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Exploiting the hidden Saxon XSLT Parser in Ektron CMS

2 March 2015 at 13:54

Another vulnerability I came across was in Ektron CMS. It's a .NET-based Web CMS System. If you want to find running instances try "inurl:/workarea filetype:asmx" at Google. The interesting thing about is that Microsoft already reported the initial vulnerability as MSVR12-016 (CVE-2012-5357), but I found a different vector to exploit it.


From US CERT VU#110652:
Ektron Content Management System version 8.5, 8.7, and 9.0 contain a resource injection vulnerability by using an improperly configured XML parser. By default, Ektron utilizes the Microsoft XML parser to parse XSLT documents, which is not vulnerable. If an attacker specifies use of the Saxon XSLT parser instead, and sends it a specially crafted XSLT document, the attacker may be able to run arbitrary code at the privilege level of the application.

Vulnerability Details

During information gathering, I found several Web services exposed on the Ektron CMS system. One of them was
Looking at the WSDL, there was the SOAP method ContentBlockEx, having a parameter that nearly jumped into my face: xslt.

If you can get your data parsed by a XSLT parser, that's almost like hitting the jackpot. The problem was that Ektron already patched the vulnerability by hardening the MSXML parser. Nevertheless, XXE was still possible - but I couldn't get any helpful information out of the system. There was also another vulnerability that allowed me to list directories. Finally, I found the directory with all .net DLL's. After browsing through the directory, I finally found something interesting. There were several saxon9*.dlls. From my former times, I could remember that Saxon allows me to parse XSLT. So I had a look at the documentation at Saxon Function Library.

Looking at the different namespaces, I found several interesting functions working with files, etc. After browsing through the Saxon documentation, I finally found an interesting paragraph Saxon Calling Static Methods in a .NET ClassFrom this, it seemed like I could call static functions of .net CRL classes from Saxon :-)

So I created the following XSLT template:

Putting it all together, the final SOAP request looks like this:

Vendor Response

I wasn't involved, although CERT tried to contact them with no luck.

The fix

Ektron released a Security Update 2 (Releases 8.02 SP5 to 9.10 SP1). To my amazement, Ektron told CERT the following:
This was patched via a cumulative security patcher that was made available Oct 9, 2013 that would apply the updates to versions 8.0.2 to 9.0. The current version of the patcher is available at: https://portal.ektron.com/News/Security/Security_Notice_-_11-25-14/ 8.7sp2 (released 8/16/2013), 9.0sp1 (released 8/19/2013), and 9.1 (released 8/28/2014) were all released with the fix in place. Subsequent service packs also contain the fixes for those versions
To be honest, I don't think this statement is true. What Ektron did in 2013 was to reconfigure Ektron CMS to expose the Web services only on localhost by default. An administrator can still reconfigure it. Nevertheless, with "Security Update 2", all the parser hardening was hopefully implemented. I haven't verified it yet because there is no public download available for the latest version.

[email protected]|sh – Or: Getting a shell environment from Runtime.exec

9 March 2015 at 08:55

If you happen to have command execution via Java's Runtime.exec on a Unix system, you may already have noticed that it doesn't behave like a normal shell. Although simple commands like ls -al, uname -a, or netstat -ant work fine, more complex commands and especially commands with indispensable features like pipes, redirections, quoting, or expansions do not work at all.

Well, the reason for that is that the command passed to Runtime.exec is not executed by a shell. Instead, if you dig down though the Java source code, you'll end up in the UNIXProcess class, which reveals that calling Runtime.exec results in a fork and exec call on Unix platforms.

Nonetheless, I'll show you a way to still get commands executed in a proper shell.

For testing, we'll use this Java example:

We call this class as shown below with single quotes around the command line to ensure that our shell passes the command line argument to Java as is:

$ java Exec 'command arg1 arg2 ...'

Your first thought on a solution to this might be: "Ok, I'll just use sh -c command to execute command in the shell."

That is correct, but here is the catch: Since only the first argument following -c is interpreted as shell command, the whole shell command must be passed as a single argument. And if you take a closer look at how the string passed to Runtime.exec is processed, you'll see that Java uses a StringTokenizer that splits the command at any white-space character.

If you are thinking of quoting the command parameter string like uname -a as follows:

$ java Exec 'sh -c "uname -a"'

this won't work. Remember: We're not in a shell yet, and Runtime.exec does only take white-spaces as argument separators into account.

So, what is the other option that we have?

The key is in the sh -c command, but we won't execute the command directly but build a command that itself spawns another shell that then executes our command. Though it sounds complicated, we'll derive it step by step.

How it works

The secret key to this is the special parameter @, which expands to the positional parameters when referenced with [email protected], starting from parameter one:

$ java Exec 'sh -c [email protected]'

But how do we pass the actual command? Well, if the shell is invoked with -c, any remaining arguments after the command argument are assigned to the positional parameters, starting with $0. So when [email protected] is expanded by the shell with the following invocation:

$ java Exec 'sh -c [email protected] 0 1 2 3 4 5'

It results in 1 2 3 4 5. The 0-th parameter does not appear in the expansion result as it, by convention, should be the file name associated with the file being executed. We can see the result by adding a echo in place of the $1 parameter:

$ java Exec 'sh -c [email protected] 0 echo 1 2 3 4 5'

Here the shell first expands [email protected] to echo 1 2 3 4 5 and then executes it.

But this is still not better than the simple sh -c command, as we still have no support of pipes, redirections, quoting or expansion.

The reason for this is that the [email protected] expansion does not result in a restart of the command interpretation.

The solution to a fully functional shell is sh's ability to allow the commands to be passed via standard input. So, if we use another echo to echo our command and pipe it to sh, we'll get our command executed by sh entirely:

$ java Exec 'sh -c [email protected]|sh . echo command'

Now we have all shell features available!

The only thing to remember is that any white-space sequences vital in your command must be encoded somehow as otherwise it would be eaten by Java's StringTokenizer, e.g.:

$ java Exec 'sh -c [email protected]|sh . echo /bin/echo -e "tab\trequired"'

And to anyone who is interested in what the process tree looks like:

$ java Exec 'sh -c [email protected]|sh . echo ps ft'
27109 pts/25 Ss 0:03 /bin/bash
6904 pts/25 Sl+ 0:00 \_ java Exec sh -c [email protected]|sh . echo ps ft
6914 pts/25 S+ 0:00 \_ sh -c [email protected]|sh . echo ps ft
6916 pts/25 S+ 0:00 \_ sh
6917 pts/25 R+ 0:00 \_ ps ft

CVE-2015-0935: PHP Object Injection in Bomgar Remote Support Portal

8 May 2015 at 18:48

Serialization is often used to convert objects into a string representation for communication or to save them for later use. However, deserialization in PHP has certain side-effects, which can be exploited by an attacker who is able to provide the data to be deserialized.

This post will give you an insight on the deserialization of untrusted data vulnerability in the Bomgar Remote Support Portal 14.3.1 (US CERT VU#978652, CVE-2015-0935), which is part of Bomgar's appliance-based remote support software. It covers details on the weakness of Deserializion of Untrusted Data (CWE-502) in PHP applications in general, as well as specific details on the vulnerability and its exploitation in the Bomgar Remote Support Portal 14.3.1.

Note that this post is not about the various bugs in the implementation of the unserialize function itself (see for example Sec Bug #67492, Sec Bug #68594, Sec Bug #68710, and Sec Bug #68942), but about the exploitation on the application level.


Description from US CERT VU#978652:

Bomgar Remote Support Portal version 14.3.1 and possibly earlier versions deserialize untrusted data without sufficiently verifying the validity of the resulting data. An unauthenticated attacker can inject arbitrary input to at least one vulnerable PHP file, and authenticated attackers can inject arbitrary input to multiple vulnerable PHP files. When malicious data is deserialized, arbitrary PHP code may be executed in the context of the PHP server process.

Vulnerability Details

The PHP function unserialize allows the creation of arbitrary object constructs of any class with arbitrary attributes of almost arbitrary types without any validation. During the deserialization, the lifetime of an object, and the interaction with the object, several methods, including so called magic methods, may get called using these arbitrarily definable attributes. An attacker may be able to utilize the functionality provided within these called methods to his benefit. For more information on deserialization in PHP, have a look at Serialization in the PHP Internals Book and Writing Exploits For Exotic Bug Classes: unserialize() by Stephen Coty of Alert Logic.

In Bomgar Remote Support Portal 14.3.1, unserialize is called several times with user provided data, among them there is one which can be called by an unauthenticated user.


The most challenging part of exploiting such a vulnerability is finding appropriate classes with effects beneficial for an attacker. Therefore, it solely depends on the available classes. If there are no classes with beneficial effects available, it is not exploitable.

Fortunately, there is at least one in Bomgar Remote Support Portal 14.3.1!

One way to exploit this vulnerability is by utilizing the Tracer class. It is used to write stack trace information to a log using a Logger instance, which wraps an instance of PEAR's Log class. By using a Log_file instance as an instance of Log, it is possible to write the arbitrary data <payload> to the arbitrary file <destination>.

