Public Date:
1395134: CVE-2016-4484 dracut: Brute force attack on LUKS password decryption via initramfs
A password-check vulnerability was found in the way initramfs, generated by dracut, handles the decryption of LUKS-encrypted data partitions. An attacker having physical access to the machine or access to the boot console may be able to brute-force the LUKS password using the dracut shell, and may be able to copy off the encrypted partition for an offline brute-force attack or, in certain conditions, install malicious boot images in the /boot partition.

Find out more about CVE-2016-4484 from the MITRE CVE dictionary dictionary and NIST NVD.


In Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora, the scripts used during boot time to ask for user password and decrypt the drive are part of the dracut package. They used to generate the Initial ramdisk (initramfs) and are a part of the initramfs image file.

The attacker needs to have physical access to the machine in order to exploit this flaw. The attack consists of gaining access to the shell after wrong luks password has been entered during the boot process. Once shell access is obtained various brute force attacks (both manual and automated) can be carried out. The contents of the drive can also be copied off to do conduct offline brute force attacks on another computer.

Red Hat Product Security encourages users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and 7 to use the mitigation described in the link below. No updated packages are currently available.

For more information please refer to:

CVSS v2 metrics

NOTE: The following CVSS v2 metrics and score provided are preliminary and subject to review.

Base Score 7.2
Base Metrics AV:L/AC:L/Au:N/C:C/I:C/A:C
Access Vector Local
Access Complexity Low
Authentication None
Confidentiality Impact Complete
Integrity Impact Complete
Availability Impact Complete

CVSS v3 metrics

NOTE: The following CVSS v3 metrics and score provided are preliminary and subject to review.

CVSS3 Base Score 6.8
CVSS3 Base Metrics CVSS:3.0/AV:P/AC:L/PR:N/UI:N/S:U/C:H/I:H/A:H
Attack Vector Physical
Attack Complexity Low
Privileges Required None
User Interaction None
Scope Unchanged
Confidentiality High
Integrity Impact High
Availability Impact High

Find out more about Red Hat support for the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

Affected Packages State

Platform Package State
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 dracut Will not fix
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 dracut Will not fix
Unless explicitly stated as not affected, all previous versions of packages in any minor update stream of a product listed here should be assumed vulnerable, although may not have been subject to full analysis.


Versions of dracut package shipped with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and 7 support kernel command line options which allow a shell to be presented when it is not able to mount the root device. (As in case of a failed root partition decryption attempt by cryptsetup, when wrong password is entered multiple times).

In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, this is enabled by "rdshell" option on the kernel command line. However default installs do not enable this option. Hence when several attempts to decrypt the root partition fails, it will cause a kernel panic.

In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, this is enabled by the "" option. Default behavior here is to drop to a shell when root device mount fails, which can be disabled by adding "" to the kernel command line.

In either of the cases, a user having access to the grub console, can edit the kernel command line and re-enable his access. Red Hat Product Security Team strongly advocates enabling grub passwords as well BIOS passwords to protect against this.

External References

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