CVE-2016-5195: Dirty COW Linux Kernel Local Privilege Escalation

What is the CVE-2016-5195?

CVE-2016-5195 is the official reference to this bug. CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) is the Standard for Information Security Vulnerability Names maintained by MITRE.

Why is it called the Dirty COW bug?

A race condition was found in the way the Linux kernel’s memory subsystem handled the copy-on-write (COW) breakage of private read-only memory mappings. An unprivileged local user could use this flaw to gain write access to otherwise read-only memory mappings and thus increase their privileges on the system.” (RH)

Linus Torvalds explained:

This is an ancient bug that was actually attempted to be fixed once (badly) by me eleven years ago in commit 4ceb5db9757a (“Fix get_user_pages() race for write access”) but that was then undone due to problems on s390 by commit f33ea7f404e5 (“fix get_user_pages bug”). In the meantime, the s390 situation has long been fixed, and we can now fix it by checking the pte_dirty() bit properly (and do it better). The s390 dirty bit was implemented in abf09bed3cce (“s390/mm: implement software dirty bits”) which made it into v3.9. Earlier kernels will have to look at the page state itself. Also, the VM has become more scalable, and what used a purely theoretical race back then has become easier to trigger. To fix it, we introduce a new internal FOLL_COW flag to mark the “yes, we already did a COW” rather than play racy games with FOLL_WRITE that is very fundamental, and then use the pte dirty flag to validate that the FOLL_COW flag is still valid.

The bug has existed since around 2.6.22 (released in 2007) and was fixed on Oct 18, 2016.

How check CVE-2016-5195 on Linux?

$ uname -mrs 

Sample output (test in ubuntu)

Linux 3.13.0-57-generic

The fixed versions are noted by Ubuntu’s CVE-2016-5195 page.


DirtyCow Local Root Proof Of Concept:


$ wget


Leave a Reply