GNU Bourne-Again Shell (Bash) 'Shellshock' Vulnerability (CVE-2014-6271, CVE-2014-7169)


Systems Affected

• GNU Bash through 4.3.
• Linux and Mac OS X systems, on which Bash is part of the base operating system.
• Any BSD or UNIX system on which GNU Bash has been installed as an add-on.
• Any UNIX-like operating system on which the /bin/sh interface is implemented as GNU Bash.

Threat Level



A critical vulnerability has been reported in the GNU Bourne-Again Shell (Bash), the common command-line shell used in many Linux/UNIX operating systems and Apple’s Mac OS X. The flaw could allow an attacker to remotely execute shell commands by attaching malicious code in environment variables used by the operating system [1] (link is external). The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is releasing this Technical Alert to provide further information about the GNU Bash vulnerability.


GNU Bash versions 1.14 through 4.3 contain a flaw that processes commands placed after function definitions in the added environment variable, allowing remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted environment which enables network-based exploitation. [2, 3]

Critical instances where the vulnerability may be exposed include: [4 (link is external), 5 (link is external)]

• Apache HTTP Server using mod_cgi or mod_cgid scripts either written in bash, or spawn GNU Bash subshells, or on any system where the /bin/sh interface is implemented using GNU Bash.
• Override or Bypass ForceCommand feature in OpenSSH sshd and limited protection for some Git and Subversion deployments used to restrict shells and allows arbitrary command execution capabilities. This data path is vulnerable on systems where the /bin/sh interface is implemented using GNU Bash.
• Allow arbitrary commands to run on a DHCP client machine.


This vulnerability is classified by industry standards as “High” impact with CVSS Impact Subscore 10 and “Low” on complexity, which means it takes little skill to perform. This flaw allows attackers who can provide specially crafted environment variables containing arbitrary commands to execute on vulnerable systems. It is especially dangerous because of the prevalent use of the Bash shell and its ability to be called by an application in numerous ways.

Solution/ Workarounds

Patches have been released to fix this vulnerability by major Linux vendors for affected versions. Solutions for CVE-2014-6271 do not completely resolve the vulnerability. It is advised to install existing patches and pay attention for updated patches to address CVE-2014-7169. Many UNIX-like operating systems, including Linux distributions and Apple Mac OS X include Bash and are likely to be affected. Contact your vendor for updated information. A list of vendors can be found in CERT Vulnerability Note VU#252743 [6]. US-CERT recommends system administrators review the vendor patches and the NIST Vulnerability Summary for CVE-2014-7169, to mitigate damage caused by the exploit.



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