A corresponding serialized representation of such an object construct may look like this (\0 represents a NUL byte):

Writing the data to the specified location is triggered by the log method call in the destructor of the Tracer class.

And this is what happens behind the curtain:

  • unserialize creates an instance of the Tracer class, the Logger class, and the Log_file class with the following structure (only relevant members are shown):
  • At the end of the runtime of the request, PHP calls the destructor __destruct of our Tracer object, which eventually calls the log method of the Log_file class with the following behavior:
    • The file specified in _filename gets opened in write mode, if not already opened (line 285-287)
    • The format of the line to be written to the log is specified by _lineFormat, i. e. our <payload> (line 293-295)
    • The log line gets written to the specified log file (line 303)

By injecting a Tracer object as specified, arbitrary data can be written or appended to an arbitrary file.

Additional Information on Exploitation

If the document root location of the web server is unknown, one can utilize PHP's autoload functionality, which allows the inclusion of a '*.php' file from any location as long as the path can be expressed in a class name with '_' instead of '/'.

For example, the deserialization of the following object representation would result in the local file inclusion of '/tmp/poc.php':

The exploitation can then be performed with two serialized objects:

  1. Writing a PHP payload to a known location like '/tmp/poc.php' using the Tracer object structure as mentioned above.
  2. Loading and executing the written PHP payload using an object with the class name like '_tmp_poc' as mentioned above.

Most of the vulnerable unserialize calls are only accessible after successful authentication. However, one is accessible without prior authentication; this requires a particular access token but can also be retrieved without authentication. I leave this as a challenge to the reader. ;-)

Course of events and 'cooperation' with Bomgar

The whole process of the disclosure of this vulnerability took longer than expected: The initial report submission of the vulnerability to US CERT was on 2014-11-14. They instantly replied that they wanted me to first contact Bomgar directly. So I wrote an e-mail to [email protected], asking for a contact person for a confidential disclosure of the vulnerability details. After one week without any reply, I asked US CERT on 2014-11-23 to do the coordination.

Fast forward: on 2015-02-12 I got an answer from US CERT, stating that they have established a contact at Bomgar. This was already 90 days after the initial report.

Immediately after that, I got contacted by Bomgar, asking me how I intended to use the vulnerability information. My reply was that I wanted to write this very blog post, which should contain details on the vulnerability and its exploitation in Bomgar Remote Support Portal 14.3.1. Since an exploitation of this kind of vulnerability depends on the available classes and their functionality, I wanted to show some source code snippets of the involved classes and methods. However, Bomgar insisted on not having any copyrighted source code published and also asked me to remove any explicit details on how to reach the unserialize function calls, especially the one accessible without authentication.

CVE-2015-2079: Arbitrary Command Execution in Usermin

20 May 2015 at 12:56

While performing a penetration test for a customer, I stumbled across a command execution vulnerability in Usermin that is pretty trivial to identify and to exploit. The interesting part is that this vulnerability survived for almost 13 years.


According to the Usermin Homepage:

Usermin is a web-based interface for webmail, password changing, mail filters, fetchmail and much more. It is designed for use by regular non-root users on a Unix system, and limits them to tasks that they would be able to perform if logged in via SSH or at the console.

Therefore, Usermin can be seen as a web alternative for interactive machine access as a specific system user. But often times in real environments, Usermin is used to limit the user's rights to perform specific actions via the web, for example as a webmailer only. In this case, arbitrary command execution is definitely not a desired feature.

Nonetheless, enter CVE-2015-2079, which affects Usermin versions 0.980 (dating back to 2002-12-16) until 1.650 (latest unpatched version of 2015-02-16) by exploiting a specific behavior of Perl's open() function.


An authenticated user of Usermin can specify the path to an arbitrary file on the server that should be attached to any new email as a signature via the Signature file configuration in the Other file option.

This is due to the function get_signature in usermin/mailbox/mailbox-lib.pl, which calls open() without any prior validation:

For what it's worth, that alone poses a vulnerability. But according to an old bug report dating back to 2005, this is not a bug but a feature:

This is not really a bug, as normal Unix file permissions still apply, so really critical files like /etc/shadow cannot be used as a signature. Also, the feature for attaching server-side files could be used in the same way

Besides that, due to some specific behavior of the Perl function used to open the user specified file, it is possible to provide and execute shell commands.

Vulnerability Details

Perl's open() function can not just open regular files. If it gets called with just two arguments (i. e., open FILEHANDLE,EXPR), the second argument allows to specify additional behavior via prefixes and suffixes.

For example, the open mode can be specified with the prefix < for reading, > for writing to, or >> for appending to the file. And with the prefix or suffix | it is possible to start interprocess communication:

Perl's basic open() statement can also be used for unidirectional interprocess communication by either appending or prepending a pipe symbol to the second argument to open().

Since Usermin's call to open() uses the two arguments form, we can provide a shell command enclosed in pipes as the Signature file to execute the provided command whenever the user composes a new email and output is shown within the message text window or when the user edits the signature.

Example request as proof-of-concept with a sig_file_free parameter of value |uname -a| which gets sent to /uconfig_save.cgi by a POST request to usermin like this:

Now that the config file of the subsequent user is changed (see sig_file in ~/.usermin/mailbox/config), a GET request to /mailbox/reply_mail.cgi "includes" the evaluation of uname -a in the response in the textarea:

Similarily, the code can be triggered via a GET request to /mailbox/edit_sig.cgi:

There is also a handy proof-of-concept metasploit module for linux for your convenience.

The Fix

The Usermin developers fixed this vulnerability in version 1.660. Although the Usermin changelog does not mention it, the diff between the Usermin versions 1.650 and 1.660 shows that they chose to use the Webmin's custom open_readfile() function instead of Perl's built-in open() function, which basically prepends the given file path with < to open the file in read mode.

However, reading arbitrary files on the server is still possible.


  • 2015-02-23: Identification of vulnerability
  • 2015-02-24: Details sent to Usermin developer
  • 2015-02-24: Acknowledge from Usermin developer, will be fixed in next version
  • 2015-02-25: Assignment of CVE-2015-2079 via [email protected]
  • 2015-03-16: Request for status update from Usermin developer
  • 2015-03-16: Answer: fixed version "Probably a couple of weeks" away
  • 2015-05-08: Request for status update from Usermin developer
  • 2015-05-08: Answer: fixed version aimed for next week
  • 2015-05-13: Patched Usermin version 1.660 released (without mentioning the bug)
  • 2015-05-20: Full disclosure 7 days after patch release

Reading/Writing files with MSSQL's OPENROWSET

9 June 2015 at 13:19

Unfortunately, Microsoft SQL Server's SQL dialect Transact-SQL does not support reading and writing files in an easy way as opposed to MySQL's LOAD_FILE() function and INTO OUTFILE clause.

Of course, with xp_cmdshell being enabled, you can read and write files using OS commands. However, one is not always blessed with the CONTROL SERVER permission, which is generally only granted with the sysadmin role. But if you happen to have the ADMINISTER BULK OPERATIONS permission (implied by the bulkadmin role), then OPENROWSET is a viable option for both reading and writing files.

Granted, using OPENROWSET for reading and writing files is nothing new. However, all examples for writing files that I have seen so far require the access to remote OLE DB providers being enabled, which is controlled by the ad hoc distributed queries configuration option, which is disabled by default. And changing and reconfiguring any configuration option requires ALTER SETTINGS permissions (implied by the sysadmin and serveradmin roles), which are not always available. And, well, in case of the sysadmin role, you could just as well use xp_cmdshell.

So the technique for writing files demonstrated here is a little different as it exploits a side-effect of OPENROWSET, which just requires ADMINISTER BULK OPERATIONS permission. It also does not require any temporary table or whatsoever; everything can be performed in a sub-query.

Checking Prerequisites

For looking up whether the current user has ADMINISTER BULK OPERATIONS permissions, you can use the HAS_PERMS_BY_NAME() function:

The the result should be 1.

Reading Files

Reading a file is pretty straight forward. When OPENROWSET is referenced in the FROM clause, it allows reading from the given file through a built-in BULK provider and returns it as a rowset. The following SELECT reads the C:\Windows\win.ini file and returns a rowset of one single character LOB:

This, of course, can also be used to leak hashes for pass-the-hash.

Writing Files

Writing to a file is a little more difficult. The common approach with OPENROWSET only is calling an external OLE DB provider. But this generally requires ad hoc distributed queries being enabled and has certain caveats like restriction to certain output formats depending on the selected OLE DB provider (e. g., CSV), previous existence of the output file, registration of linked servers, etc.

However, there is a way of writing arbitrary data to an arbitrary file without any of these restrictions or prerequisites by exploiting a side-effect of OPENROWSET.

The feature that is being exploited is the error reporting feature. The reference states the purpose of the ERRORFILE argument as follows:

ERRORFILE = 'file_name'
Specifies the file used to collect rows that have formatting errors and cannot be converted to an OLE DB rowset. These rows are copied into this error file from the data file "as is."

