A Weakness in the 4.2BSD Unix TCP/IP Software

R. Morris

Bell Labs Computer Science Technical Report 117.


The 4.2 Berkeley Software Distribution of the Unix operating system (4.2BSD for short) features an extensive body of software based on the "TCP/IP" family of protocols. In particular, each 4.2BSD system "trusts" some set of other systems, allowing users logged into trusted systems to execute commands via a TCP/IP network without supplying a password. These notes describe how the design of TCP/IP and the 4.2BSD implementation allow users on untrusted and possibly very distant hosts to masquerade as users on trusted hosts. Bell Labs has a growing TCP/IP network connecting machines with varying security needs; perhaps steps should be taken to reduce their vulnerability to each other.

PostScript, PDF.