Understanding the Qualcomm Adreno GPU Vulnerability CVE-2023-33106

In late 2023, the cybersecurity world turned its attention to a significant vulnerability identified in Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU. Labeled CVE-2023-33106, this security flaw brought to light critical challenges in mobile and IoT device security. This article delves into the nature of the vulnerability, its implications, and the broader context of cybersecurity in an increasingly connected world.

The Nature of CVE-2023-33106

The vulnerability CVE-2023-33106 is a memory out-of-bounds write issue in Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU. Specifically, it arises from a lack of sanitization checks around the number of synchronization points (param->numsyncs) passed to the IOCTL_KGSL_GPU_AUX_COMMAND ioctl handler. When the KGSL_GPU_AUX_COMMAND_SYNC flag is used, it can lead to a sequence of calls that eventually reach a set_bit call. This call, with a parameter directly derived from the user-supplied param->numsyncs, can lead to a linear out-of-bounds write, particularly on ARM CPUs. The underlying vulnerability stems from the fact that the kgsl driver only allows for a maximum of 32 sync points, which is the size in bits of syncobj->pending​​.

Qualcomm has addressed this vulnerability by modifying the kgsl_ioctl_gpu_aux_command to ensure that param->numsyncs is less than or equal to KGSL_MAX_SYNCPOINTS. If this condition is not met, the ioctl returns an error, effectively mitigating the risk posed by the vulnerability​​.

The Context of the Discovery

The discovery and reporting of CVE-2023-33106 were led by Google’s Threat Analysis Group and Google Project Zero. They identified this flaw, along with three other Qualcomm-related vulnerabilities, as part of targeted attacks. The vulnerabilities were scored based on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), with CVE-2023-33106 receiving a score of 8.4, indicating its high severity​​​​.

CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) in the United States responded to the discovery by adding these vulnerabilities to its Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog. This inclusion emphasizes the urgency for federal agencies and other users to apply patches provided by Qualcomm to mitigate the risk​​.

Broader Implications for Cybersecurity

The Qualcomm Adreno GPU vulnerability reflects broader challenges in cybersecurity, especially as the number of connected devices, including smartphones and IoT devices, continues to grow. The vulnerability underscores the need for continuous vigilance and proactive security measures.

  1. Complexity of Modern Devices: Today’s devices contain complex chipsets and software that present multiple attack surfaces for cyber threats. Regular security assessments and updates are vital to protect against such vulnerabilities.
  2. The Role of Responsible Disclosure: The discovery and reporting of CVE-2023-33106 by Google’s teams exemplify the importance of responsible vulnerability disclosure and collaboration between tech giants and security agencies.
  3. Governmental Involvement: CISA’s involvement and its urging for prompt patching of the vulnerabilities signify the government’s role in guiding and enforcing cybersecurity practices, especially for critical infrastructure and services.
  4. Future Precautions: As suggested by Google Project Zero, creating safe implementations of APIs, such as xxx_bit APIs, and adding size checks can be a structural improvement to prevent similar vulnerabilities in the future​​.


CVE-2023-33106 serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing cybersecurity arms race. It highlights the need for constant vigilance, collaboration among cybersecurity experts, and the importance of timely updates and patches. As we continue to rely on increasingly complex and interconnected digital systems, the role of comprehensive cybersecurity strategies becomes ever more critical in safeguarding our digital infrastructure.