Good news: You have to drop the ball first to be vulnerable
An amusing security hole has been found in MySQL that can be potentially abused to gain remote root access to servers. Less funny is the fact that details on how to exploit the vulnerability are now public and there’s no patch available.
Don’t panic, though: although the programming blunder is present in all default installations of MySQL 5.5, 5.6 and 5.7, if you’ve taken basic precautions, you’re probably safe.

First, the issue: the bug, CVE-2016-6662, was discovered by Dawid Golunski, who says he reported it to MySQL overseer Oracle on July 29. He found that you can misuse an SQL command to write arbitrary text to the open-source database’s configuration files. He has published limited proof-of-concept code to open a remote root shell on a vulnerable installation.
Second, how is this possible? Bear in mind that MySQL is launched by a script file called mysqld_safe (unless you’re using an RPM distribution with systemd, and MySQL 5.7.6 or later).

This script runs as root even if you tell MySQL to run as a non-root user.
It reads from the database’s configuration files for a setting called malloc_lib and dynamically loads the shared library referenced by this setting.
So if you can upload a malicious library onto a server and then tamper with one of MySQL’s config files so that mysqld_safe loads that library, and thus injects evil code into the server, you can get remote code execution as root when the database is next started and before it drops its privileges.
That’s a lot of ifs. You can, via SQL, abuse the database variable general_log_file to write to a configuration file thus:

set global general_log_file = ‘/etc/my.cnf’;
set global general_log = on;
select ‘



set global general_log = off;

But that requires you to be able to run arbitrary SQL on the victim’s machine, and with permission to set general_log_file. One way to do this would be to exploit an SQL injection vulnerability in a web app script to upload a malicious .so library and then fiddle with the config file via the logging system.

Again, the attacked web app would need permission to do that, and any sane environment would turn that off.
Also, the hijacked configuration file would have to be writeable for the MySQL server, but not world writeable or the database would reject it for security reasons.

Alternatively, a new config file could be created by the logging system in one of the various file system locations MySQL looks in for its settings.
If a web app can use the FILE SQL command, and has an SQLi vulnerability, a hacker can exploit that hole to upload a trigger file so that at some point in the future, such as when an INSERT command completes, the trigger script kicks in and the general_log_file trick can be performed as the MySQL root user.

The trigger file would look something like this:

CREATE DEFINER=`root`@`localhost` TRIGGER appendToConf
ON `active_table` FOR EACH ROW
DECLARE void varchar(550);
set global general_log_file=’/var/lib/mysql/my.cnf’;
set global general_log = on;
select ”

” INTO void;
set global general_log = off;

In his proof-of-concept exploit code, Golunski notes:

This is a limited version of the PoC exploit.
It only allows appending to existing mysql config files with weak permissions.
Full PoC will be released at a later date, and will show how attackers could exploit the vulnerability on default installations of MySQL on systems with no writable my.cnf config files available.
The upcoming advisory CVE-2016-6663 will also make the exploitation trivial for certain low-privileged attackers that do not have FILE privilege.

If a miscreant can execute arbitrary SQL commands on your database, you’re already in a world of pain. However, if your web app’s permissions aren’t locked down, and the MySQL user can write to or create new configuration files for itself, an SQL injection vulnerability will rapidly turn into a remote root shell via Golunski’s CVE-2016-6663 and CVE-2016-6662 bugs.
In the absence of a patch from Oracle, make sure you’re not at risk of any SQLi attacks, don’t give your web scripts access to dangerous SQL commands, and don’t allow the server to modify its own configuration files.
MySQL derivatives MariaDB and PerconaDB have issued fixes to address the reported failings. Oracle’s update is expected to arrive at the end of October at the earliest.
“No official patches or mitigations are available at this time from the vendor,” said Golunski. “As temporary mitigations, users should ensure that no MySQL config files are owned by the MySQL user, and create root-owned dummy my.cnf files that are not in use.
“These are by no means a complete solution and users should apply official vendor patches as soon as they become available.”
Oracle did not respond to a request for comment. ®

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