michael orlitzky

CVE-2017-16882: Icinga core root privilege escalation via insecure permissions

posted 2017-11-18

Icinga core
Versions affected
1.14.0 and earlier (all 1.x versions)
Published on
Fixed in
commits ad2eb58 and 161c621, version 1.14.2
Bug report


Icinga installs two sets of files with insecure permissions: after installation, the executables and the configuration files are all owned by the same unprivileged user and group (typically, icinga) that the daemon runs as. In one attack, the unprivileged user simply replaces the icinga executable with one that does his bidding. A slightly more complicated attack can be mounted by the unprivileged user by scheduling a malicious service check and then altering icinga.cfg to execute that check as root.

The ido2db daemon and its sample configuration file have the same issue.


The Icinga build system allows you to specify a runtime user and group (default: icinga) via the two ./configure parameters --with-icinga-user and --with-icinga-group:

                 [sets user name to run icinga]),

                 [sets group name to run icinga]),


The daemon runs as that user and group by default, because the upstream configuration file icinga.cfg incorporates those flag values into the icinga_user and icinga_group settings in sample-config/icinga.cfg.in:

# This determines the effective user that Icinga should run as.
# You can either supply a username or a UID.

# This determines the effective group that Icinga should run as.
# You can either supply a group name or a GID.

The build system then installs most of the files for the package with their owners/groups set to the user and group specified, through the pervasive use of the following INSTALL_OPTS in configure.ac:

INSTALL_OPTS="-o $icinga_user -g $icinga_grp"

This creates vulnerabilities because the Icinga daemons are intended to be run as root.


The default ownership is exploitable in at least two ways:

  1. The Icinga runtime user owns the daemon executable, typically located at /usr/bin/icinga. That executable is run as root, and drops privileges to the runtime user itself. This invites a simple attack where the runtime user replaces the daemon executable with his own code. The ido2db daemon has the same problem.

    In addition, the system executables icingastats and log2ido are installed to root's $PATH and could conceivably be run as root. They thus pose a similar risk.

  2. The main configuration file icinga.cfg is also owned by the unprivileged runtime user, but icinga.cfg is where the runtime user and group are specified. The unprivileged runtime user can schedule a malicious service check (specified in the configuration files he owns) and then put icinga_user=root in icinga.cfg. The next time the daemon is restarted, it will run as root and execute the command set by the unprivileged user.

    The configuration file ido2db.cfg-sample is vulnerable in the same manner if it is renamed to ido2db.cfg without adjusting its ownership.


Most users should reset all ownership and group information to safe values:

root # dirs="/bin /sbin /usr /etc"

root # icinga_user=icinga

root # icinga_group=icinga

root # find $dirs -user "${icinga_user}" -print0 | \ xargs --null chown --no-dereference --from="${icinga_user}" root

root # find $dirs -group "${icinga_group}" -print0 | \ xargs --null chown --no-dereference --from=":${icinga_group}" :0

The find commands above are intended to omit precisely one Icinga directory, its $localstatedir. The Icinga runtime user does need to be able to write to its logfile and to record the results of its service checks. On Gentoo, that information is stored under /var/icinga as the result of passing --localstatedir=/var/icinga to the ./configure script. Thus the owner and group of /var/icinga (or wherever your $localstatedir happens to be) should be left alone.

If you would like to allow a group of non-root users to modify the Icinga configuration, that is possible with two caveats:

  1. You should create an entirely new group called (for example) icingaconfig that is allowed to modify the configuration. The Icinga runtime user should not be added to this group!
  2. Most of Icinga's configuration files can have their groups set to the new icingaconfig group, and their modes set g+w. However, the main configuration file icinga.cfg must not have its group changed or be made group-writable! Otherwise anyone in the icingaconfig group would be able to gain root through the exploit described earlier.