The recent discovery of a critical vulnerability in XZ Utils, a widely used compression tool suite, has sent ripples through the cybersecurity community. This vulnerability, which surfaced on March 29, 2024, allows attackers to execute arbitrary code remotely, scoring the highest severity level on both CVSS 3.1 and CVSS 4 scales. This blog post delves into the details of the vulnerability (classified as CVE-2024-3094) and illustrates how the Finite State Next Generation platform can be a pivotal tool in identifying and mitigating such sophisticated threats.

What is XZ Utils?

XZ Utils employs the LZMA2 compression algorithm to offer high compression ratios and fast decompression, making it a staple in software distributions and operating systems for file compression. Its primary tool, XZ, and others in the suite, facilitate efficient data compression.

The Vulnerability Unveiled

A developer named Andres Freund exposed a backdoor in the upstream XZ/liblzma versions 5.6.0 and 5.6.1 that could lead to an SSH server compromise. Initially spotted due to unusual system behavior, this vulnerability was traced back to a sophisticated backdoor mechanism concealed within binary test files of the XZ compressed format.

These files, part of the library’s test suite, were crafted to evade detection by disguising themselves as benign. The backdoor was cleverly split and hidden within two specific XZ compressed files, bypassing standard security checks.

Backdoor Mechanism and Impact

The execution of these compromised files during the build process of liblzma initiated the injection of malicious code, subtly altering the build output to incorporate a trojan under the guise of an improvement related to the CRC64 algorithm. This intrusion manipulated critical system components like the dynamic linker of Linux, affecting RSA public key decryption during SSH key authentication. The stealth and complexity of this backdoor underline the severe threat it poses to system security, allowing for potential unauthorized access.

What is Affected?

The initial list of operating systems affected include many mainstream Linux distributions, however the ones affected are not the stable branches.  The two exceptions appear to be Kali Linux (which only has one branch), but only for those last updated from March 26th to March 29th, and Arch Linux. The following is a list of affected mainstream distributions:

  • Fedora 40, 41, and Rawhide
  • Debian testing, unstable  and experimental
  • Alpine Edge
  • OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

We still don’t know the full impact, as there are likely many other non-mainstream distributions that are utilizing xz versions 5.6.0 and 5.6.1 installed via package manager, or compiled from the original source; this is often the case with Linux derivatives in use in embedded devices. That is to say, the jury is still out for embedded devices in the consumer IoT, ICS/OT, Healthcare and Automotive spaces.

Identifying the Vulnerability with Finite State 

The Finite State Next Generation Platform offers a comprehensive solution for detecting such intricate vulnerabilities. Through advanced scanning and analysis, the platform can pinpoint anomalies and malicious patterns indicative of this specific threat. The process involves:

  • Scanning: Systematic examination of software and system components associated with XZ Utils.
  • Analysis: Identification of the vulnerability through signature-based detection and behavioral analysis, highlighting unusual patterns or modifications.
  • Reporting: Generation of detailed reports on the vulnerability’s characteristics, severity, and potential impact.
  • Mitigation Recommendations: Provision of actionable advice for addressing the detected vulnerability, aiming for swift and effective mitigation.

In our first example, The Finite State platform detected a version of xz-utils that is not vulnerable to CVE-2024-3094, as it was identified as version 5.2.5-2ubuntu1 (clearly on an Ubuntu system, which is also not noted as being affected).

In our second case, we were able to discover the vulnerable version and add it to the SBOM. This example was for Fedora 41.

Finally, the vulnerable version is tied to data for CVE-2024-3094.

Why the Finite State Next Generation Platform Stands Out

The Finite State Next Generation Platform is distinguished by its ability to offer deep insights into the security posture of software, providing:

  • Broad Coverage: Extensive scanning capabilities across a variety of devices and software.
  • Rapid Detection: Quick identification of vulnerabilities to minimize potential exposure.
  • Informed Mitigation: Detailed guidance on remedial actions to secure systems against identified threats.


The sophisticated vulnerability in XZ Utils underscores the critical need for advanced detection and mitigation tools. With the Finite State Next Generation Platform, organizations can bolster their defenses against complex cybersecurity threats, ensuring the protection and integrity of their digital infrastructure.

In light of such vulnerabilities, vigilance and advanced technological solutions are key to maintaining cybersecurity in an increasingly digital world.