly helpful. Without them, the code has the property that to understand a small part of the code, you need to understand _all_ of the code, which is a bad property, both for reliablility and for security. I don't agree with Alexey's argument that the complex code is just an exam; I certainly wouldn't push for changing the code to make it easier for newbie programmers, but the existing code is tough even for experienced programmers.

Even if you have read all the code and understand what the existing code does right now, it is impossible to deduce from the code what the expected semantics of an interface are. This makes it difficult to write code that will stay working in future versions of the kernel. Without documentation, you have to understand how different parts of the kernel interact with each other, and as the code gets bigger and acquires more subsystems, this becomes a much harder task - the complexity of the interactions goes up much faster than the size of the code. With documented interfaces, it would be possible to find bugs by checking that the code on both sides of an interface obey the documented semantics and don't rely on undocumented semantics. Note that I'm not advocating setting kernel internal interfaces in stone, but I do want interfaces to be more obvious so people think harder about the consequences for other people's code when they change the semantics.

12. Kernel API Documentation System

26 Sep 1999 - 27 Sep 1999 (16 posts) Archive Link: "[patch] kernel API documentation system"

Topics: Virtual Memory

People: Larry McVoyJes SorensenJeff Garzik

Jeff Garzik posted a kernel API documentation system based on the one used by Gnome, which would allow documentation to be generated from comments in the source code itself. Jes Sorensen pointed out that putting the automatically generated docs in the same directory as the others would make it harder to keep track of what could be safely deleted. Jeff pointed out that the system currently would only generate a single kernel-api.html file, but agreed with Jes in principle, and suggested using a subdirectory off of the current documentation directory.

Under the Subject: Documentation / API thread, Larry McVoy said:

I've been following this code / documentation thread for a while.

Here's a few points for consideration:

  1. Incorrect documentation is _far_ worse than no documentation.
  2. Code gets updated, docs don't
  3. Documenting interfaces is important, documenting implementation is a great deal less important.
  4. Terseness is good.

Given all that, you might consider documenting just the internal interfaces and the semantics of those interfaces. For instance, what are the interfaces to an inode? What are the semantics of those interfaces? What's the locking model used from without the interface and from within the interface (they are frequently different).

Diving into a ton of details about implementations specifics is going to do nothing but clutter up the code. On the other hand, a set of docs which defined the interfaces to the following set of kernel "objects" would be something that a lot of people would use:

That's probably an incomplete list but it's a good start. I personally would love to see just the interfaces documented - I could care less about the implementation - my experience is that the implementation tends to change and the docs tend to get out of date (and hence much worse than nothing because they are misleading). But interfaces tend to live for a long time.

13. Linux 2.2.x ISN Vulnerability

26 Sep 1999 - 27 Sep 1999 (12 posts) Archive Link: "Linux 2.2.x ISN Vulnerability"

Topics: BSD: OpenBSD, FS: NFS, Microsoft, Networking, Random Number Generation

People: nofirstname nolastnameDavid S. MillerManfred SpraulAndrea ArcangeliAlan CoxAlexey Kuznetsov

Someone posted this report of a Linux 2.2.x vulnerability:

TESO Security Advisory 26/09/1999

Linux Kernel 2.2.x ISN Vulnerability


A weakness within the TCP stack in Linux 2.2.x kernels has been discovered. The vulnerability makes it possible to "blind-spoof" TCP connections. It's therefore possible for an attacker to initiate a TCP connection from an arbitrary non existing or unresponding IP source address, exploiting IP address based access control mechanisms.

Linux 2.0.x kernels were tested against this attack and found not to be vulnerable in any case.

Systems Affected

All systems running the kernel versions 2.2.x of the Linux operating system. Linux 2.3.x systems may be affected, too, we didn't tested this versions.

In our test situations we noticed that it doesn't seem to matter whether the TCP syncookie functionality was enabled or not (enabled within the kernel and activated through the proc filesystem options).


This is the beginning of a log of a successfully mounted blind TCP spoofing attack agains a Linux 2.2.12 system. (tcpdump output formatted for better readability)

    16:23:02.727540 attacker.522  > victim.ssh  : S  446679473: 446679473(0)
    16:23:02.728371 victim.ssh    > attacker.522: S 3929852318:3929852318(0)
    16:23:02.734448 > victim.ssh: S  446679473: 446679473(0)
    16:23:02.734599 victim.ssh > S 3929859164:3929859164(0)
    16:23:03.014941 attacker.522  >   victim.ssh: R  446679474: 446679474(0)
    16:23:05.983368 victim.ssh > S 3929859164:3929859164(0)
    16:23:06.473192 > victim.ssh: . ack 3929855318
    16:23:06.473427 victim.ssh > R 3929855318:3929855318(0)
    16:23:06.554958 > victim.ssh: . ack 3929855319
    16:23:06.555119 victim.ssh > R 3929855319:3929855319(0)
    16:23:06.637731 > victim.ssh: . ack 3929855320
    16:23:06.637909 victim.ssh > R 3929855320:3929855320(0)

The first ISN of the victim's host is 3929852318, which is within a SYNACK packet to the attackers host. This is unspoofed and can be easily snagged by the attacker. At the same time the attacker sent out the first unspoofed SYN packet he sent a spoofed SYN packet from too. This packet is answered by the victims host too with the ISN of 3929859164. The difference between the first visible ISN and the second ISN is only (3929859164-3929852318) = 6846.