So any erroneous record from the input is directly written to the given error file as is.

The following SELECT reads from \\\share\input.txt with the format specified in \\\share\input.fmt and writes to C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\hello.aspx:

The input file input.txt has the following contents:

The non-XML format file input.fmt specifies one single column named BulkColumn of type CHAR with the length of 1 character (fourth column) and the last character in our input file (i. e., >) as terminator:

Since we specified the length with just one byte, a truncation error occurs and the whole record up to and including the final terminator (i. e., >) gets written to the error file:

Msg 4863, Level 16, State 1, Line 1
Bulk load data conversion error (truncation) for row 1, column 1 (BulkColumn).

For binary files, the XML format seems to be better as you can specify the length for both the field input and the column output and don't need a terminator. The following format file input.xml allows writing binary data up to 512 kB:

The length seems to be irrelevant and it certainly raises a data conversion error due to the binary data, resulting in writing the entire data to the error file.

Compromised by Endpoint Protection

31 July 2015 at 06:23

In a recent research project, Markus Wulftange of Code White discovered several critical vulnerabilities in the Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) suite 12.1, affecting versions prior to 12.1 RU6 MP1 (see SYM15-007).

As with any centralized enterprise management solution, compromising a management server is quite attractive for an attacker, as it generally allows some kind of control over its managed clients. Taking control of the manager can yield a takeover of the whole enterprise network.

In this post, we will take a closer look at some of the discovered vulnerabilities in detail and demonstrate their exploitation. In combination, they effectively allow an unauthenticated attacker the execution of arbitrary commands with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges on both the SEP Manager (SEPM) server, as well as on SEP clients running Windows. That can result in the full compromise of a whole corporate network.

Vulnerabilities in Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1

Code White discovered the following vulnerabilities in Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.1:

SEP Manager
Authentication Bypass (CVE-2015-1486)
Allows unauthenticated attackers access to SEPM
Mulitple Path Traversals (CVE-2015-1487, CVE-2015-1488, CVE-2015-1490)
Allows reading and writing arbitrary files, resulting in the execution of arbitrary commands with 'NT Service\semsrv' privileges
Privilege Escalation (CVE-2015-1489)
Allows the execution of arbitrary OS commands with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges
Multiple SQL Injections (CVE-2015-1491)
Allows the execution of arbitrary SQL
SEP Clients
Binary Planting (CVE-2015-1492)
Allows the execution of arbitrary code with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges on SEP clients running Windows

The objective of our research was to find a direct way to take over a whole Windows domain and thus aimed at a full compromise of the SEPM server and the SEP clients running on Windows. Executing post exploitation techniques, like lateral movement, would be the next step if the domain controller hasn't already been compromised by this.

Therefore, we focused on SEPM's Remote Java or Web Console, which is probably the most exposed interface (accessible via TCP ports 8443 and 9090) and offers most of the functionalities of SEPM's remote interfaces. There are further entry points, which may also be vulnerable and exploitable to gain access to SEPM, its server, or the SEP clients. For example, SEP clients for Mac and Linux may also be vulnerable to Binary Planting.

Attack Vector and Exploitation

A full compromise of the SEPM server and SEP clients running Windows was possible through the following steps:

  1. Gaining administrative access to the SEP Manager (CVE-2015-1486)
  2. Full compromise of SEP Manager server (CVE-2015-1487 and CVE-2015-1489)
  3. Full compromise of SEP clients running Windows (CVE-2015-1492)

CVE-2015-1486: SEPM Authentication Bypass

SEPM uses sessions after the initial authentication. User information is stored in a AdminCredential object, which is associated to the user's session. Assigning the AdminCredential object to a session is implemented in the setAdminCredential method of ConsoleSession, which again holds an HttpSession object.

This setAdminCredential method is only called at two points within the whole application: once in the LoginHandler and once in the ResetPasswordHandler.

Its purpose in LoginHandler is obvious. But why is it used in the ResetPasswordHandler? Let's have a look at it!

Password reset requests are handled by the ResetPasswordHandler handler class. The implementation of the handleRequest method of this handler class can be observed in the following listing:

After the prologue in lines 72-84, the call to the init method calls the findAdminEmail method for looking up the recipient's e-mail address.

Next, the getCredential method is called in line 92 to retrieve the AdminCredential object of the corresponding administrator. The AdminCredential object holds information on the administrator, e. g., if it's a system administrator or a domain administrator as well as an instance of the SemAdministrator class, which finally holds information such as the name, e-mail address, and hashed password of the administrator.

The implementation of the getCredential method can be seen in the following listing:

Line 367 creates a new session, which effectively results in issuing a new JSESSIONID cookie to the client. In line 368, the doGetAdminCredentialWithoutAuthentication method is called to get the AdminCredential object without any authentication based on the provided UserID and Domain parameters.

Finally – and fatally –, the looked up AdminCredential object is associated to the newly created session in line 369, making it a valid and authentic administrator's session. This very session is then handed back to the user who requested the password reset. So by requesting a password reset, you'll also get an authenticated administrator's session!

An example of what a request for a password reset for the built-in system administrator 'admin' might look like can be seen in the following listing:

And the response to the request:

The response contains the JSESSIONID cookie of the newly created session with the admin's AdminCredential object associated to it.

Note that this session cannot be used with the Web console as it is missing some attribute required for AjaxSwing. However, it can be used to communicate with the other APIs like the SPC web services, which, for example, allows creating a new SEPM administrator.

CVE-2015-1487: SEPM Arbitrary File Write

The UploadPackage action of the BinaryFile handler is vulnerable to path traversal, which allows arbitrary files to be written. It is implemented by the BinaryFileHandler handler class. Its handleRequest method handles the requests and the implementation can be observed in the following listing:

Handling of the UploadPackage action starts at line 189. The PackageFile parameter value is used as file name and the KnownHosts parameter value as directory name. Interestingly, the provided directory name is checked for path traversal by looking for directory separators '/' and '\' (see line 196, possibly related to CVE-2014-3439). However, the file name is not, which still allows to specify any arbitrary file location.

The following request results in writing the given POST request body data to the file located at '[…]\Symantec\Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager\tomcat\webapps\ROOT\exec.jsp':

Writing a JSP web shell as shown allows the execution of arbitrary OS commands with 'NT Service\semsrv' privileges.

CVE-2015-1489: SEPM Privilege Escalation

The Symantec Endpoint Protection Launcher executable SemLaunchSvc.exe is running as a service on the SEPM server with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges. It is used to launch processes that require elevated privileges (e. g., LiveUpdate, ClientRemote, etc.). The service is listening on the loopback port 8447 and SEPM communicates with the service via encrypted messages. The communication endpoint in SEPM is the SemLaunchService class. One of the supported tasks is the CommonCMD, which results in command line parameters of a cmd.exe call.

Since we are able to execute arbitrary Java code within SEPM's web server context, we can effectively execute commands with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges on the SEPM server.

CVE-2015-1492: SEP Client Binary Planting

The client deployment process on Windows clients is vulnerable to Binary Planting. It is an attack exploiting the behavior of how Windows searches for files of dynamically loaded libraries when loading them via LoadLibrary only by their name. If it is possible for an attacker to place a custom DLL in one of the locations the DLL is searched in, it is possible to execute arbitrary code with the DllMain entry point function, which gets executed automatically on load.

Symantec Endpoint Protection is vulnerable to this flaw: During the installation of a deployment package on a Windows client, the SEP client service ccSvcHst.exe starts the smcinst.exe from the installation package as a service. This service tries to load several DLLs, e. g., the UxTheme.dll.

By deploying a specially crafted client installation package with a custom DLL, it is possible to execute arbitrary code with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges.

A custom installation package containing a custom DLL can be constructed and deployed in SEPM with the following steps.

Export Package
Download an existing client installation package for Windows as a template:
  • Go to 'Admin', 'Installation Packages'.
  • Select a directory where you want to export it to.
  • Select one of the existing packages for Windows and click on 'Export a Client Installation Package'.
  • Untick the 'Create a single .EXE file for this package'.
  • Untick the 'Export packages with policies from the following groups'.
  • Click 'OK'.
Modify Package
Tamper with the client installation package template:
  • Within the downloaded installation package files, delete the packlist.xml file.
  • Open the setAid.ini file, delete the PackageChecksum line and increase the values of ServerVersionand ClientVersion to something like 12.2.0000 instead of 12.1.5337.
  • Open the Setup.ini file and increase the ProductVersion value accordingly.
  • Copy the custom DLL into the package directory and rename it UxTheme.dll.
Import and deploy Package
Create a new client installation package from the tampered files and deploy it to the clients:
  • Go to 'Admin', 'Installation Packages'.
  • Click 'Add a Client Installation Package'.
  • Give it a name, select the directory of the tampered client installation package files, and upload it.
  • Click 'Upgrade Clients with Package'.
  • Choose the newly created client installation package and the group it should be deployed to.
  • Open the 'Upgrade Settings', untick 'Maintain existing client features when upgrading' and select the default feature set for the target group, e. g., 'Full Protection for Clients'.
  • Upgrade the clients by clicking 'Next'.

