A vulnerability known as the Stack Clash bug could be exploited by attackers to gain full root privileges. Security firm Qualys reported the bug, which affects memory management in Linux and Unix-based operating systems. The vulnerability is known as Stack Clash because it occurs when attackers force an application’s stack to clash with another memory region.

Researchers at Qualys worked with vendors to create patches, which are now available. News of the bug should serve as a timely reminder to IT managers about the importance of both updates and patch management for all operating systems.

Dissecting the Stack Clash Bug

The stack in a computer grows automatically when the computer needs additional memory. However, if the stack gets too large and encroaches on another memory region, the program may not be able to distinguish between the two. “An attacker can exploit this confusion to overwrite the stack with the other memory region, or the other way around,” the researchers wrote.

The concept of stack clashing is nothing new. Qualys explained that the stack was first exploited in 2005 and emerged again in 2010. Although Linux subsequently attempted to introduce a protective measure known as the stack guard page, stack clashes remain widespread and exploitable.

Qualys found several other secondary vulnerabilities directly related to the primary Stack Clash bug. Attackers are likely to chain the vulnerabilities to more effectively execute malicious code. An actor with access to an affected system could obtain full root privileges.

Understanding the Risk

Qualys developed seven exploits and seven proof-of-concept (PoC) codes to highlight the extent of the security hole. The firm then worked closely with vendors to develop patches before releasing news of the vulnerability to the wider IT community.

The researchers reported that they were not aware of any remotely exploitable applications. However, vulnerable apps could theoretically facilitate remote exploitation, according to ZDNet.

The update provides the easiest and safest way for IT managers and users to protect their systems, according to the Qualys. Patches for all flavors of operating systems have been available since June 19.

Patch Management and Testing Are Critical

Businesses should always keep their operating systems up to date. In the case of the Stack Clash bug, Qualys strongly advised IT managers to place a high priority on patching the vulnerabilities immediately.

Managing multiple patches is no straightforward task, especially when an IT team is responsible for many machines. Effective security starts with strong patch management procedures and an up-to-date view of internal infrastructure.

IT decision-makers should work with their business peers to decide which areas of the technology environment are most important and which systems should be patched first. Security teams should always test patches before they are applied in a production environment. Such testing can help IT teams avoid potentially costly downtime.

More from

Security Awareness Training 101: Which Employees Need It?

4 min read - To understand why you need cybersecurity awareness training, you must first understand employees' outsized roles in security breaches. “People remain — by far — the weakest link in an organization’s cybersecurity defenses,” noted Verizon on the release of their 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). They elaborate that 25% of all breaches covered in the report were the result of social engineering attacks, and when you add human errors and misuse of privilege, the human element accounts for 82% of…

4 min read

Beyond Requirements: Tapping the Business Potential of Data Governance and Security

3 min read - Doom and gloom. Fear, uncertainty and doubt. The "stick" versus the "carrot". What do these concepts have in common? They have often provided the primary motivation for organizations’ data governance and security strategies. For the enterprise, this mindset has perpetuated the idea that data governance, data security and data privacy are reactive cost centers existing due to externally imposed requirements or mandates. Yet, what if data governance and security practices could upend the prevailing paradigm and demonstrate direct business value?…

3 min read

Protecting Against Remote Monitoring and Management Phishing

3 min read - You use remote monitoring and management (RMM) software to closely monitor your cyber environment and keep your organization safe. But now cyber criminals are specifically targeting these tools, causing legitimate software to become a vulnerability. This is the latest type of attack in an increase in a recent trend of disruptive software supply chain attacks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently released an alert about the malicious use of legitimate remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. Last fall,…

3 min read

Secure-by-Design: Which Comes First, Code or Security?

4 min read - For years, developers and IT security teams have been at loggerheads. While developers feel security slows progress, security teams assert that developers sacrifice security priorities in their quest to accelerate production. This disconnect results in flawed software that is vulnerable to attack. While advocates for speed and security clash, consumers must often pay the price when threat actors strike. 48% of developers admitted they were still shipping code with vulnerabilities in 2022. It’s clearly time for a change. Many believe…

4 min read