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August 30, 2011

Lion + LDAP = Authentication Bypass

Around a month ago, Mac OS X Lion (10.7) was found to have a fairly severe vulnerability when configured to use an LDAP server for authentication. In such a configuration, the system accepts any username or password upon login. This affects both the user interface, but also remote login such as SSH. This issue does not affect normal Lion users who haven’t set up an LDAP server.

Details of the issue aren’t well known, and as much as I’d like to reproduce the issue, I’m too lazy to set up an LDAP server to do it. My guess is that OSX queries the LDAP server, but a bug in the authentication and authorization code makes it so that the user is granted access regardless of whether a login failure is received from the server. I’ve heard reports that it’s possible to login using any non-existent username (with some errors about invalid home directories), but then it begs the question: who do you end up logged in as, and what privileges do you have? If you login with a known username, then you get access in the context of that user. I can’t say for certain, but this vulnerability should not allow a user using an invalid password to gain access to network resources that rely on that user’s authentication credentials, just the local system.

Apple hasn’t yet acknowledged the issue as far as I know, and it’s surprising that no patch was issued with 10.7.1. Perhaps a fix will come in the form of a security update, or the upcoming 10.7.2 update. In the meantime, consider disabling LDAP authentication on Lion systems to prevent unauthorised access.

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