The loading of the planted binary may take some while, probably due to some scheduling of the smcinst.exe service.


We have successfully demonstrated that a centralized enterprise management solution like the Symantec Endpoint Protection suite is a critical asset in a corporate network as unauthorized access to the manager can have unforeseen influence on the managed clients. In this case, an exposed Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager can result in the full compromise of a whole corporate domain.

CVE-2015-3269: Apache Flex BlazeDS XXE Vulnerabilty

24 August 2015 at 11:23

In a recent Product Security Review, Code White Researchers discovered a XXE vulnerability in Apache Flex BlazeDS/Adobe (see ASF Advisory). The vulnerable code can be found in the BlazeDS Remoting/AMF protocol implementation.

All versions before 4.7.1 are vulnerable. Software products providing BlazeDS Remoting destinations might be also affected by the vulnerability (e.g. Adobe LiveCycle Data Services, see APSB15-20).

Vulnerability Details

An AMF message has a header and a body. To parse the body, the method readBody() of AmfMessageDeserializer is called. In this method, the targetURI, responseURI and the length of the body are read. Afterwards, the method readObject() is called which eventually calls the method readObject() of an ActionMessageInput instance (either Amf0Input or Amf3Input).

In case of an Amf0Input instance, the type of the object is read from the next byte. If type has the value 15, the following bytes of the body are parsed in method readXml() as a UTF string.

The xml string gets passed to method stringToDocument of class XMLUtil where the Document is created using the DocumentBuilder.

When a DocumentBuilder is created through the DocumentBuilderFactory, external entities are allowed by default. The developer needs to configure the parser to prevent XXE.


Exploitation is easy, just send the XXE vector of your choice.

Java and Command Line Injections in Windows

4 February 2016 at 16:03

Everyone knows that incorporating user provided fragments into a command line is dangerous and may lead to command injection. That’s why in Java many suggest using ProcessBuilder instead where the program’s arguments are supposed to be passed discretely in separate strings.

However, in Windows, processes are created with a single command line string. And since there are different and seemingly confusing parsing rules for different runtime environments, proper quoting seems to be likewise complicated.

This makes Java for Windows still vulnerable to injection of additional arguments and even commands into the command line.

Windows’ CreateProcess Command Lines

In Windows, the main function for creating processes is the CreateProcess function. And in contrast to C API functions like execve, arguments are not passed separately as an array of strings but in a single command line. On the other side, the entry point function WinMain expects a single command line argument as well.

This circumstance requires the program to parse the command line itself for extracting the arguments. And although Windows provides a CommandLineToArgvW function and supports C and C++ API entry point functions where arguments are already parsed by the runtime and passed in a argc/argv style, the rules for quoting command line arguments with all their quirks can be quite confusing. And there is no definitive guide on how to quote properly, let alone something like a ArgvToCommandLineW function that does it for you. That’s why many do it wrong, as “Everyone quotes command line arguments the wrong way” by Daniel Colascione observes.

You should definitely read the latter two linked pages first to understand the rest of this blog post.

For testing, we’ll use the following Java class, which utilizes ProcessBuilder as suggested:

The resulting CreateProcess command line can be observed with the Windows Sysinternals’ Process Monitor. And for how the command line gets parsed, you can use the following program, which prints the results of both the parsing of C command-line arguments (via the argv function parameter) and of the parsing of C++ command-line arguments (via CommandLineToArgvW function).

This already produces different and frankly surprising results in some cases:

The last two are remarkable as one additional quotation mark swaps the results of argv and CommandLineToArgvW.

Java’s Command Line Generation in Windows

With the knowledge of how CreateProcess expects the command line arguments to be quoted, let’s see how Java builds the command line and quotes the arguments for Windows.

If a process is started using ProcessBuilder, the arguments are passed to the static method start of ProcessImpl, which is a platform-dependent class. In the Windows implementation of ProcessImpl, the start method calls the private constructor of ProcessImpl, which creates the command line for the CreateProcess call.

In the private constructor of ProcessImpl, there are two operational modes: the legacy mode and the strict mode. These are the result of issues caused by changes to Runtime.exec. The legacy mode is only performed if there is no SecurityManager present and the property jdk.lang.Process.allowAmbiguousCommands is not set to false.

The Legacy Mode

In the legacy mode, the first argument (i. e., the program to execute) is quoted if required and then the command line is created using createCommandLine.

The needsEscaping method checks whether the value is already quoted using isQuoted or wraps it in double quotes if it contains certain characters.

The vertification type VERIFICATION_LEGACY passed to needsEscaping makes noQuotesInside in isQuoted being false, which would allow quotation marks within the path. It also makes needsEscaping test for space and tabulator characters only.

But let’s take a look at the createCommandLine method, which creates the command line:

Again, with the verification type VERIFICATION_LEGACY the needsEscaping method only returns true if it is already wrapped in quotes (regardless of any quotes within the string) or if it is not wrapped in quotes and contains a space or tabulator character (again, regardless of any quotes within the string). If it needs quoting, it is simply wrapped in quotes and a possible trailing backslash is doubled.

Ok, so far, so good. Now let’s recall Daniel Colascione’s conclusion:

Do not:

  1. Simply add quotes around command line argument arguments without any further processing.
  2. […]

Yes, exactly. This can be exploited to inject additional arguments:

  • A value that is considered to be quoted:
    • passed argument value: "arg 1" "arg 2" "arg 3"
    • quoted argument value: no quoting needed as it’s “already quoted”
    • parsed argument values: ['arg 1', 'arg 2', 'arg 3']
  • A value that is considered to be not quoted but requires quotes:
    • passed argument value: "arg" 1" "arg 2" "arg 3
    • quoted argument value: ""arg" 1" "arg 2" "arg 3"
    • parsed argument values: ['arg 1', 'arg 2', 'arg 3']

The Strict Mode

In the strict mode, things are a little different.

If the path contains a quote, getExecutablePath throws an exception and the catch block is executed where getTokensFromCommand tries to extract the path.

However, the rather interesting part is that createCommandLine is called with a different verification type based on whether isShellFile denotes it as a shell file.

But I’ll come back to that later.

With the verification type VERIFICATION_WIN32, noQuotesInside is still false and both injection examples mentioned above work as well.

However, if needsEscaping is called with the verification type VERIFICATION_CMD_BAT, noQuotesInside becomes true. And without being able to inject a quote we can’t escape the quoted argument.

CreateProcess’ Silent cmd.exe Promotion

Remember the isShellFile checked the file name extension for .cmd and .bat? This is due to the fact that CreateProcess executes these files in a cmd.exe shell environment:

[…] the decision tree that CreateProcess goes through to run an image is as follows:

  • […]
  • If the file to run has a .bat or .cmd extension, the image to be run becomes Cmd.exe, the Windows command prompt, and CreateProcess restarts at Stage 1. (The name of the batch file is passed as the first parameter to Cmd.exe.)
  • […]

Windows Internals, 6th edition (Part 1)

That means a 'file.bat …' becomes 'C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe /c "file.bat …"' and an additional set of quoting rules would need to be applied to avoid command injection in the command line interpreted by cmd.exe.

However, since Java does no additional quoting for this implicit cmd.exe call promotion on the passed arguments, injection is even easier: &calc& does not require any quoting and will be interpreted as a separate command by cmd.exe.

This works in the legacy mode just like in the strict mode if we make isShellFile return false, e. g., by adding whitespace to the end of the path, which tricks the endsWith check but are ignored by CreateProcess.


Command line parsing in Windows is not consistent and therefore the implementation of proper quoting of command line argument even less. This may allow the injection of additional arguments.

Additionally, since CreateProcess implicitly starts .bat and .cmd in a cmd.exe shell environment, even command injection may be possible.

As a sample, Java for Windows fails to properly quote command line arguments. Even with ProcessBuilder where arguments are passed as a list of strings:

  • Argument injection is possible by providing an argument containing further quoted arguments, e. g., '"arg 1" "arg 2" "arg 3"'.
  • On cmd.exe process command lines, a simple '&calc&' alone suffices.

Only within the most strictly mode, the VERIFICATION_CMD_BAT verification type, injection is not possible:

  • Legacy mode:
    • VERIFICATION_LEGACY: There is no SecurityManager present and jdk.lang.Process.allowAmbiguousCommands is not explicitly set to false (no default set)
      • allows argument injection
      • allows command injection in cmd.exe calls (explicit or implicit)
  • Strict mode:
    • VERIFICATION_CMD_BAT: Most strictly mode, file ends with .bat or .cmd
      • does not allow argument injection
      • does not allow command injection in cmd.exe calls
    • VERIFICATION_WIN32: File does not end with .bat or .cmd
      • allows argument injection
      • allows command injection in cmd.exe calls (explicit or implicit)

However, Java’s check for switching to the VERIFICATION_CMD_BAT mode can be circumvented by adding whitespace after the .bat or .cmd.

