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RE: [H20020304]: Remotely exploitable format string vulnerability in ntop
From: "Burton M. Strauss III" <BStrauss () feliscatus org>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 07:44:46 -0600

The existence of this bug - but NOTHING about it's security implications -
was posted by one "Peter Suschlik (peter () zilium de)" to the ntop-dev mailing
list on 28Feb2002:


I'm not ntop's author (Luca Deri), so I can't speak as to whether this is
the same individual, or whether an attempt was made to contact the

The source was corrected in snapshots (available at
http://snapshot.ntop.org) beginning with ntop-02-03-01.tgz and all
subsequent versions.

Although this bug may allow for arbitrarily code execution, the risk is
limited if the user follows good practices.  Still, an upgrade to snapshot
versions on/after 01Mar2002 is recommended to all ntop users.

ntop requires root privileges at startup in order to place the network
interface into promiscuous mode.  ntop provides the -u <username> parameter
to allow ntop to run as an unprivileged user, as soon as possible after
execution begins.  This occurs BEFORE the web server is started.  If the
user continues to run as root, a WARNING message is displayed.

A pending patch will further tighten down the security screen on requested

This message is being copied to the two ntop mailing lists and I will also
add this information to the ntop community FAQs, also available at snapshot.


-----Original Message-----
From: hologram [mailto:holo () brained org]
Sent: Monday, March 04, 2002 6:46 AM
To: bugtraq () securityfocus com
Subject: [H20020304]: Remotely exploitable format string vulnerability
in ntop

        h o l o g r a m  |  s e c u r i t y  |  a d v i s o r y

                       Advisory ID : H20020304
                          Software : ntop
                          Synopsis : Remotely exploitable format
                                     string vulnerability in ntop.
                            Vendor : Luca Deri <www.ntop.org>
                          Verified : Version 2.0
                            Author : hologram <holo () brained org>


| Overview |-----------------------------------------------------------

ntop is a UNIX tool that shows the network usage, similar to what the
popular top UNIX command does on the system level. A format string
vulnerability has been discovered on the programmatic level and
is currently known to affect the UNIX version, however, the Windows
port of the program remains untested. The vulnerability allows
for remote arbitrary code execution.

| Vulnerability |------------------------------------------------------

The format string vulnerability lies within the traceEvent() function
which is declared as:

void traceEvent(int eventTraceLevel, char* file,
  int line, char * format, ...)

in the file util.c. The third argument, as is apparent, is a format
string to be later manipulated by the traceEvent() call.

Further into the code, the following is made visible:


  va_list va_ap;
  va_start (va_ap, format);


    char buf[BUF_SIZE];


#ifdef WIN32
      /* Windows lacks of vsnprintf */
      vsprintf(buf, format, va_ap);
      vsnprintf(buf, BUF_SIZE-1, format, va_ap);

      if(!useSyslog) {  // syslog() logging is not enabled
        printf(buf);  // vulnerability


#ifndef WIN32
      else {  // syslog() logging is enabled
#if 0
        switch(traceLevel) {
        case 0:
          syslog(LOG_ERR, buf);  // vulnerability
        case 1:
          syslog(LOG_WARNING, buf);  // vulnerability
        case 2:
          syslog(LOG_NOTICE, buf);  // vulnerability
          syslog(LOG_INFO, buf);   // vulnerability
        syslog(LOG_ERR, buf);


Obviously, a call such as syslog(LOG_ERR, buf) should be replaced
with syslog(LOG_ERR, "%s", buf) to remove the insecurity.

The bug can be exploited whether or not syslog() logging is enabled
because of the erroneous printf(buf) call, as well.

One of the simplest points of entry I have determined is if the -w
option was specified when ntop was ran, which allows web access
to the ntop information. A HTTP request of the following:

GET /%s%s%s HTTP/1.0

will cause program termination (the HTTP deamon for ntop is normally
listening on port 3000).

The vulnerability does allow remote execution of arbitrary commands,
and if concerned, an appropriate fix should be quickly applied.

-------------------------------| Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. |

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