Over 6000 AI models affected due to a critical RCE vulnerability in llama-cpp-python

Imagine downloading a seemingly harmless AI model from a trusted platform like Hugging Face, only to discover that it actually opens a backdoor allowing attackers to take control of your system! This is the risk posed by the critical vulnerability CVE-2024-34359, recently discovered in the popular Python package llama-cpp-python.

This widely-used package facilitates the easy integration of C++ AI models into Python projects. It leverages the Jinja2 template library, which can dynamically render HTML from data—a powerful but potentially risky feature if misconfigured.

And that’s exactly where the problem lies. The llama-cpp-python package uses Jinja2 to process model metadata in .gguf format but fails to enable necessary protections like sandboxing. As a result, by injecting a malicious template into a model’s metadata, an attacker can execute arbitrary code on the host system!

The potential damage is immense: data theft, total system control, service disruption… Especially since AI systems often handle highly sensitive data. Given the popularity of llama-cpp-python, the impact is massive: over 6,000 vulnerable models on Hugging Face alone! According to a detailed article by Checkmarx, this vulnerability allows supply chain attacks, where a malicious actor can inject code into a downloaded model and redistribute the compromised model to attack AI developers.

Discovered by Patrick Peng (alias retro0reg), this vulnerability stems from a poor implementation of the template engine. With a critical CVSS score of 9.7, this flaw allows server-side template injection, leading to remote code execution (RCE). A proof-of-concept has even been published on Hugging Face, demonstrating how a compromised model can execute arbitrary code when loaded or during a chat session.

This highlights a broader issue: the security of AI systems is closely tied to the security of their software supply chain. A vulnerability in a third-party dependency can compromise an entire system. Therefore, vigilance is crucial at all levels. Since AI models are often used in critical projects and handle large volumes of sensitive data, even a small flaw can have catastrophic consequences.

But don’t worry, there is a solution! Version 0.2.72 of llama-cpp-python fixes the issue by adding input validation and robust sandboxing around Jinja2. If you are using an earlier version, updating is strongly recommended.

How to know if your models are affected? Check if they use:

  • The llama-cpp-python package version < 0.2.72
  • The .gguf file format
  • Jinja2 templates in metadata

If so, upgrade to 0.2.72 immediately! You can also audit your models’ code and review permissions meticulously.

In short, a small flaw can quickly turn into a disaster if not addressed properly.

Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I'm the creator and editor-in-chief of Tech To Geek. Through this little blog, I share with you my passion for technology. I specialize in various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android, focusing on providing practical and valuable guides.

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