Compromised by Endpoint Protection: Legacy Edition

23 February 2016 at 13:50

The previous disclosure of the vulnerabilities in Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) 12.x showed that a compromise of both the SEP Manager as well as the managed clients is possible and can have a severe impact on a whole corporate environment.

Unfortunately, in older versions of SEP, namely the versions 11.x, some of the flawed features of 12.x weren’t even implemented, e. g., the password reset feature. However, SEP 11.x has other vulnerabilities that can have in the same impact.

Vulnerabilities in Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.x

The following vulnerabilities have been discovered in Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.x:

SEP Manager
SQL Injection
Allows the execution of arbitrary SQL on the SQL Server by unauthenticated users.
Command Injection
Allows the execution of arbitrary commands with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges by users with write acceess to the database, e. g., via the before-mentioned SQL injection.
SEP Client
Binary Planting
Allows the execution of arbitrary code with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges on SEP clients running Windows by local users.

As SEP 11.x is out of support since early 2015 and Symantec won’t provide a patch, you are highly advised to upgrade to 12.1.

SEP Manager

SQL Injection

The AgentRegister operation of the AgentServlet is vulnerable to SQL injections within the HardwareKey attribute:

To reach that point, we need to provide a valid DomainID, which can be retrieved from a SEP client installation from the SyLink.xml file located in C:\ProgramData\Symantec\Symantec Endpoint Protection\CurrentVersion\Data\Config.

Exploiting this vulnerability is a little more complicated. For example, changing a SEPM administrator user’s password requires the manipulation of a configuration stored as an XML document in the database.

The administrative users are stored in the SemConfigRoot document in the basic_metadata table with the hard-coded ID B655E64D0A320801000000E164041B79. An administrator entry might look like this:

The complicated part is that this configuration document is crucial for the whole SEPM. Any changes resulting in an invalid XML document result in a denial of service. That’s why it’s important that any change results in a valid document as well.

So how can we modify that document to our advantages?

The stored PasswordHash is simply the MD5 of the password in hexadecimal representation. So replacing that attribute value with a new one would allow us to login with that password.

But we neither know the current PasswordHash value (obviously!) nor any other attribute value that we can use as an anchor point for the string manipulate.

However, we know other parts of the SemAdministrator element that we can use. For example, if we replace ' PasswordHash=' by ' PasswordHash="[…]" OldPasswordHash=', we can set our own PasswordHash value while being able to reverse the operation by replacing ' PasswordHash="[…]" OldPasswordHash=' by ' PasswordHash=':

Here we first do the reverse operation in line 14 before updating the PasswordHash value with ours in line 15 to avoid accidentally creating an invalid document in the case the update is executed multiple times.

There may also be other attributes that needs to be modified like the Name or AuthenticationMethod for local instead of RSA SecureId or Directory authentication.

The reset would be just doing the reverse operation on the XML document:

Now we can log into the SEPM and could exploit CVE-2015-1490 to upload arbitrary files to the SEPM server, resulting in the execution of arbitrary code with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges.

If changing the admin password does not work for some reasons, you can also use the SQL injection to exploit the command injection described next.

Command Injection

From the previous blog post on Java and Command Line Injections in Windows we know that injecting additional arguments and even commands may be possible in Java applications on Windows, even when ProcessBuilder is utilized.

SEPM does create processes only in a few locations but even less seem promising and can be triggered. The SecurityAlertNotifyTask class is one of them, which processes security alerts from the database, which we can modify with the SQL injection.

The notification tasks are stored in the notification table. For manipulating the command line, we need to reach the doRunExecutable(String) method. This happens if the notification.email contains batchfile. The executable to call is taken from notification.batch_file_name. However, only existing files from the C:\Program Files (x86)\Symantec\Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager\bin directory can be specified.

The next problem is to find a way to manipulate arguments used in the building of the command line. The only additional argument passed is the parameter of the doRunExecutable method. Unfortunately, the values passed are notification messages originating from a properties file and most of them are parameterized with integers only.

However, the notification message for a new virus is parameterized with the name of the new virus, which originates from the database as well. So if we register a new virus with our command line injection payload as the virus name and register a new security alert notification, the given batch file would be called with the predefined notification message containing the command line injection. And since .bat files are silently started in a cmd.exe shell environment, it should be easy to get a calc.

The following SQL statements set up the mentioned security alert notification scenario:

The resulting CreateProcess command line is:

C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe /c ""C:\Program Files (x86)\Symantec\Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager\bin\dbtools.bat" "New risk found: "&calc&".""

And the command line interpreted by cmd.exe is:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Symantec\Symantec Endpoint Protection Manager\bin\dbtools.bat" "New risk found: "&calc&"."

And there we have a calc.

SEP Client

Binary Planting

The Symantec AntiVirus service process Rtvscan.exe of the SEP client is vulnerable to Binary Planting, which can be exploited for local privilege escalation. During the collection of version information of installed engines and definitions, the process is looking for a SyKnAppS.dll in C:\ProgramData\Symantec\SyKnAppS\Updates and loading it if present. This directory is writable by members of the built-in Users group:

The version information collection can be triggered in the SEP client GUI via Help and Support, Troubleshooting..., then Versions. To exploit it, we place our DLL into the C:\ProgramData\Symantec\SyKnAppS\Updates directory. But before that, we need to place the original SyKnAppS.dll from the parent directory in there and trigger the version information collection once as SEP does some verification of the DLL before loading but only once and not each time:

  • Copy genuine SyKnAppS.dll to Updates:
    copy C:\ProgramData\Symantec\SyKnAppS\SyKnAppS.dll C:\ProgramData\Symantec\SyKnAppS\Updates\SyKnAppS.dll
  • Trigger version information collection via Help and Support, Troubleshooting..., then Versions.
  • Copy custom SyKnAppS.dll to Updates:
    copy C:\Users\john\Desktop\SyKnAppS.dll C:\ProgramData\Symantec\SyKnAppS\Updates\SyKnAppS.dll
  • Trigger version information collection again.

The service is running with 'NT Authority\SYSTEM' privileges.

Infiltrate 2016 Slidedeck: Java Deserialization Vulnerabilities

12 April 2016 at 14:11
The outcome of Code White's research efforts into Java deserialization vulnerabilities was presented at Infiltrate 2016 by Matthias Kaiser.

The talk gave an introduction into finding and exploiting Java deserialization vulnerabilities. Technical details about the Oracle Weblogic deserialization RCE (CVE-2015-4852) and a SAP Netweaver AS Java 0day were shown.

The slidedeck doesn't include the SAP Netweaver AS Java 0day POC and it won't be published until fixed.

It  can be found here:

Stay tuned!

Return of the Rhino: An old gadget revisited

4 May 2016 at 19:06
[Update 08/05/2015: Added reference to CVE-2012-3213 of James Forshaw. Thanks for the heads up]

As already mentioned in our Infiltrate '16 and RuhrSec '16 talks, Code White spent some research time to look for serialization gadgets. Apart from the Javassist/Weld gadget we also found an old but interesting gadget, only using classes from the Java Runtime Environment (so called JRE gadget).

We called the gadget Return of the Rhino since the relevant gadget classes are part of the Javascript engine Rhino, bundled with Oracle JRE6 and JRE7.
As you may already know, the Rhino Script engine has already been abused in JVM sandbox escapes in the past (e.g. CVE-2011-3544 of Michael Schierl and CVE-2012-3213 of James Forshaw).

We stumbled over the gadget just by accident as we realized that there is a huge difference between the official Oracle JRE and the JRE's bundled in common Linux distros.
Most may not know that the Rhino Script Engine is actively developed by the Mozilla Project and distributed as a standalone package/jar (packages under org.mozilla.*). Furthermore, Oracle JRE6/7 is bundling an old fork of Rhino (packages under sun.org.mozilla.*).  Surprisingly, Oracle applied some hardening to Rhino core classes with JRE7u1513, not being serializable anymore. The changes were made to fix a sandbox escape (CVE-2012-3213) of James Forshaw (see James' blog post).

 But those hardening changes were not incorporated into Mozilla's Rhino mainline, which happens once in a while. So the gadget still works if you are using OpenJdk bundled with Ubuntu or Debian.
Let's take a look at the static view of some Rhino core classes:

In the Rhino Javascript domain almost every Javascript language object is represented as a ScriptableObject in the Java domain.
Functions, Types, Regexes and several other Javascript objects are implemented in Java classes, extending ScriptableObject.
A ScriptableObject has two interesting members. A reference to its prototype object and an array of Slot objects. The slots store the properties of a Javascript object. The Slot can either be Slot, GetterSlot or RelinkedSlot. For our gadget we only focus on the GetterSlot inner class.
Every Slot class has a getValue() method used to retrieve the value of the property. In case of a GetterSlot the value is taken from a call to either a MemberBox or Function instance. And both MemberBox and Function instances do dynamic method calls using Java's Reflection API. That's already the essence of the story :-). But let's go into details.

