Attacker Value
Very High
(1 user assessed)
Very High
(1 user assessed)
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Attack Vector

CVE-2020-16846 — SaltStack Unauthenticated Shell Injection

Disclosure Date: November 06, 2020
Add MITRE ATT&CK tactics and techniques that apply to this CVE.


An issue was discovered in SaltStack Salt through 3002. Sending crafted web requests to the Salt API, with the SSH client enabled, can result in shell injection.

General Information

Technical Analysis


On Tuesday, November 3, VMware’s SaltStack released details on three new CVEs. The two more severe vulnerabilities, CVE-2020-16846 and CVE-2020-25592, affect SaltStack’s Salt API and are the focus of this analysis. CVE-2020-16846 allows an unauthenticated attacker with network access to use shell injections to run code on the Salt-API using the SSH client. CVE-2020-25592 allows an attacker to bypass authentication and make calls to Salt SSH by supplying any value for “eauth” or “token”. A successful attack using the two vulnerabilities can result in unauthenticated remote root access on a target system.

Note: This analysis is the same as the analysis posted to CVE-2020-25592.

Affected products

A patch is available for the following affected Salt versions:

  • 3002
  • 3001.1, 3001.2
  • 3000.3, 3000.4
  • 2019.2.5, 2019.2.6
  • 2018.3.5
  • 2017.7.4, 2017.7.8
  • 2016.11.3, 2016.11.6, 2016.11.10
  • 2016.3.4, 2016.3.6, 2016.3.8
  • 2015.8.10, 2015.8.13

Rapid7 analysis

None of the CVEs have a severity rating associated with them, but it hardly matters much what the eventual severity ratings turn out to be. Pre-authenticated remote root is the gold-medal standard for attackers, and it took Rapid7 researchers a mere 15 minutes and a single HTTP request to get there. CVE-2020-11651, another Salt vulnerability from April 2020, was exploited quickly by threat actors. We expect CVEs 2020-16846 and 2020-25592 to follow that same path.


SaltStack customers should patch as quickly as possible, prioritizing these vulnerabilities above other tasks—if at all possible, please don’t wait for your typical patch cycle to apply SaltStack security updates. There are no known mitigations or workarounds as of November 9, 2020.