Microsoft discovers flaws in ncurses library affecting Linux and macOS systems

September 14, 2023THNEndpoint Security/Vulnerability

Linux and macOS systems

A set of memory corruption vulnerabilities have been discovered in the ncursions (short for new curses) programming library that could be exploited by malicious actors to execute malicious code on vulnerable Linux and macOS systems.

“By using environment variable poisoning, attackers could chain these vulnerabilities together to elevate privileges and execute code in the context of the targeted program or perform other malicious actions,” said Jonathan Bar Or, Emanuele Cozzi and Michael Pearse, Microsoft Threat Intelligence researchers. said in a technical report released today.

Cyber ​​security

Vulnerabilities, collectively tracked as CVE-2023-29491 (CVSS score of 7.8), were address in April 2023. Microsoft said it also worked with Apple to resolve macOS-specific issues related to these flaws.

Environment variables are user-defined values ​​that can be used by multiple programs on a system and can affect how they behave on the system. Manipulating variables can cause applications to perform otherwise unauthorized operations.

Auditing and fuzzing of Microsoft’s code revealed that the ncurses library looks for several environment variables, including TERMINFO, that could be poisoned and combined with the identified vulnerabilities to achieve privilege escalation. Information about terms is a database which allows programs to use display terminals in a device-independent manner.


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Vulnerabilities include stack information leak, parameterized string type confusion, one-by-one error, out-of-bounds heap while parsing terminfo database file, and denial of service with strings canceled.

“The discovered vulnerabilities could have been exploited by attackers to elevate privileges and execute code in the context of a targeted program,” the researchers said. “Nevertheless, gaining control of a program by exploiting memory corruption vulnerabilities requires a multi-stage attack.”

“It might have been necessary to chain the vulnerabilities so that an attacker could elevate privileges, for example by exploiting stack information leak to obtain arbitrary read primitives and exploiting heap overflow to obtain a primitive writing.”

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