The class NativeError is a successor of IdScriptableObject which inherits from ScriptableObject. ScriptableObject implements the tagging interface Serializable, hence all successors like NativeError are serializable. The class NativeError has an interesting way of how toString() is performed:

In the very beginning toString() just calls js_toSting(this).

And now we reach the point where it gets interesting. In the first line of js_toString(), a property called "name" is retrieved from the NativeError instance using the static method ScriptableObject.getProperty().

In ScriptableObject.getProperty() the property value is retrieved by calling the IdScriptableObject.get() method which delegates the property resolution call to its ancestor ScriptableObject.

ScriptableObject gets the value of the property from the Slot instance of the Slot[] by calling the getValue() method.
In case of a ScriptableObject$GetterSlot (inner class of ScriptableObject) we finally reach the code where reflection calls are eventually happening.
As already shown in the static class view, ScriptableObject$GetterSlot has a member "getter" of class Object. In the getValue() method of ScriptableObject$GetterSlot two cases are checked.

In case of getter being an instance of MemberBox, the invoke method on the MemberBox instance is called which just wraps a dynamic call using Java's Reflection API.

The Method object used in the reflection call comes from the member variable "memberObject" of class MemberBox. Although "memberObject" is of type java.lang.reflect.Member, only java.lang.reflect.Method or java.lang.reflect.Constructor instances are valid classes for "memberObject". Both java.lang.reflect.Method and java.lang.reflect.Constructor are not serializable, so obviously the value of "memberObject" needs to be set in the readObject() method of MemberBox during deserialization.

Specifically, "memberObject" is set in method readMember(), creating a java.lang.reflect.Method object using values coming from the serialized object stream.

So we can control the java.lang.reflect.Method object used in the reflection call. How about the instance ("getterThis") on which method gets invoked? Is this instance also created from the serialized object stream and hence under our control? If we look back into the implementation of method ScriptableObject$GetterSlot.getValue(), we see that the value of "getterThis" depends on the value of member "delegateTo" of the MemberBox instance. "delegateTo" is marked transient and is not set in readObject() during deserialization. So the first case of the if-statement applies and "getterThis" is assigned to "start" which is our NativeError instance. And the arguments of the reflection call are just set to an empty Object[]. Bad for us, but there's hope as we will see later.

Looking again at ScriptableObject$GetterSlot.getValue() we see a second case, if "getter" is an instance of Function. The interface Function sounds very interesting.

And we have plenty of classes implementing Function, most of them being serializable.

From all those classes the serializable NativeJavaMethod class nearly jumped into our face. Before we go into details, let's take another look at the static view of some Rhino core classes, taking the NativeJavaMethod into account.

And a quick look into the call() method revealed the following: In the beginning, the "index" variable is returned from the call to method findCachedFunction(). This method eventually calls findFunction() which calculates one MemberBox instance from the member "methods"(of type MemberBox[]) using a more or less complex algorithm. If the methods array has only one element, findCachedFunction() will just return 0 as the index value.

The variable "meth" is assigned to methods[0]. Just keep in mind that the member "methods" is under our control as it comes from the serialized object stream. At the very end of the figure we have a dynamic method invocation, as the method invoke() is called on the MethodBox instance "meth". So we can control the Method object/method to be invoked which is half the battle.

How about the target instance "javaObject". Can we control it?
We might be able to control it if "o" is an instance of Wrapper. Then, the unwrap() method on "o" is called and the return value assigned to "javaObject". "o" is assigned to "thisObject" which is our NativeError instance. NativeError is not of type Wrapper, but we can see a "for" loop which reassigns "o" to the prototype object of "o" using the getPrototype() method.
So if you can set the prototypeObject member of our NativeError instance to a Wrapper instance and get the unwrap() method to return an object under our control we are ready to go!
And the serializable class NativeJavaObject does what is needed here. It just returns the value of the member "javaObject" in its unwrap() method.

Another update to the static view of some Rhino core classes, taking NativeJavaObject into account.

So apperently the only thing we need to do is to create a NativeError instance, set its prototype to a NativeJavaObject which wraps our target instance, create a NativeJavaMethod and specify the method to be invoked on the target instance, serialize it and deserialize it again. But now we get the following exception:

Looks like we need a Context being associated with the current thread :-(
But hey! There is a static method Context.enter() which sets the Context we really need. We just need to trigger it in advance. But how to call Context.enter() if we can't use a MethodBox nor a NativeJavaMethod. To get around this, we use a trick we had known for a while:

When you do a reflection call, the target object is ignored, if the method to be invoked is a static method. That's it.

And if you look back, we already had found a call to invoke() on a MemberBox instance being triggered from method ScriptableObject$GetterSlot.getValue(). But the first argument was always our NativeError instance. As already mentioned, the first argument gets ignored if you use a static method such as Context.enter() as your target method :-).
So if we would have two property accesses on NativeError, we could then trigger a reflection call on Context.enter() using a MemberBox and then another reflection call using a NativeJavaMethod.
Luckily, we have two property accesses in method  js_toString() of class NativeError:

The only remaining problem is how to trigger a toString() call on a NativeError object during deserialization. As you may have already seen in our Infiltrate '16 or RuhrSec '16 slidedecks you can use the "trampoline" class javax.management.BadAttributeValueExpException for that.

Getting code execution is trivial now. You can use Adam Gowdiak's technique and create a serializable com.sun.org.apache.xalan.internal.xsltc.trax.TemplatesImpl instance and invoke the newTransformer() method on it by using the reflection primitive of NativeJavaMethod. Or you just invoke the execute() method on a serializable com.sun.rowset.JdbcRowSetImpl instance and load a RMI class from your server (for further details see our Infiltrate '16 or RuhrSec '16  slidedecks).

AMF – Another Malicious Format

4 April 2017 at 14:01

AMF is a binary serialization format primarily used by Flash applications. Code White has found that several Java AMF libraries contain vulnerabilities, which result in unauthenticated remote code execution. As AMF is widely used, these vulnerabilities may affect products of numerous vendors, including Adobe, Atlassian, HPE, SonicWall, and VMware.

Vulnerability disclosure has been coordinated with US CERT (see US CERT VU#307983).


Code White has analyzed the following popular Java AMF implementations:

Each of these have been found to be affected by one or more of the following vulnerabilities:

  • XML external entity resolution (XXE)
  • Creation of arbitrary objects and setting of properties
  • Java Deserialization via RMI

The former two vulnerabilities are not completely new.1 But we found that other implementations are also vulnerable. Finally, a way to turn a design flaw common to all implementations into a Java deserialization vulnerability has been discovered.

XXE JavaBeans Setters Deserialization via RMI
Adobe Flex BlazeDS
Apache Flex BlazeDS
Flamingo AMF Serializer
WebORB for Java

We'll get into details later, except for the XXE. If you're looking for details on that, have a look at our previous blog post CVE-2015-3269: Apache Flex BlazeDS XXE Vulnerabilty.


The Action Message Format version 3 (AMF3) is a binary message format mainly used by Flash applications for communicating with the back end. Like JSON, it supports different kind of basic data types. For backwards compatibility, AMF3 is implemented as an extension of the original AMF (often referred to as AMF0), with AMF3 being a newly introduced AMF0 object type.

One of the new features of AMF3 objects is the addition of two certain characteristics, so called traits:

[…] ActionScript 3.0 introduces two further traits to describe how objects are serialized, namely 'dynamic' and 'externalizable'. The following table outlines the terms and their meanings:
  • […]
  • Dynamic: an instance of a Class definition with the dynamic trait declared; public variable members can be added and removed from instances dynamically at runtime
  • Externalizable: an instance of a Class that implements flash.utils.IExternalizable and completely controls the serialization of its members (no property names are included in the trait information).

Let's elaborate on these new traits, especially on how these are implemented and the resulting implications.

The Dynamic Trait

The dynamic trait is comparable to JavaBeans functionality: it allows the creation of an object by specifying its class name and its properties by name and value. And actually, many implementations use existing JavaBeans utilities such as the java.beans.Introspector (e. g., Flamingo, Flex BlazeDS, WebORB) or they implement their own introspector with similar functionality (e. g., GraniteDS).

That this kind of functionality can pose an exploitable vulnerability has already been noticed and shown various times. Frankly, Wouter Coekaerts had already reported this kind of vulnerability in some AMF implementations in 2011 and published an exploit for applications based on Catalina (e. g., Tomcat) in 2016. And with the advent of Java deserialization vulnerability research, even a way of extending arbitrary setter calls to Java deserialization using JRE classes only has been suggested.

The Externalizable Trait

The externalizable trait is comparable to Java's java.io.Externalizable interface. And in fact, all mentioned library vendors actually interpreted the flash.utils.IExternalizable interface from the specification as being equivalent to Java's java.io.Externalizable, effectively allowing the reconstruction of any class implementing the java.io.Externalizable interface.

