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CERT Coordination Center

HP-UX fails to apply standard UNIX filesystem security measures when using OnLineJFS

Vulnerability Note VU#248337

Original Release Date: 2003-06-13 | Last Revised: 2003-06-13


A vulnerability in OnlineJFS could allow an intruder to gain greater access than expected.


OnlineJFS "provides the online management of the Journaled File System (JFS), a high-integrity, highly available file system supported by HP-UX." According to Hewlett-Packard, there is a vulnerability in OnlineJFS 3.1 in which the sticky bit does not function properly. The sticky bit is a frequently-implemented but non-standard extension to the standard UNIX permission scheme. The symbolic representation of this bit is S_ISVTX, which is mnemonic for "save text," and the historical meaning of the sticky bit related to keeping executable files in memory for faster activation (the file would stick in memory). Many systems that implement sticky bits have abandoned this meaning entirely, although HP-UX retains it The most common modern meaning of sticky bits is in the context of directories. When the sticky bit is set on directories, files in that directory cannot be moved or renamed, except by the owner or superuser, even if the privileges on the file would otherwise permit such modifications. The sticky bit is commonly set on the /tmp directory as a security measure. See for example VU#10277, VU#426273 and the Unix Security Checklist. On HP-UX, the sticky bit has meaning for files, directories, and symbolic links. Furthermore, the sticky bit has meaning when an executable file is loaded remotely. For a description of these different behaviors, see the comp.sys.hp.hpux FAQ.

The specific failure of OnlineJFS regarding sticky bits is unknown. It is likely that at least one security impact of this vulnerability is that the sticky bit on directories is ignored, allowing a variety of race conditions to occur, which could subsequently lead to root access.


The specific impact of this vulnerability is unknown. The most likely case is that this vulnerability enables certain kinds of attacks which can lead to a root compromise.


Apply a patch as described in the vendor statement section of this document.

Vendor Information


Hewlett-Packard Company Affected

Notified:  October 14, 2002 Updated: June 13, 2003



Vendor Statement

Originally issued: 14 Oct 2002
SSRT2358 Security Vulnerability in OnLineJFS 3.1

NOTICE: There are no restrictions for distribution of this Bulletin
provided that it remains complete and intact.

The information in the following Security Bulletin should be
acted upon as soon as possible.  Hewlett-Packard Company will
not be liable for any consequences to any customer resulting
from customer's failure to fully implement instructions in this
Security Bulletin as soon as possible.

PROBLEM: OnLineJFS sticky bit does not function properly.

IMPACT:  Standard UNIX filesystem security measures not observed.

PLATFORM: HP9000 Series 700/800 running HP-UX 10.20, and 11.00

SOLUTION: Apply appropriate patches:
            PHKL_24201 for 11.00,
            PHKL_27832 for 10.20 series 700,
            PHKL_27833 for 10.20 series 800.


AVAILABILITY: Patches are available now on

A. Background
   Hewlett-Packard has discovered that standard UNIX filesystem
   security measures are not being observed on HP-UX releases 10.20
   and 11.00 when the OnLineJFS (product B3929BA) is being used.
   The fileset is JournalFS.VXFS-BASE-KRN.

 B. Recommended solution
   Retrieve and apply the appropriate patches:
            PHKL_24201 for HP-UX 11.00,
            PHKL_27832 for HP-UX 10.20 series 700,
            PHKL_27833 for HP-UX 10.20 series 800.

    Note: - A reboot will be required.
         - HP-UX 10.24 (VVOS) is not affected.
         - Though the 11.00 patch has been superseded, this listed
           patch is first available solution to the security problem
           any newer superseded patches address this issue as well.

    To determine if you are running OnLineJFS, run:
   /usr/sbin/swlist -l fileset JournalFS.VXFS-BASE-KRN

 C. To subscribe to automatically receive future NEW HP Security
   Bulletins from the HP IT Resource Center via electronic
   mail, do the following:

    Use your browser to get to the HP IT Resource Center page

    Use the 'Login' tab at the left side of the screen to login
   using your ID and password.  Use your existing login or the
   "Register" button at the left to create a login, in order to
   gain access to many areas of the ITRC.  Remember to save the
   User ID assigned to you, and your password.

    In the left most frame select "Maintenance and Support".

    Under the "Notifications" section (near the bottom of
   the page), select "Support Information Digests".

    To -subscribe- to future HP Security Bulletins or other
   Technical Digests, click the check box (in the left column)
   for the appropriate digest and then click the "Update
   Subscriptions" button at the bottom of the page.


    To -review- bulletins already released, select the link
   (in the middle column) for the appropriate digest.

    To -gain access- to the Security Patch Matrix, select
   the link for "The Security Bulletins Archive".  (near the
   bottom of the page)  Once in the archive the third link is
   to the current Security Patch Matrix. Updated daily, this
   matrix categorizes security patches by platform/OS release,
   and by bulletin topic.  Security Patch Check completely
   automates the process of reviewing the patch matrix for
   11.XX systems.

    For information on the Security Patch Check tool, see:

    The security patch matrix is also available via anonymous

    On the "Support Information Digest Main" page:
   click on the "HP Security Bulletin Archive".

 D. To report new security vulnerabilities, send email to

    Please encrypt any exploit information using the
   security-alert PGP key, available from your local key
   server, or by sending a message with a -subject- (not body)
   of 'get key' (no quotes) to


(c) Copyright 2002 Hewlett-Packard Company
Hewlett-Packard Company shall not be liable for technical or
editorial errors or omissions contained herein. The information
in this document is subject to change without notice.
Hewlett-Packard Company and the names of HP products referenced
herein are trademarks and/or service marks of Hewlett-Packard
Company.  Other product and company names mentioned herein may be
trademarks and/or service marks of their respective owners.


Vendor Information

The vendor has not provided us with any further information regarding this vulnerability.


The CERT/CC has no additional comments at this time.

If you have feedback, comments, or additional information about this vulnerability, please send us email.

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Thanks to te HP IT Resource Center for reporting this vulnerability.

This document was written by Shawn V Hernan based on information from various HP documents.

Other Information

CVE IDs: None
Severity Metric: 17.63
Date Public: 2002-10-14
Date First Published: 2003-06-13
Date Last Updated: 2003-06-13 19:42 UTC
Document Revision: 13

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