September 22, 2023

A newly discovered 12-year-old vulnerability dubbed “PwnKit  in a Linux system tool Polkit can give attackers root privileges on machines running the operating system.

Polkit, previously known as PolicyKit, is a component for controlling system wide privileges in Unix like OS and provides an organized way for a non-privileged process to communicate with privileged ones.


The vulnerability is found in Polkit’s pkexec, a SUID-root program installed by default on every major Linux distribution. Successful exploitation of the vulnerability allows any unprivileged user to gain root privileges on the vulnerable host.

Pkexec is installed by default on all major Linux distributions, making it ubiquitous across many enterprises.Researchers were able to independently verify the vulnerability, develop an exploit and obtain full root privileges on default installs of Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and CentOS. They warn that it’s likely exploitable on other Linux distributions as well.

The researchers noted that given the attack surface of the vulnerability in both Linux and non-Linux OS, users should apply patches for this vulnerability immediately. The need to do so is even more urgent.

These types of vulnerabilities that have been lurking in networks for more than a decade can create real problems for security teams


The researchers sent details of the vulnerability to Red Hat in November with an advisory and patch sent earlier this month. A coordinated release date for the patch and details was set during this month end.

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