Virtualbox 0-day posted because Oracle won’t update, allows you to execute on the underlying server

I like VirtualBox and it has nothing to do with why I publish a 0day vulnerability. The reason is my disagreement with contemporary state of infosec, especially of security research and bug bounty:

  1. Wait half a year until a vulnerability is patched is considered fine.
  2. In the bug bounty field these are considered fine:
    1. Wait more than month until a submitted vulnerability is verified and a decision to buy or not to buy is made.
    2. Change the decision on the fly. Today you figured out the bug bounty program will buy bugs in a software, week later you come with bugs and exploits and receive “not interested”.
    3. Have not a precise list of software a bug bounty is interested to buy bugs in. Handy for bug bounties, awkward for researchers.
    4. Have not precise lower and upper bounds of vulnerability prices. There are many things influencing a price but researchers need to know what is worth to work on and what is not.
  3. Delusion of grandeur and marketing bullshit: naming vulnerabilities and creating websites for them; making a thousand conferences in a year; exaggerating importance of own job as a security researcher; considering yourself “a world saviour”. Come down, Your Highness.

I’m exhausted of the first two, therefore my move is full disclosure. Infosec, please move forward.

How to protect yourself

Until the patched VirtualBox build is out you can change the network card of your virtual machines to PCnet (either of two) or to Paravirtualized Network. If you can’t, change the mode from NAT to another one. The former way is more secure.


A default VirtualBox virtual network device is Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop (82540EM) and the default network mode is NAT. We will refer to it E1000.

The E1000 has a vulnerability allowing an attacker with root/administrator privileges in a guest to escape to a host ring3. Then the attacker can use existing techniques to escalate privileges to ring 0 via /dev/vboxdrv.


The exploit is Linux kernel module (LKM) to load in a guest OS. The Windows case would require a driver differing from the LKM just by an initialization wrapper and kernel API calls.

Elevated privileges are required to load a driver in both OSs. It’s common and isn’t considered an insurmountable obstacle. Look at Pwn2Own contest where researcher use exploit chains: a browser opened a malicious website in the guest OS is exploited, a browser sandbox escape is made to gain full ring 3 access, an operating system vulnerability is exploited to pave a way to ring 0 from where there are anything you need to attack a hypervisor from the guest OS. The most powerful hypervisor vulnerabilities are for sure those that can be exploited from guest ring 3. There in VirtualBox is also such code that is reachable without guest root privileges, and it’s mostly not audited yet.

The exploit is 100% reliable. It means it either works always or never because of mismatched binaries or other, more subtle reasons I didn’t account. It works at least on Ubuntu 16.04 and 18.04 x86_64 guests with default configuration.

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