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CA-2002-26 Buffer Overflow in CDE ToolTalk


CERT Advisory CA-2002-26 Buffer Overflow in CDE ToolTalk

Original release date: August 12, 2002
Last revised: --
Source: CERT/CC

A complete revision history can be found at the end of this file.

Systems Affected

* Systems running CDE ToolTalk


The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) ToolTalk RPC database server
contains a buffer overflow vulnerability that could allow a remote
attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service.

I. Description

The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is an integrated graphical user
interface that runs on UNIX and Linux operating systems. CDE ToolTalk
is a message brokering system that provides an architecture for
applications to communicate with each other across hosts and
platforms. The ToolTalk RPC database server, rpc.ttdbserverd, manages
communication between ToolTalk applications. For more information
about CDE, see

The CDE ToolTalk database server is vulnerable to a heap buffer
overflow via an argument passed to the procedure _TT_CREATE_FILE(). An
attacker with access to the ToolTalk RPC database service could
exploit this vulnerability with a specially crafted RPC message.

Vulnerability Note VU#387387 includes a list of vendors who have been
contacted about this vulnerability.

This vulnerability was discovered and reported by the Entercept
Ricochet Team and is described in the following Entercept Security

This vulnerability has been assigned CAN-2002-0679 by the Common
Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) group.

A list previously documented problems in CDE can be found in Appendix

II. Impact

Using an RPC message containing a specially crafted argument to
_TT_CREATE_FILE(), a remote attacker could execute arbitrary code or
cause a denial of service. The ToolTalk database server process runs
with root privileges on most systems. Note that the non-executable
stack protection provided by some operating systems will not prevent
the execution of code located on the heap.

III. Solution

Apply a patch from your vendor

Appendix A contains information provided by vendors for this advisory.
As vendors report new information to the CERT/CC, we will update this
section and note the changes in our revision history. If a particular
vendor is not listed below, we have not received their comments.
Please contact your vendor directly.

Disable vulnerable service

Until patches are available and can be applied, you may wish to
disable the ToolTalk RPC database service. As a best practice, the
CERT/CC recommends disabling all services that are not explicitly
required. On a typical CDE system, it should be possible to disable
rpc.ttdbserverd by commenting out the relevant entries in
/etc/inetd.conf and if necessary, /etc/rpc, and then by restarting the
inetd process.

The program number for the ToolTalk RPC database server is 100083. If
references to 100083 or rpc.ttdbserverd appear in /etc/inetd.conf or
/etc/rpc or in output from the rpcinfo(1M) and ps(1) commands, then
the ToolTalk RPC database server may be running.

The following example was taken from a system running SunOS 5.8
(Solaris 8):

# Sun ToolTalk Database Server
100083/1 tli rpc/tcp wait root /usr/dt/bin/rpc.ttdbserverd

# rpcinfo -p
program vers proto port service
100083 1 tcp 32773

# ps -ef
root 355 164 0 19:31:27 ? 0:00 rpc.ttdbserverd

Before deciding to disable the ToolTalk RPC database server or the RPC
portmapper service, carefully consider your network configuration and
service requirements.

Block access to vulnerable service

Until patches are available and can be applied, you may wish to block
access to the ToolTalk RPC database server and possibly the RPC
portmapper service from untrusted networks such as the Internet. Use a
firewall or other packet-filtering technology to block the appropriate
network ports. The ToolTalk RPC database server may be configured to
use port 692/tcp or another port as indicated in output from the
rpcinfo(1M) command. In the example above, the ToolTalk RPC database
server is configured to use port 32773/tcp. The RPC portmapper service
typically runs on ports 111/tcp and 111/udp. Keep in mind that
blocking ports at a network perimeter does not protect the vulnerable
service from attacks that originate from the internal network.

Before deciding to block or restrict access to the ToolTalk RPC
database server or the RPC portmapper service, carefully consider your
network configuration and service requirements.

Appendix A. - Vendor Information

This appendix contains information provided by vendors for this
advisory. As vendors report new information to the CERT/CC, we will
update this section and note the changes in our revision history. If a
particular vendor is not listed below, we have not received their

Caldera, Inc.