Please notice that all TCP and IP parameters of the spoofed packet, except for the IP source address are the same as of the unspoofed packet. This is important (see below).

This small differences within the initial TCP sequence number (ISN) is exploitable. In other tests, where both hosts were unlagged we even had differences below 500 sometimes.

We've managed to successfully blind spoof TCP connections on different Linux 2.2.x systems, that is reaching the TCP "ESTABLISHED" state without being able to sniff the victim host.


By sending packets from a trusted source address, attackers could possibly bypass address based authentication and security mechanisms.

There have been similiar exploiting technics, aimed especially at r* and NFS services, in the past that demonstrated the security impact of weak ISNs very well. We have written a working exploit to demonstrate the weakness.


The problem relies on a implementation flaw within the random ISN algorithm in the Linux kernel.

The problem is within drivers/char/random.c, line 1684:

    __u32 secure_tcp_sequence_number(__u32 saddr, __u32 daddr,
                                     __u16 sport, __u16 dport)
            static __u32    secret[12];
            secret[2]=(sport << 16) + dport;

            seq = (halfMD4Transform(secret+8, secret) &
                   ((1<<HASH_BITS)-1)) + count;

As already said, in our spoofed TCP SYN packet only the IP source address differs, that is only secret[0], so of 12*4 random bytes used to create the sequence number from, only 4 bytes differ. Obviously the hash created by halfMD4Transform has similarities if the source and destination ports and the destination address are the same.

It seems that the src-adress is least-significant to the above MD4 algorithm. Changing the source-ports too, makes the 2 ISNs more differ. Due to the short gap of time, the last

            seq += tv.tv_usec + tv.tv_sec*1000000;

is useless. This may be the reason why this bug may have survived long: In any real network situation it is uncommon that the source and destination ports are equal in two different connections on one host.

Further analyzation of the hash algorithm in this routine may result in a better ISN prediction than the one we use (range prediction).


First: It's always unwise to rely on address based authentication, because in a sniffable enviroment, such as the Internet, there are always means of bypassing address based authentication.

Second: The press shouldn't hype this as _THE_ Linux bug.. everyone having looked at the ISNs/DNS Sequence numbers of any of Microsoft's operating systems knows that their 'random numbers' are _much_ easier targets to use for IP and DNS spoofing attacks. For a a description how the ISN numbers of the Microsoft Windows NT TCP stack have even weakened with the latest Service Packs, you may want to browse the latest postings to the Bugtraq security mailing list [1] or read [2]. Well.. not that it matters.. but who uses Microsoft software anyway ?

The Linux kernel developers have been notified at the same time as the public Linux community, so a safe patch should be available real soon.


The bugdiscovery and the exploit is due to:


S. Krahmer

This advisory has been written by typo and scut.
The tests and further analyzation were done by stealth and scut.
The demonstration exploit has been written by S. Krahmer.

Contact Information

The teso crew can be reached by mailing to Our webpage is at


[1] Mail to the Bugtraq mailing list From: Roy Hills <bugtraq-l@NTA-MONITOR.COM> Subject: NT Predictable Initial TCP Sequence numbers - changes observed with SP4

[2] Microsoft Knowledge Database Article ID: Q192292 "Unpredictable TCP Sequence Numbers in SP4".

[3] libUSI++, a spoofing library

[4] TESO

[5] S. Krahmer


This advisory does not claim to be complete or to be usable for any purpose. Especially information on the vulnerable systems may be inaccurate or wrong. The supplied exploit is not to be used for malicious purposes, but for educational purposes only.

This advisory is free for open distribution in unmodified form. Articles that are based on information from this advisory should include link [4] and [5].


We've created a working exploit to demonstrate the vulnerability. The exploit needs libUSI++ installed, which can be obtained through [3].

The exploit is available from either


Alexey Kuznetsov was horrified and posted a two-line patch (to which David S. Miller said elsewhere, "Nice work Alexey, I've applied your patch." ). Manfred Spraul posted a one-liner, and said, "I think the problem is not the halfMD4Transform. The problem could be caused by the fact that the random part of secret remains zero. Could you please check if the newest 2.2.13pre12 kernel from Alan is vulnerable? This bug was found a few days ago."

