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27 Apr 2010: Enterprise Linux 5.4 to 5.5 risk report

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5 was released at the end of March 2010, just under 7 months since the release of 5.4 in September 2009. So let's use this opportunity to take a quick look back over the vulnerabilities and security updates we've made in that time, specifically for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server.

Errata count

The chart below illustrates the total number of security updates issued for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server if you had installed 5.4, up to and including the 5.5 release, broken down by severity. I've split it into two columns, one for the packages you'd get if you did a default install, and the other if you installed every single package (which is unlikely as it would involve a bit of manual effort to select every one). For a given installation, the number of package updates and vulnerabilities that affected you will depend on exactly what you have installed or removed.

missing graph

So for a default install, from release of 5.4 up to and including 5.5, we shipped 52 advisories to address 140 vulnerabilities. 5 advisories were rated critical, 14 were important, and the remaining 33 were moderate and low.

Or, for all packages, from release of 5.4 to and including 5.5, we shipped 75 advisories to address 187 vulnerabilities. 6 advisories were rated critical, 18 were important, and the remaining 51 were moderate and low.

Critical vulnerabilities

The 6 critical advisories were for 3 different packages. Given the nature of the flaws, ExecShield protections in RHEL5 should make exploiting the memory flaws harder.

  1. Four updates to Firefox (September 2009, October 2009, December 2009, February 2010) where a malicious web site could potentially run arbitrary code as the user running Firefox.
  2. An update to kdelibs (November 2009), where a malicious web site could potentially run arbitrary code as the user running the Konqueror browser. kdelibs is not a default installation package.
  3. An update to krb5, the Kerberos network authentication system (January 2010), where a remote KDC client could cause a crash or run arbitrary code as root. This issue only affected users that have configured and enabled krb5.

Updates to correct 24 out of the 25 critical vulnerabilities were available via Red Hat Network either the same day, or up to one calendar day after the issues were public. The update to fix Konqueror took us 4 calendar days.

Overall, for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 since release to date, 98% of critical vulnerabilities have had an update available to address them available from the Red Hat Network either the same day or the next calendar day after the issue was public.

Other significant vulnerabilities

Red Hat Enterprise Linux since 5.2 contained backported patches from the upstream Linux kernel to add the ability to restrict unprivileged mapping of low memory, designed to mitigate NULL pointer dereference flaws. In the last risk report we mentioned it was found that this protection was not sufficient, as a system with SELinux enabled was more permissive in allowing local users in the unconfined_t domain to map low memory areas even if the mmap_min_addr restriction is enabled. This is CVE-2009-2695 and was addressed in a kernel update in November 2009.

Previous updates

To compare these statistics with previous update releases we need to take into account that the time between each update is different. So looking at a default installation and calculating the number of advisories per month gives the results illustrated by the following chart:

missing graph

This data is interesting to get a feel for the risk of running Enterprise Linux 5 Server, but isn't really useful for comparisons with other versions, distributions, or operating systems -- for example, a default install of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4AS did not include Firefox, but 5 Server does. You can use our public security measurement data and tools, and run your own custom metrics for any given Red Hat product, package set, timescales, and severity range of interest.

See also: 5.3 to 5.4, 5.2 to 5.3, 5.1 to 5.2, and 5.0 to 5.1 risk reports.

Created: 27 Apr 2010
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Hi! I'm Mark Cox. This blog gives my thoughts on security work, open source, home automation, and other topics.