Your Linux Can Get Hacked Just by Opening a File in Vim or Neovim Editor

Linux consumers, beware!

If you haven’t just lately current your Linux working procedure, in particular the command-line textual content editor utility, do not even try out to watch the articles of a file applying Vim or Neovim.

Safety researcher Armin Razmjou not long ago learned a higher-severity arbitrary OS command execution vulnerability (CVE-2019-12735) in Vim and Neovim—two most well-known and highly effective command-line textual content editing apps that appear pre-installed with most Linux-based working systems.

On Linux devices, Vim editor makes it possible for consumers to generate, watch or edit any file, which include textual content, programming scripts, and documents.

Due to the fact Neovim is just an prolonged forked version of Vim, with greater person knowledge, plugins and GUIs, the code execution vulnerability also resides in it.

Code Execution Flaw in Vim and Neovim

Razmjou found a flaw in the way Vim editor handles “modelines,” a characteristic that is enabled-by-default to mechanically discover and use a established of personalized preferences described by the creator of a file in the vicinity of the starting off and ending lines in the document.


Nevertheless the editor only makes it possible for a subset of options in modelines (for protection factors) and employs sandbox protection if it incorporates an unsafe expression, Razmjou uncovered that working with “:source!” command (with a bang [!] modifier) can be used to bypass the sandbox.

For that reason, just opening an innocent hunting specially crafted file using Vim or Neovim could allow for attackers to secretly execute instructions on your Linux technique and just take remote command in excess of it.

The researcher has also unveiled two proof-of-idea exploits to the community, a person of which demonstrates a actual-lifetime assault scenario whereby a remote attacker gains access to a reverse shell from the victim’s program as quickly as he/she opens a file on it.

The maintainers of Vim (patch 8.1.1365) and Neovim (released in v0.3.6) have unveiled updates for both utilities to deal with the difficulty, which people really should set up as soon as probable.

Apart from this, the researcher has also proposed end users to:

  • disable modelines feature,
  • disable “modelineexpr” to disallow expressions in modelines,
  • use “securemodelines plugin,” a protected different to Vim modelines.

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