Security Expert Pokes More Holes in Oracle Patch

An NGSS researcher posts further warnings that the Oracle October patch doesn't protect systems as promised.

A noted computer security expert who has clashed with Oracle Corp. in the past is warning customers that a cumulative security patch from the company may overlook a critical hole that could leave Oracle databases open to remote attack.

David Litchfield of NGSS (Next Generation Security Software Ltd.) posted a warning on the Bugtraq security discussion list Tuesday claiming that Oracles October CPU (Critical Patch Update) failed to install software components on some Oracle systems.

The omission could cause Oracle administrators to believe that their systems are patched, when they are in fact vulnerable to attacks, he said.

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This is the second such charge Litchfield has leveled against Oracle in recent months, the result of what Litchfield claims are lax patch creation and testing procedures at the Redwood Shores, California database maker.

Oracle did not respond to requests for comment in time for the article. However, company Chief Security Officer Maryann Davidson has been critical of researchers like Litchfield in the past, accusing them of being indiscreet and a "problem" for software vendors.

NGSS researchers discovered a number of problems with Oracles October CPU, a collection of 23 patches for 85 security vulnerabilities in Oracles database, server and enterprise application software. Litchfield warned of those problems on Oct. 19 in another Bugtraq posting, and reported them to Oracle.

The new warning stems from an analysis of Oracles attempts to patch a vulnerability for a component called Oracle Text (CTXSYS) on Oracle databases, an older version of the companys database product.

A problem with the script that installs the patch prevents updated PL/SQL software packages that fix the vulnerability from being copied to the system running Oracle, Litchfield wrote on Bugtraq. PL/SQL is an extension of SQL for use on Oracle databases.

"Even if you have Oracle Text installed, the patch installer will not install the update PL/SQL packages," he wrote.

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Database administrators who run Oracle Text and have applied the October CPU patch could still be vulnerable to attackers, who could use the hole to elevate low-level database accounts to DBA—or high-level administrator—accounts, Litchfield said.

If the vulnerable database is part of a Web application that is exposed to the Internet via a Web portal, or another avenue, a remote attacker could exploit the Oracle Text hole without needing a database user name or password, Litchfield said.

NGSS recommends manually running the script, ctxcpu.sql, which applies the patch.

Litchfield has become something of a gadfly for Oracle, calling attention to the companys backlog of unpatched holes and accusing the company of releasing sloppy patches that dont adequately address security holes that are reported in its products, or that fail to work.

Despite his criticisms, Litchfield said recently that Oracle has made efforts to improve its security operation in recent months. The most recent CPU was a vast improvement over the previous quarters patches, with the company increasing the quality of its patches, and patching more holes than those reported by independent researchers.

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