Linux platform that can lead to privilege escalation “Grinch” attacks

Grinch could affect all Linux systems(Belives not a severe as BASH or Shellshock), including Web servers and mobile devices. The security hole is actually a common configuration issue related to Polkit, a relatively new component used for controlling system-wide privileges on Unix-like operating systems.

Unlike Sudo, which enables system administrators to give certain users the ability to run commands as root or another user, Polkit allows a finer level of control by delimiting distinct actions and users, and defining how the users can perform those actions.

Privilege escalation can be achieved through “wheel,” a special user group with administrative privileges. On Linux systems, the default user is automatically assigned to this group.
Read Stephen Coty, chief security evangelist at Alert Logic blog post here

“The problem pointed out by Alert Logic is two fold. First of all, the default Polkit configuration on many Unix systems (e.g. Ubuntu), does not require authentication. Secondly, the Polkit configuration essentially just maps the ‘wheels’ group, which is commonly used for Sudo users, to the Polkit ‘Admin’. This gives users in the ‘wheel’ group access to administrative functions, like installing packages, without having to enter a password,” explained Johannes Ullrich of the SANS Internet Storm Center.

Alert Logic has pointed out that the flaw mostly affects home users, but the company believes an attack could also work in a corporate environment where many users are assigned to the “wheel” group for one reason or another.


Polkit (formerly PolicyKit) is a component for controlling system-wide privileges in Unix-like operating systems. It provides an organized way for non-privileged processes to communicate with privileged ones. Polkit allows a level of control of centralized system policy. It is developed and maintained by David Zeuthen from Red Hat and hosted by the project. It is published as free software under the terms of version 2 of the GNU Library General Public License.
Fedora was the first distribution to include PolicyKit, and it has since been used in other distributions including Ubuntu since version 8.04 and openSUSE since version 10.3. Some distributions, like Fedora,have already switched to the rewritten polkit.


Posted on December 22, 2014, in LInux Based. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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