Short excursion regarding the different between java.io.Serializable and java.io.Externalizable: if you look at the java.io.Serializable interface, you'll see it is empty. So there are no formal contracts that can be enforced at build time by the compiler. But classes implementing the java.io.Serializable interface have the option to override the default serialization/deserialization by implementing various methods. That means there are a lot of additional checks during runtime whether an actual object implements one of these opt-in methods, which makes the whole process bloated and slow.

Therefore, the java.io.Externalizable interface was introduced, which specifies two methods, readExternal(java.io.ObjectInput) and writeExternal(java.io.ObjectInput), that give the class complete control over the serialization/deserialization. This means no default serialization/deserialization behavior, no additional checks during runtime, no magic. That makes serialization/deserialization using java.io.Externalizable much simpler and thus faster than using java.io.Serializable.

But now let's get back on track.

Turning Externalizable.readExternal into ObjectInputStream.readObject

In OpenJDK 8u121, there are 15 classes implementing the java.io.Externalizable and most of them only do boring stuff like reconstructing an object's state. Additionally, the actual instances of the java.io.ObjectInput passed to Externalizable.readExternal(java.io.ObjectInput) methods of the implementations are also not an instance of java.io.ObjectInputStream. So no quick win here.

Of these 15 classes, those related to RMI stood out. That word alone should make you sit up. Especially sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef and sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef2 seemed interesting, as they reconstruct a sun.rmi.transport.LiveRef object via its sun.rmi.transport.LiveRef.read(ObjectInput, boolean) method. This method then reconstructs a sun.rmi.transport.tcp.TCPEndpoint and a local sun.rmi.transport.LiveRef and registers it at the sun.rmi.transport.DGCClient, the RMI distributed garbage collector client:

DGCClient implements the client-side of the RMI distributed garbage collection system.

The external interface to DGCClient is the "registerRefs" method. When a LiveRef to a remote object enters the VM, it needs to be registered with the DGCClient to participate in distributed garbage collection.

When the first LiveRef to a particular remote object is registered, a "dirty" call is made to the server-side distributed garbage collector for the remote object […]


So according to the documentation, the registration of our LiveRef results in the call for a remote object to the endpoint specified in our LiveRef? Sounds like RCE via RMI!

Tracing the call hierarchy of ObjectInputStream.readObject actually reveals that there is a path from an Externalizable.readExternal call via sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef/sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef2 to ObjectInputStream.readObject in sun.rmi.transport.StreamRemoteCall.executeCall().

So let's see what happens if we deserialize an AMF message with a sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef object using the following code utilizing Flex BlazeDS:

As a first proof of concept, we just start a listener with netcat and see if the connection gets established.

And we actually got a connection from a client, trying to speak the Java RMI Transport Protocol. 😃


This technique has already been shown as a deserialization blacklist bypass by Jacob Baines in 2016, but I'm not sure if he was aware that it also turns any Externalizable.readExternal into an ObjectInputStream.readObject. He also presented a JRMP listener that sends a specified payload. Later, the JRMP listener has been added to ysoserial, which can deliver any available payload:

java -cp ysoserial.jar ysoserial.exploit.JRMPListener ...


  • Applications using Adobe's/Apache's implementation should migrate to Apache's latest release version 4.7.3, that addresses this issue.
  • Exadel has discontinued its library, so there won't be any updates.
  • For GraniteDS and WebORB for Java, there is currently no response/solution.

Coincidentally, there is the JDK Enhancement Proposal JEP 290: Filter Incoming Serialization Data addressing the issue of Java deserialization vulnerabilities in general, which has already been implemented in the most recent JDK versions 6u141, 7u131, and 8u121.

SAP Customers: Make sure your SAPJVM is up to date!

17 May 2017 at 14:56


Code White have already an impressive publication record on Java Deserialization. This post is dedicated to a vulnerability in SAP NetWeaver Java. We could reach remote code execution through the p4 protocol and the Jdk7u21 gadget with certain engines and certain versions of the SAP JVM.

We would like to emphasize the big threat unauthenticated RCE poses to a SAP NetWeaver Java. An attacker with a remote shell can read out the secure storage, access the database, create a local NetWeaver user with administrative privileges, in other words, fully compromise the host. Unfortunately, this list is far from being complete. An SAP landscape is usually a network of tightly
connected servers and services. It wouldn’t be unusual that the database of the server stores technical users with high privileges for other SAP systems, be it NetWeaver ABAP or others. Once the attacker gets hold of credentials for those users she can extend her foothold in the organization and eventually compromise the entire SAP landscape.

We tested our exploit successfully on 7.20, 7.30 and 7.40 machines, for detailed version numbers see below. When contacted, SAP Product Security Response told us they published 3 notes (see [7], [8] and [9]) about updates fixing the problems (already in June 2013) with SAP JVM versions 1.5.0_086, 1.6.0_052 and 1.7.0_009 (we tested on earlier versions, see below). In addition SAP have recently adopted JDK JEP 290 (a Java enhancement that allows to filter incoming serialized data). However, neither do these three notes mention Java Deserialization nor is it obvious to the reader they relate to security in any other way.

Due to missing access to the SAP Service Marketplace we’re unable to make any statement about the aforementioned SAP JVM versions. We could only analyze the latest available SAP JVM from tools.hana.ondemand.com (see [6]) which contained a fix for the problem.


In his RuhrSec Infiltrate 2016 talk, Code White’s former employee Matthias Kaiser already talked about SAP NetWeaver Java being vulnerable [2]. The work described here is completely independent of his research.
The natural entry point in this area is the p4 protocol. We found a p4 test client on SAP Collaboration Network and sniffed the traffic. One doesn’t need to wait long until a serialized object is sent over the wire:

00000000  76 31                                            v1
00000002  18 23 70 23 34 4e 6f 6e  65 3a 31 32 37 2e 30 2e .#p#4Non e:127.0.
00000012  31 2e 31 3a 35 39 32 35  36                      1.1:5925 6

    00000000  76 31 19 23 70 23 34 4e  6f 6e 65 3a 31 30 2e 30 v1.#p#4N one:10.0
    00000010  2e 31 2e 31 38 34 3a 35  30 30 30 34             .1.184:5 0004

0000001B  00 00 11 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 ff ff ff ff 00 00 ........ ........
0000002B  00 00 00 00 00 00 0a 00  63 00 6f 00 63 00 72    ........ c.o.c.r

    0000001C  00 00 75 00 00 00 ff ff  ff ff 9e 06 60 00 00 00 ..u..... ....`...
    0000002C  00 00 00 00 00 00 0b 9e  06 60 00 f7 25 e4 05 00 ........ .`..%...
    0000003C  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 98  9c 0e 2a 00 4e 00 6f 00 ........ ..*.N.o.
    0000004C  6e 00 65 00 3a 00 31 00  30 00 2e 00 31 00 30 00 n.e.:.1. 0...1.0.
    0000005C  2e 00 31 00 30 00 2e 00  31 00 30 00 3a 00 35 00 ..1.0... 1.0.:.5.
    0000006C  30 00 30 00 30 00 34 00  3a 00 4e 00 6f 00 6e 00 :.N.o.n.
    0000007C  65 00 3a 00 31 00 30 00  2e 00 30 00 2e 00 31 00 e.:.1.0. ..0...1.
    0000008C  2e 00 31 00 38 00 34 00  3a 00 35 00 30 00 30 00 ..1.8.4. :.5.0.0.
    0000009C  30 00 34                                         0.4

0000003A  00 00 16 00 00 00 9e 06  60 00 ff ff ff ff fe 00 ........ `.......
0000004A  00 00 00 00 00 00 14 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 ........ ........
0000005A  98 9c 0e 2a                                      ...*
0000005E  00 00 75 00 00 00 9e 06  60 00 ff ff ff ff 01 00 ..u..... `.......
0000006E  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 20 00 00 67 ........ .... ..g
0000007E  00 65 00 74 00 43 00 6c  00 61 00 73 00 73 00 42 .e.t.C.l .a.s.s.B
0000008E  00 79 00 4e 00 61 00 6d  00 65 00 28 00 6a 00 61 .y.N.a.m .e.(.j.a
0000009E  00 76 00 61 00 2e 00 6c  00 61 00 6e 00 67 00 2e .v.a...l .a.n.g..
000000AE  00 53 00 74 00 72 00 69  00 6e 00 67 00 29 00 00 .S.t.r.i .n.g.)..
000000BE  00 00 00 00 00 00 98 9c  0e 2a ac ed 00 05 74 00 ........ .*....t.
000000CE  12 43 6c 69 65 6e 74 49  44 50 72 6f 70 61 67 61 .ClientI DPropaga
000000DE  74 6f 72                                         tor

The highlighted part is just the java.lang.String object “ClientIDPropagator”.

Now our plan was to replace this serialized object by a ysoserial payload. Therefore, we needed to find out how the length of such a message block is encoded.