Caldera Open UNIX and Caldera UnixWare are vulnerable to this
issue. A fix will be announced and made available as soon as the
CERT advisory is made public.

Cray, Inc.

Cray, Inc. does include ToolTalk within the CrayTools product.
However, rpc.ttdbserverd is not turned on or used by any Cray
provided application. Since a site may have turned this on for
their own use, they can always remove the binary
/opt/ctl/bin/rpc.ttdbserverd if they are concerned.

Hewlett-Packard Company

SOURCE: Hewlett-Packard Company Software Security Response Team



At the time of writing this document, Hewlett Packard is currently
investigating the potential impact to HP-UX and HP Tru64 UNIX
released operating system software.

HP will provide notice of the availability of any necessary patches
through standard security bulletin announcements and be available
from your normal HP Services support channel.


HP-MPE/ix HP OpenVMS HP NonStop Servers

HP Recommended Workaround:

A recommended workaround is to disable rpc.ttdbserverd until
solutions are available. This should only create a potential
problem for public software packages applications that use the
RPC-based ToolTalk database server. This step should be evaluated
against the risks identified, your security measures environment,
and potential impact of other products that may use the ToolTalk
database server.

To disable rpc.ttdbserverd:

Comment out the following line in /etc/inetd.conf:

rpc.ttdbserverd stream tcp swait root /usr/dt/bin/rpc.ttdbserverd

Force inetd to re-read the configuration file by executing the
inetd -h command.

Note: The internet daemon should kill the currently running
rpc.ttdbserver. If not, manually kill any existing rpc.ttdbserverd

IBM Corporation

The CDE desktop product shipped with AIX is vulnerable to the issue
detailed above in the advisory. This affects AIX releases 4.3.3 and
5.1.0. The efix package is currently being generated and will soon
be available from the IBM software ftp site.

The efix packages can be downloaded via anonymous ftp from This directory contains
a README file that gives further details on the efix packages.

The following APARs will be available in the near future:

AIX 4.3.3: IY32792
AIX 5.1.0: IY32793


SGI acknowledges the ToolTalk vulnerabilities reported by CERT and
is currently investigating. No further information is available at
this time.

For the protection of all our customers, SGI does not disclose,
discuss or confirm vulnerabilities until a full investigation has
occurred and any necessary patch(es) or release streams are
available for all vulnerable and supported IRIX operating systems.
Until SGI has more definitive information to provide, customers are
encouraged to assume all security vulnerabilities as exploitable
and take appropriate steps according to local site security
policies and requirements. As further information becomes
available, additional advisories will be issued via the normal SGI
security information distribution methods including the wiretap
mailing list on

Sun Microsystems, Inc.

The Solaris RPC-based ToolTalk database server, rpc.ttdbserverd, is
vulnerable to the buffer overflow described in this advisory in all
currently supported versions of Solaris:

Solaris 2.5.1, 2.6, 7, 8, and 9

Patches are being generated for all of the above releases. Sun will
be publishing Sun Alert 46366 for this issue which will be located


The Sun Alert will be updated as more information or patches become
available. The patches will be available from:

Sun will be publishing a Sun Security Bulletin for this issue once
all of the patches are available which will be located at:

Xi Graphics

Xi Graphics deXtop CDE v2.1 is vulnerable to this attack. The
update and accompanying text file will be:

DeXtop version 3.0 already contains this fix.

Most sites do not need to use the ToolTalk server daemon. Xi
Graphics Security recommends that non-essential services are never
enabled. To disable the ToolTalk server on your system, edit
/etc/inetd.conf and comment out, or remove, the 'rpc.ttdbserver'
line. Then, either restart inetd, or reboot your machine.

Appendix B. - References


The CERT Coordination Center thanks Sinan Eren of the Entercept
Richochet Team for reporting this vulnerability.

Author: Art Manion

This document is available from:

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Copyright 2002 Carnegie Mellon University.

Revision History

August 12, 2002: Initial release

Version: PGP 6.5.8


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