I'm curious to know how the latest Bash Bug affects systems that require a user login to access the shell.

Isn't UNIX/Linux usually configured in a way that you have to be an authenticated user to execute bash commands on a system?

How does the recent "Bash Bug" or exploit affect systems that require a login before executing any commands, and what would be a way someone could potentially compromise a login based system using this bug?


2 Answers 2


This rundown is the best I've found on the internet about Shell Shock (aka Bash Bug) it explains:

The risk centres around the ability to arbitrarily define environment variables within a Bash shell which specify a function definition. The trouble begins when Bash continues to process shell commands after the function definition resulting in what we’d classify as a “code injection attack”. Let’s look at Robert’s example again and we’ll just take this line:

http-header = Cookie:() { :; }; ping -c 3

The function definition is () { :; }; and the shell command is the ping statement and subsequent parameters. When this is processed within the context of a Bash shell, the arbitrary command is executed. In a web context, this would mean via a mechanism such as a CGI script and not necessarily as a request header either. It’s worth having a read through the seclists.org advisory where they go into more detail, including stating that the path and query string could be potential vectors for the attack.

Of course one means of mitigating this particular attack vector is simply to disable any CGI functionality that makes calls to a shell and indeed some are recommending this. In many cases though, that’s going to be a seriously breaking change and at the very least, one that going to require some extensive testing to ensure it doesn’t cause immediate problems in the website which in many cases, it will.

The HTTP proof above is a simple but effective one, albeit just one implementation over a common protocol. Once you start throwing in Telnet and SSH and apparently even DHCP, the scope increases dramatically so by no means are we just talking about exploiting web app servers here. (Apparently the risk is only present in SSH post-auth, but at such an early stage of the public disclosure we’ll inevitably see other attack vectors emerge yet.)


Network services (like a web server) running on a system are running as authenticated users. If those services use bash for any computations - which is fairly common - it is possible for an external user to run arbitrary code as the web server by replacing an environment variable with a shell command.

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