Andrea Arcangeli was initially sceptical about whether Manfred's point was significant, saying, "Such part of the secret should remains constant across lots of seconds so it shouldn't matter if it's zero or the right value for this issue." But an hour later he replied to himself, with, "Hmm I think I was wrong. I was focusing on the zero issue. The fact that the secret is zero infact is not the real issue as the secret may be zero even with the bug fixed. I think the real problem was that they _known_ the random part of the secret (that _incidentally_ was zero 8)."

The initial poster replied:

I think that the implementation of the secure TCP Sequence number algorithm within the Linux kernel is flawed from ground on.

I agree, using known data (port numbers, addresses) as "secret" data to hash is false. Instead a good PRNG should be used everytime a sequence number is needed, independent to any TCP data. Operating systems such as OpenBSD do have cryptographical safe Sequence number generators, why should Linux go the unsafe way ?

But again, this advisory shows the general lack of security within the old protocol suites. TCP Sequence numbers were never meant to be secure, a 32 bit number just cannot guarantee security at all. Later when the first spoofing vulnerabilities were discovered the reasons of the sequence number shifted from a "to order data" meaning to a "guarantee security" meaning.

To the person's second paragraph above, Alan Cox replied, "You can't just use a random number generator. There are _strict_ rules about sequence spaces keeping ordering. Otherwise your risk data corruption," and to his third paragraph, Alan replied, "Correct. You should be using encrypted IP. Unfortunately the US government still puts its paranoia before its people's safety"

There was a bit more discussion, but Alexey's patch seemed to be the fix, and the thread petered out.

14. ptrace Patch To Enable Changing System Call Numbers

26 Sep 1999 - 27 Sep 1999 (2 posts) Archive Link: "[PATCH] i386 ptrace patch needed for user-mode port"

People: Jeff DikePavel Machek

Jeff Dike posted a patch, and said, "Below is a small patch to ptrace which enables it to change system call numbers. This is needed in order to run the user-mode port. It adds range checks to ptrace and to the slow system call path. I've been feeding this sporadically to Linus for the last couple of months with no result. If anyone can clue me in as to what would make this more acceptable, please do so."

Pavel Machek replied, "Afaik you are not the first person to want this small patch. It is usefull for other purposes, too (ask Just push it little harder :-)."

15. PPP Over Ethernet

26 Sep 1999 (2 posts) Archive Link: "PPPoE"

Topics: Networking

People: Gary SimmonsAlan Cox

PPP over ethernet was first discussed in Issue #33, Section #17  (24 Aug 1999: PPP Over Ethernet) , and then again in Issue #35, Section #18  (8 Sep 1999: PPP Over Ethernet) . This time, Gary Simmons explained, "My ADSL service provider is in the transition to switiching to a PPPoE service, currently both DHCP and PPPoE work but within a month I will be forced to use PPPoE. They have provided a userspace PPPoE driver and have distributed both the binary and source thereto. The problem however is despite the driver working, it uses a monsterous 30% CPU usage. I recall hearing of an effort to develop the PPPoE kernelspace driver that was much faster, what is the status of this? I could provide the source to the driver I speak of however it has a license agreement which appears to state that even thoguht he source is provided you may not use it for any useful purpose other than compiling it to obtain the binary. Any further information would be appreciated."

Alan Cox replied, "There is a 2.3.x driver for PPP in kernel space. It won't ever be in 2.2.x. If you look on freshmeat you will find a GPL'd userspace PPPoE for Linux 2.0.x/2.2.x that is a lot more efficient." EOT.

16. Problems With The linux-kernel Mailing List

27 Sep 1999 (1 post) Archive Link: "LIST ADMIN: notes and warnings about subscriptions/problems.."

People: Matti Aarnio

Matti Aarnio reported some troubles with the mailing list:

Over the weekend we have seen several weird email problems in MTA logs and reports.

Thanks for help on any (sub-)issue you can provide.

17. Epox Moherboards

27 Sep 1999 (6 posts) Archive Link: "Epox Motherboards"

People: Andrea ArcangeliWakko WarnerAlan Cox

Pierfrancesco Caci asked if there were any known problems with Epox EP-BX3 motherboards, and Andrea Arcangeli replied, "If it has the VIA chipset then enable PCI_QUIRKS." Wakko Warner asked, "If this isn't enabled, would this effect using ide-scsi on via chipsets on cdroms?" (his 2.2.10 box had locked up when he tried this), and Alan Cox replied, "The VIA thing is basically only tickled by the ISA sound drivers in which case QUIRKS works, and very rarely by the Z85230 driver, in which case it doesnt." Sean Connor pointed out that the latest BIOS upgrade would fix Wakko's UDMA lockup problems.







Sharon And Joy

Kernel Traffic is grateful to be developed on a computer donated by Professor Greg Benson and Professor Allan Cruse in the Department of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco. This is the same department that invented FlashMob Computing. Kernel Traffic is hosted by the generous folks at All pages on this site are copyright their original authors, and distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2.0.