Severe flaws in widely used archive library put many projects at risk

Input validation flaws in libarchive could lead to remote code execution

In a world where any new software project is built in large part on existing third-party code, finding and patching vulnerabilities in popular open-source libraries is vital to creating reliable and secure applications.

For example, three severe flaws in libarchive, recently found by researchers from Cisco Systems' Talos group, could affect a large number of software products.

Libarchive is an open-source library first created for FreeBSD, but since ported to all major operating systems. It provides real-time access to files compressed with a variety of algorithms, including tar, pax, cpio, ISO9660, zip, lha/lzh, rar, cab and 7-Zip.

The library is used by file and package managers included in many Linux and BSD systems, as well as by components and tools in OS X and Chrome OS. Developers can also include the library's code in their own projects, so it's hard to know how many other applications or firmware packages contain it.

The Cisco Talos researchers found an integer overflow, a buffer overflow and a heap overflow in the libarchive code that handles 7-Zip, mtree and rar files, respectively.

These are memory corruption errors that can result in arbitrary code execution and can be exploited by passing specially crafted files to applications that contain the vulnerable code.

"When vulnerabilities are discovered in a piece of software such as libarchive, many third-party programs that rely on, and bundle libarchive are affected," the Talos researchers said in a blog post Tuesday. "These are what are known as common mode failures, which enable attackers to use a single attack to compromise many different programs/systems. Users are encouraged to patch all relevant programs as quickly as possible."

The libarchive maintainers have released patches for these flaws, but it will likely take a long time for them to trickle down through all the affected projects. That's because software developers in general do a poor job of tracking vulnerabilities in the third-party code that they use and importing the available patches.

Past studies have shown that many software development firms and companies that create custom software in-house don't even have a clear picture of which third-party components and libraries have been used in their projects, not to mention their version.

The handling of complex data formats has historically led to many critical input validation vulnerabilities like the ones found by Cisco Talos in libarchive. This won't be the last time when such flaws are found in widely used libraries and components.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about CiscoLinux

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place