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OpenSSH disregards client configuration and allows server access to ssh-agent and/or X11 after session negotiation

Vulnerability Note VU#363181

Original Release Date: 2001-08-13 | Last Revised: 2002-05-30


Versions of OpenSSH client prior to 2.3.0 do not properly enforce restrictions to the ssh-agent or X11 display.


An OpenSSH client can be configured to prevent servers from accessing the client's ssh-agent or X11 display. However, versions of OpenSSH client prior to 2.3.0 fail to enforce these settings and thus allow access regardless of the client's desired configuration.

The ssh-agent program is a tool used to store private keys for subsequent use by programs started in the same session. When an SSH connection is established, the client and server negotiate whether or not the server may have access to the client's local ssh-agent (and consequently, the client's stored authentication material). The ForwardAgent setting specifies whether access to the client's ssh-agent is permitted. However, if a server requests access to the local ssh-agent after the connection is negotiated, versions of the OpenSSH client prior to 2.3.0 will permit it even if ForwardAgent is set to "no."

A similar problem exists in the implementation of X11 forwarding in the same versions of the OpenSSH client.


Malicious servers can gain access to your X11 display or key material cached with ssh-agent.


Upgrade to OpenSSH 2.3.0 or later, or apply the patch for this issue available at

Clear both the $DISPLAY and the $SSH_AUTH_SOCK variable before connecting to untrusted hosts.
% unset SSH_AUTH_SOCK; unset DISPLAY; ssh host

Vendor Information


OpenSSH Affected

Updated:  June 25, 2001



Vendor Statement

"All versions of OpenSSH prior to 2.3.0 are affected.... If agent or X11 forwarding is disabled in the ssh client configuration, the client does not request these features during session setup. This is the correct behaviour. However, when the ssh client receives an actual request asking for access to the ssh-agent, the client fails to check whether this feature has been negotiated during session setup. The client does not check whether the request is in compliance with the client configuration and grants access to the ssh-agent. A similar problem exists in the X11 forwarding implementation.... Hostile servers can access your X11 display or your ssh-agent."

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 Jacob Langseth for pointing out the X11 forwarding issue and to Markus Friedl who published an advisory on this topic.

This document was written by Shawn Hernan and Shawn Van Ittersum.

Other Information

CVE IDs: CVE-2000-1169
Severity Metric: 0.98
Date Public: 2000-12-07
Date First Published: 2001-08-13
Date Last Updated: 2002-05-30 20:23 UTC
Document Revision: 16

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