Friday, October 16, 2009

null byte injection

In this 2008 blog post, Portswigger says that null byte attacks against web applications are nothing new. It's almost 2010, and they're still nothin' new, but they sure can be fun!

During a recent web app assessment, I found one very similar to the example in Portswigger's post. I tampered with it a few times, but wasn't really sure if it was an exploitable condition or not.

I saw some requests containing a file name, similar to:

I began trying some basic attacks, like:

These attacks always resulted in the application cleanly handling the exception, and giving me a friendly error message in a HTTP 200 response. Not quite ready to give up, I decided to try the following:


This also generated an error, but this time it was a 500 Internal Server Error from the application container. This meant that the validation routine was not necessarily aware of my ../'s, but was probably concerned with the format of the file name. To be sure, I tried the following:

/servlet? /servlet?file=../

Both of the above requests generated the clean error message. Only when the string ended with _N.jpg, did I get a 500 error, which told me that the logic was:

1. Validate the file name extension is .JPG.
2. Validate that the file name is of the format image_N, where N is a random integer.
2. Try to read the JPEG from the file system.

This is great if you want to read JPEGs, but I had my heart set on arbitrary file access. So how do we by-pass the _N.JPG filter? I pressed the staples easy button on my desk and it injected a null byte like:


After a number of attempts to determine the directory depth of the file system, I was happy to see the contents of the passwd file in my browser.

Then things got interesting . . .

This application had been pen-tested before. It had also been scanned using a popular commercial static analysis tool, and had gotten a clean bill of health. So, let's just say that management was a little, um, curious about why this bug was still alive and well. And by curious, I actually mean furious.

So what went wrong? After the first pen-test, the blatant directory traversal bug was "fixed" with a new validation routine that scrutinized the end of the file name. This new routine was declared a validation routine in the static analysis tool, and any subsequent data flows that passed through it were considered safe. Game over. Hooray for tools!

Lessons Learned

Behind every tool is the person who wrote it, and the person operating it. These people are just as likely to make mistakes as the developer who wrote the target application. Once again, we're reminded that there is no silver security bullet. Tools help, but it comes down to proper education, process, and people to actually find and fix bugs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mainlining new lines: feel the burn

Since the blog has been pretty stale for the last couple of months, I've decided to try and spice things up with a couple of war stories from recent web app pen tests. No XSS bugs here. I'm talking about complete, CPU melting, rack busting pwnage and destruction, shock and awe, all delivered over HTTP. OK, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but at least they won't be XSS bugs. Besides, if you own the box, who needs XSS?

Command Execution in Ruby on Rails app

This RoR application was accepting a user supplied URL which got passed to an external application via IO.popen(). If I could inject a back-tick or escape from the quoted string being passed to popen(), I could execute arbitrary commands. My problem was that these basic injection attacks were failing because the devs did a decent job of validating input. Part of the validation approach relied on passing the user supplied data to Ruby's URI.parse() function. The parse() function would raise an exception any time I injected a "malicious" character, and the script would stop executing before calling popen().

I knew I had to find some sort of filter bypass bug in URI.parse() if I wanted any pwnage, so I fired up irb and after a few manual fuzzing attempts I had it:

nullbyte:~ mikezusman$ ruby -v
ruby 1.9.1p243 (2009-07-16 revision 24175) [i386-darwin9.8.0]
nullbyte:~ mikezusman$ irb
>> require 'uri'
=> true
>> require 'cgi'
=> true
>> u1 = ""
=> ""
>> u2 = "`ls`"
=> "`ls`"
>> u3 = "`ls%0A`"
=> "`ls%0A`"
>> URI.parse(u1)
=> #

>> URI.parse(u2)
URI::InvalidURIError: bad URI(is not URI?):`ls`
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:436:in `split'
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:485:in `parse'
from (irb):7
from :0
>> URI.parse(u3)
URI::InvalidURIError: bad URI(is not URI?):`ls%0A`
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:436:in `split'
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:485:in `parse'
from (irb):8
from :0
>> URI.parse(CGI::unescape(u3))
=> #

>> x = URI.parse(CGI::unescape(u3))
=> #

Injecting a URL encoded version (%0A) of a new line (\n) would get my URL encoded back-tick (%60) through the URI.parse() function unscathed. After the successful call to parse(), the data was passed to popen() and my commands would be executed. My attack looked like:

Lessons Learned

Relying on the result of a call to a third party routine doesn't necessarily equate to "input validation." However, used differently, URI.parse() could have very easily helped to prevent this bug. URI.parse() returns a new object whose members could be used to construct a safe string to be passed to popen().
This would work because everything after the %0A gets dropped:

>> d = ""
=> ""
>> r = URI.parse(CGI::unescape(d))
=> #

>> r.path
=> "/"
>> new_arg = "#{r.scheme}://#{}#{r.path}"
=> ""

If you relied on the above as "input validation", you just would have gotten lucky that the function chopped off everything after the new line. Some times luck is enough. But when dealing with user data being passed to a system command, a little extra scrutiny can go a long way towards protecting your application. URI.parse() makes it easier for us to enforce additional validation checks by letting us look at each piece of the URI (protocol/scheme, host, path).

When fetching user supplied URI's, this sort of fine grained input validation is something we should be doing anyway. For example, simply parsing the URI would not block an attack against the local host, since is valid. We might also want to make sure that the protocol is http|https (not ftp, for example) and that our application isn't being used to scan the network on the inside of the firewall (by blacklisting internal IPs and host names).

Moral of the Story

Just like many other bugs, this one could have been prevented with better input validation. Even if you think you're doing a good job validating your input, remember that not all input validation routines are created equal. Stay tuned for my next post, where we'll explore the short comings of relying on static analysis tools to catch similar bugs.

Update 10/22/2009
@emerose filed this bug report.