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CVE-2020-25717: A user in an AD Domain could become root on domain members



Subject: A user in an AD Domain could become root on domain members
CVE ID#: CVE-2020-25717
Versions: All Samba versions since Samba 3.0
Summary: Samba may map domain users to local users in an undesired way.


Windows Active Directory (AD) domains have by default a feature to allow users to create computer accounts, controlled by ms-DS-MachineAccountQuota.

In addition some (presumably trusted) users have the right to create new users or computers in both Samba and Windows Active Directory Domains.

These features can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands, as the user who creates such accounts has broad privileges to not just create them and set their passwords, but to rename them at a later time with the only contraint being they may not match an existing samAccountName in AD.

When Samba as an AD Domain member accepts a Kerberos ticket, it must map the information found therein to a local UNIX user-id (uid). This is currently done via the account name in the Active Directory generated Kerberos Privileged Attribute Certificate (PAC), or the account name in the ticket (if there is no PAC).

For example, Samba will attempt to find a user "DOMAIN\user" before falling back to trying to find the user "user".

If the DOMAIN\user lookup can be made to fail, then a privilege escalation is possible.

The easiest example to illustrate this is if an attacker creates an account named root (by renaming a MachineAccountQuota based machine account), and asks for a login without a Kerberos PAC. Between obtaining the ticket and presenting it to a server, the attacker renames the user account to a different name. Samba attempts to look up "DOMAIN\root", which fails (as this no longer exists) and then falls back to looking up user "root", which will map to the privileged UNIX uid of 0.

This patch changes Samba to require a PAC (in all scenarios related to active directory domains) and use the SID and account name values of the PAC, which means the combination represents the same point in time. The processing is now similar to as with NTLM based logins. The SID is unique and non-repeating and so can't be confused with another user.

Additionally, a new parameter has been added "min domain uid" (default 1000), and no matter how we obtain the UNIX uid to use in the process token (we may eventually read /etc/passwd or similar), by default no UNIX uid below this value will be accepted.

The patch also removes the fallback from 'DOMAIN\user' to just 'user', as it dangerous and not needed when nss_winbind is used (even when 'winbind use default domain = yes' is set).

However there are setups which are joined to an active directory domain just for authentication, but the authorization is handled without nss_winbind by mapping the domain account to a local user provided by nss_file, nss_ldap or something similar. NOTE: These setups won't work anymore without explicitly mapping the users!

For these setups administrators need to use the 'username map' or 'username map script' option in order to map domain users explicitly to local users, e.g.

 user = DOMAIN\user

Please consult 'man 5 smb.conf' for further details on 'username map' or 'username map script'. Also note that in the above example '\' refers to the default value of the 'winbind separator' option.

Beyond Samba

Samba is almost unique in the Linux/Unix landscape in that it can read the PAC and make authorisation choices based on the SIDs in the PAC.

Administrators and those responsible for the deployment of other applications that use Kerberos, and which can only rely on the "cname" (client name) in the Kerberos ticket should take care not to map these into the same namespace as system users.

NFS-Ganesha has a mode to map AD domain users via Samba's winbindd. Use of this mode is encouraged, and (for all NFS servers in AD domains) the default idmapd.conf "Method = nsswitch" is discouraged.

Likewise special care should be taken in the general configuration of "auth_to_local" in a krb5.conf as might be used by other services.

Patch Availability

Patches addressing both these issues have been posted to:

Additionally, Samba 4.15.2, 4.14.10 and 4.13.14 have been issued as security releases to correct the defect. Samba administrators are advised to upgrade to these releases or apply the patch as soon as possible.

CVSSv3 calculation

CVSS:3.1/AV:N/AC:L/PR:L/UI:N/S:U/C:H/I:H/A:N (8.1)


Setting "gensec:require_pac=true" in the smb.conf makes the DOMAIN\user lookup succeed, due to a cache prime in winbind, provided nss_winbind is in use and no error paths are hit.

It would be prudent to pre-create disabled users in Active Directory matching on all privileged names not held in Active Directory, eg

samba-tool user add root -H ldap://$SERVER -U$USERNAME%$PASSWORD --random-password
samba-tool user add ubuntu -H ldap://$SERVER -U$USERNAME%$PASSWORD --random-password

(repeat for eg all system users under 1000 in /etc/passwd or special to any other AD-connected services, eg perhaps "admin" for a web-app)

Setting ms-DS-MachineAccountQuota to 0, in the Active Directory domain is also advised, if possible.

The following settings might be additional mitigations (but they have not been explicitly verified yet):

  1. The use of the 'invalid users' option, note this needs to be specified in the [global] section, as well as every share with an existing 'invalid users' option, e.g.:
    invalid users = root, ubuntu
  2. The usage of the "obey pam restrictions = yes" together with something like 'account required quiet uid >= 1000' in the pam configuration for "samba", please consult 'man 8 pam_succeed_if'.


Originally reported by Andrew Bartlett of Catalyst and the Samba Team.

Patches provided by:

  • Stefan Metzmacher of SerNet and the Samba Team
  • Samuel Cabrero of SuSE and the Samba Team
  • Joseph Sutton of Catalyst and the Samba Team
  • Alexander Bokovoy of Red Hat and the Samba Team
  • Ralph Boehme of SerNet and the Samba Team

Andrew wishes to give much thanks to NetSPI for the blog "MachineAccountQuota is USEFUL Sometimes: Exploiting One of Active Directory's Oddest Settings" by Kevin Robertson[1], on which the full horror of MachineAccountQuota became clear.