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Security and NetBSD

The NetBSD Project adopts the same approach to security as it does to the rest of the system: Solutions and not hacks. Security issues in NetBSD are handled by the NetBSD Security Officer and the NetBSD Security Alert Team. As well as investigating, documenting and updating code in response to newly reported security issues, the team also performs periodic code audits to search for and remove potential security problems.

The NetBSD source tree contains several millions of lines of code written by many different people and organizations with varying styles and quality. Given the rate of change and the amount of human resources available, it is not possible to manually verify every line of code for correctness. To compensate for that the NetBSD Foundation utilizes modern tools and techniques to automatically detect and manually correct bugs as soon as they appear.

Specifically, the NetBSD source tree is periodically analyzed by two separate code scanners to maintain and improve code quality: Coverity - a commercial code scanner, and Brainy - a private code scanner developed by a NetBSD developer.

Several security features are available in NetBSD, including IPsec - for both IPv4 and IPv6 -, a file integrity system (Veriexec), a kernel authorization framework (kauth), exploit mitigation features (PaX), disk encryption (CGD), and a variety of other internal kernel bug detection features such as KMEM_REDZONE and KMEM_SIZE.

Because high security should not come at the cost of performance and efficiency, not all of these features are enabled by default. For example, some memory integrity systems are available only on DIAGNOSTIC kernels, so that bugs can be detected during the development process and fixed for stable releases, which thereby do not necessarily need such features.

Other classic secure network services are available, such as SSH (OpenSSH) and Kerberos 5 (Heimdal). All services default to their most secure settings, and no services are enabled by default for new installations.

Security Advisories

When serious security problems in NetBSD are discovered and corrected, we issue a security advisory, describing the problem and containing a pointer to the fix. These are announced to our netbsd-announce mailing list and our security-announce mailing list as well as to various other mailing lists and websites. In addition, they are archived on this site as well as provided as an RSS feed.

Security issues are fixed as soon as possible, and the fixes are propagated to the stable branches as fast as possible. However, when a vulnerability is found during a code audit, or when several other issues are likely to be spotted and fixed in the near future, the security team may delay the release of a Security Advisory, so that one unique, comprehensive Security Advisory covering several vulnerabilities can be issued. Communication with vendors and other distributions shipping the same code may also cause these delays.

Recent Advisories by Advisory Number:

See the advisory archive for a complete list.

Advisories for NetBSD-current

In some cases a security issue will be discovered in NetBSD-current and then be resolved soon after. These issues are often short lived and do not impact any NetBSD releases. In these cases we don't release patches or advisories specifically for NetBSD-current, but instead recommend that you update to a version containing the fixes. See the advisories above for the fix dates. If a security issue is identified that just impacts NetBSD-current, the NetBSD Security Officer will send an email to the current-users mailing list detailing the issue and what updates are necessary. Users running NetBSD-current are therefore strongly advised to subscribe to the current-users mailing list so that they are aware of these issues, and they should be upgrading their systems often to gain new features as well as resolving known issues.

Security Contacts

The NetBSD Project has two security-related contact points:

  • The tech-security mailing list, an open forum for discussing issues related to NetBSD security.
  • The NetBSD Security Alert Team: , to directly contact the NetBSD Project about security issues.

Reporting a security problem

To report a security problem in NetBSD, either contact the NetBSD Security Alert Team or send a standard NetBSD problem report, using the send-pr form or the send-pr(1) program on your NetBSD system.

Sensitive information should be encrypted using PGP with the NetBSD Security Officer's PGP key.

Security Patches

All published NetBSD security patches are available on the NetBSD Project's FTP server in the security/patches/ directory.

NetBSD Packages Collection (pkgsrc)

The NetBSD Packages Collection provides easy source or binary installation of a large number of third-party applications. Users should remember that there can often be bugs in third-party software, and some of these bugs can leave a machine vulnerable to exploitation. To cope with this, NetBSD provides an easy way to audit your installed packages for known vulnerabilities.

Checking for vulnerabilities in installed packages

The NetBSD pkgsrc Security Team and package maintainers keep a list of known security vulnerabilities in packages which are (or have been) included in pkgsrc. The list is available from the NetBSD FTP site at:

Through audit-packages, this list can be downloaded automatically, and a security audit of all packages installed on a system can take place.

There are two components to audit-packages. The first component, download-vulnerability-list, is for downloading the list of vulnerabilities from the NetBSD FTP site. The second component, audit-packages, checks to see if any of your installed packages are vulnerable. If a package is vulnerable, you will see output similar to the following:

Package samba-2.0.9 has a local-root-shell vulnerability, see

Users can set up audit-packages to download the pkg-vulnerabilities file daily, and include a package audit in the daily security script. Details on this are located in the MESSAGE file for pkg_install.

Reporting a pkgsrc security problem

If you believe you have found a security issue for a software package in pkgsrc that is not detected by audit-packages then contact the pkgsrc Security Team.

Migrating from security/audit-packages to pkgtools/pkg_install

In April 2007 the functionality provided by the security/audit-packages package was re-written in C and merged into the pkg_install package. This brought a number of improvements in terms of both speed and functionality when compared to the old security/audit-packages package. In January of 2008 the security/audit-packages package was removed from the pkgsrc CVS tree and the required version of the pkg_install package was increased to pkg_install-20071224 so that the functionality that was provided by security/audit-packages was adequately replaced. The migration process should be easy for most users and simply involve removing the old package (i.e. pkg_delete audit-packages) and then updating pkg_install, you must follow this process as pkgtools/pkg_install and security/audit-packages install conflicting files. In addition to this any scripts (e.g. crontab(5) files, security.local etc.) that point to the old binaries (i.e. audit-packages and download-vulnerability-list) must also be updated.

If you cannot migrate to pkg_install-20071224 immediately and need to continue using security/audit-packages to look for package vulnerabilities the pkgsrc Security Team will continue to keep the pkg-vulnerabilities database up to date until at least the pkgsrc-2008Q1 branch has been cut. When support for security/audit-packages is fully removed we will update the old pkg-vulnerabilities database to indicate that it will no longer be updated. At this point you should upgrade to pkg_install>=20071224 in order to receive further updates to the pkg-vulnerabilities database.

For any questions or problems with this process please contact either the pkgsrc Security Team or appropriate NetBSD mailing list (e.g. pkgsrc-users or tech-pkg).

Security Resources

A number of security advisories and other security resources are available on-line at these sites: