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Apache karaf is an open source OSGi server developed by the Apache foundation. It provides very convenient management functionality on top of existing OSGi frameworks. Karaf is used in several open source and commercial solutions.

Like often convenience and security do not not go well together. In the case of karaf there is one known security hole in default installations that was introduced to make the initial experience with karaf very convenient. Karaf by default starts an ssh server. It also delivers a bin/client command that is mainly meant to connect to the local karaf server without a password.

Is your karaf server vulnerable?

Some simple steps to check if your karaf installations is open.

  • Check the "etc/" for the attribute sshPort. Note this port number. By default it is 8101
  • Do "ssh -p 8101 karaf@localhost". Like expected it will ask for a password. This may also be dangerous if you do not change the default password but is quite obvious.
  • Now just do bin/client -a 8101. You will get a shell without supplying a password. If this works then your server is vulnerable

How does it work

The client command has a built in ssh private key which is used when connecting to karaf. There is a config "etc/" in karaf which defines the public keys that are allowed to connect to karaf.

Why is this dangerous?

The private key inside the client command is fixed and publicly available. See karaf.key. As the mechanism also works with remote connections "bin/client -a 8101 -h hostname" this means that anyone with access to your server ip can remotely control your karaf server. As the karaf shell also allows to execute external programs (exec command) this even allows further access to your machine.

How to secure your server ?

Simply remove the public key of the karaf user in the "etc/". Unfortunately this will stop the bin/client command from working.

Also make sure you change the password of the karaf user in "etc/".

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