An attacker exploits a weakness in the MIME conversion routine to cause a buffer overflow and gain control over the mail server machine. The MIME system is designed to allow various different information formats to be interpreted and sent via e-mail. Attack points exist when data are converted to MIME compatible format and back.
Likelihood Of Attack
The table below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Standard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.
Determine whether the mail server is unpatched and is potentially vulnerable to one of the known MIME conversion buffer overflows (e.g. Sendmail 8.8.3 and 8.8.4).
Identify places in the system where vulnerable MIME conversion routines may be used.
Send e-mail messages to the target system with specially crafted headers that trigger the buffer overflow and execute the shell code.
The target system uses a mail server.
Mail server vendor has not released a patch for the MIME conversion routine, the patch itself has a security hole or does not fix the original problem, or the patch has not been applied to the user's system.
It may be trivial to cause a DoS via this attack pattern
Causing arbitrary code to execute on the target system.
The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Stay up to date with third party vendor patches
Disable the 7 to 8 bit conversion. This can be done by removing the F=9 flag from all Mailer specifications in the sendmail.cf file.
For example, a sendmail.cf file with these changes applied should look similar to (depending on your system and configuration):
This can be achieved for the "Mlocal" and "Mprog" Mailers by modifying the ".mc" file to include the following lines:
`translit(LOCAL_MAILER_FLAGS, `9')', `rmn'))
`translit(LOCAL_SHELL_FLAGS, `9')', `eu'))
and then rebuilding the sendmail.cf file using m4(1).
From "Exploiting Software", please see reference below.
Use the sendmail restricted shell program (smrsh)
Attack Example: Sendmail Overflow
A MIME conversion buffer overflow exists in Sendmail versions 8.8.3 and 8.8.4. Sendmail versions 8.8.3 and 8.8.4 are vulnerable to a buffer overflow in the MIME handling code. By sending a message with specially-crafted headers to the server, a remote attacker can overflow a buffer and execute arbitrary commands on the system with root privileges.
Sendmail performs a 7 bit to 8 bit conversion on email messages. This vulnerability is due to the fact that insufficient bounds checking was performed while performing these conversions. This gave attacker an opportunity to overwrite the internal stack of sendmail while it is executing with root privileges. An attacker first probes the target system to figure out what mail server is used on the system and what version. An attacker could then test out the exploit at their leisure on their own machine running the same version of the mail server before using it in the wild.
See also: CVE-1999-0047
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed:
September 30, 2019