When we look at offset 0000005E, for instance, the 00 00 75 00 looks like 2 header null bytes and then a length in little endian format. Hex 75 is 117, but the total length of the last block is 8*16+3 = 131. If one looks at the blocks the client sent before (at offset 0000001B and 0000003A) one can easily spot that the real length of the block is always 14 more than what is actually sent. This lead to the first conclusion: a message block consists of 2 null bytes, 2 bytes length of the payload in little endian format, then 10 bytes of some (not understood) header information, then the payload:

When running the test client several times and by spotting the messages carefully enough one can see that the payload and header aren’t static: They use 2 4-bytes words sent in the second reply from
the server:

That was enough to set up a first small python program: Send the corresponding byte arrays in the right order, read the replies from the network, set the 4 byte words accordingly and replace “ClientIDPropagator” by the ysoserial Jdk7u21 gadget.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work out at first. A bit later we realized that SAP NetWeaver Java obviously didn’t serialize with the plain vanilla Java ObjectOutputStream but with a custom serializer. After twisting and tweaking a bit we were finally successful. Details are left to the reader ;-)

To demonstrate how dangerous this is we have published a disarmed exploit on github [5]. Instead of using a payload that writes a simple file to the current directory (e.g. cw98653.txt with contents "VULNERABLE"), like we did, an attacker can also add bytecode that runs Runtime.getRuntime().exec("rm -rf *") or establish a remote shell on the system and thereby compromise the system or in the worst case even parts of the SAP landscape.

We could successfully verify this exploit on the following systems:
  •  SAP Application Server Java 7.20 with SAPJVM 1.6.0_07 (build 007)
  •  SAP Application Server Java 7.30 with SAPJVM 1.6.0_23 (build 034)
  •  SAP Application Server Java 7.40 with SAPJVM 1.6.0_43 (build 048)
After SAP Product Security’s response, we downloaded SAPJVM 1.6.0_141 build 99 from [6] and indeed, the AnnotationInvocationHandler, which is at the core of theJdk7u21 gadget exploits, was patched. So, with that version, the JdkGadget cannot be used anymore for exploitation.

However, since staying up-to-date with modern software product release cycles is a big challenge for customers and the corresponding SAP notes do not explicitely bring the reader’s attention to a severe security vulnerability, we’d like to raise awareness that not updating the SAP JVM can expose their SAP systems to serious threats.


  •  Block p4 on your firewall
  •  Make sure your SAP JVM is up-to-date


  1. https://foxglovesecurity.com/2015/11/06/what-do-weblogic-websphere-jboss-jenkinsopennms-
  2. http://codewhitesec.blogspot.de/2016/04/infiltrate16-slidedeck-java-deserialization.html
  3. https://github.com/frohoff/ysoserial
  4. https://cal.sap.com/
  5. https://github.com/codewhitesec/sap-p4-java-deserialization-exploit
  6. https://tools.hana.ondemand.com/additional/sapjvm-6.1.099-linux-x64.zip
  7. SAP Note 1875035 (available to customers since June, 2013) for SAP JVM 5
  8. SAP Note 1875026 (available to customers since June, 2013) for SAP JVM 6
  9. SAP Note 1875042 (available to customers since June, 2013) for SAP JVM 7
  10. SAP note 2443673 from April 2017

Handcrafted Gadgets

18 January 2018 at 15:07


In Q4 2017 I was pentesting a customer. Shortly before, I had studied json attacks when I stumbled over an internet-facing B2B-portal-type-of-product written in Java they were using (I cannot disclose more details due to responsible disclosure). After a while, I found that one of the server responses sent a serialized Java object, so I downloaded the source code and found a way to make the server deserialize untrusted input. Unfortunately, there was no appropriate gadget available. However, they are using groovy-2.4.5 so when I saw [1] end of december on twitter, I knew I could pwn the target if I succeeded to write a gadget for groovy-2.4.5. This led to this blog post which is based on work by Sam Thomas [2], Wouter Coekaerts [3] and Alvaro Muñoz (pwntester) [4].

Be careful when you fix your readObject() implementation...

We'll start by exploring a popular mistake some developers made during the first mitigation attempts, after the first custom gadgets surfaced after the initial discovery of a vulnerability. Let's check out an example, the Jdk7u21 gadget. A brief recap of what it does: It makes use of a hashcode collision that occurs when a specially crafted instance of java.util.LinkedHashSet is deserialized (you need a string with hashcode 0 for this). It uses a java.lang.reflect.Proxy to create a proxied instance of the interface javax.xml.transform.Templates, with sun.reflect.annotation.AnnotationInvocationHandler as InvocationHandler. Ultimately, in an attempt to determine equality of the provided 2 objects the invocation handler calls all argument-less methods of the provided TemplatesImpl class which yields code execution through the malicious byte code inside the TemplatesImpl instance. For further details, check out what the methods AnnotationInvocationHandler.equalsImpl() and TemplatesImpl.newTransletInstance() do (and check out the links related to this gadget).
The following diagram, taken from [5], depicts a graphical overview of the architecture of the gadget.

So far, so well known.
In recent Java runtimes, there are in total 3 fixes inside AnnotationInvocationHandler which break this gadget (see epilogue). But let's start with the first and most obvious bug. The code below is from AnnotationInvocationHandler in Java version 1.7.0_21:

There is a try/catch around an attempt to get the proxied annotation type. But the proxied interface javax.xml.transform.Templates is not an annotation. This constitutes a clear case of potentially dangerous input that would need to be dealt with. However, instead of throwing an exception there is only a return statement inside the catch-branch. Fortunately for the attacker, the instance of the class is already fit for purpose and does not need the rest of the readObject() method in order to be able to do its malicious work. So the "return" is problematic and would have to be replaced by a throw new Exception of some sort.
Let's check how this method looks like in Java runtime 1.7.0_80:

Ok, so problem fixed? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, the use of the exception in the catch-clause will break the gadget which currently ships with ysoserial. On the other hand, this fix is a perfect example of the popular mistake I'm talking about. Wouter Coekaerts (see [3]) came up with an idea how to bypass such "fixes" and Alvaro Muñoz (see [4]) provided a gadget for JRE8u20 which utilizes this technique (in case you're wondering why there is no gadget for jdk1.7.0_80: 2 out of the total 3 fixes mentioned above are already incorporated into this version of the class. Even though it is possible to bypass fix number one, fix number two would definitely stop the attack).
Let's check out how this bypass works in detail.

A little theory

Let's recap what the Java (De-)Serialization does and what the readObject() method is good for. Let's take the example of java.util.HashMap. An instance of it contains data (key/value pairs) and structural information (something derived from the data) that allows logarithmic access times to your data. When serializing an instance of java.util.HashMap it would not be wise to fully serialize its internal representation. Instead it is completely sufficient to only serialize the data that is required to reconstruct its original state: Metadata (loadfactor, size, ...) followed by the key/value pairs as flat list. Let's have a look at the code:

As you can see, the method starts with a call to defaultReadObject. After that, the instance attributes loadFactor and threshold are initialized and can be used. The key/value pairs are located at the end of the serialized stream. Since the key/value pairs are contained as an unstructured flat list in the stream calling putVal(key,value) basically restores the internal structure, what allows to efficiently use them later on.
In general, it is fair to assume that many readObject() methods look like this:

Coming back to AnnotationInvocationHandler, we can see that its method readObject follows this pattern. Since the problem was located in the custom code section of the method, the fix was also applied there. In both versions, ObjectInputStream.defaultReadObject() is the first instruction. Now let's discuss why this is a problem and how the bypass works.

Handcrafted Gadgets

At work we frequently use ysoserial gadgets. I suppose that many readers are probably familiar with the ysoserial payloads and how these are created. A lot of Java reflection, a couple of fancy helper classes doing stuff like setting Fields, creating Proxy and Constructor instances. With "Handcrafted Gadgets" I meant gadgets of a different kind. Gadgets which cannot be created in the fashion ysoserial does (which is: create an instance of a Java object and serialize it). The gadgets I'm talking about are created by compiling a serialization stream manually, token by token. The result is something that can be deserialized but does not represent a legal Java class instance. If you would like to see an example, check out Alvaro's JRE8_20 gadget [4]. But let me not get ahead of myself, let's take a step back and focus on the problem I mentioned at the end of the last paragraph. The problem is that if the developer does not take care when fixing the readObject method, there might be a way to bypass that fix. The JRE8_20 gadget is an example of such a bypass. The original idea was, as already mentioned in the introduction, first described by Wouter Coekaerts [2]. It can be summarized as follows:


The fundamental insight is the fact that many classes are at least partly functional when the default attributes have been instantiated and propagated by the ObjectInputStream.defaultReadObject() method call. This is the case for AnnotationInvocationHandler (in older Java versions, more recent versions don't call this method anymore). The attacker does not need the readObject to successfully terminate, an object instance where the method ObjectInputStream.defaultReadObject() has executed is perfectly okay. However, it is definitely not okay from an attacker's perspective if readObject throws an exception, since, eventually this will break deserialization of the gadget completely. The second very important detail is the fact that if it is possible to suppress somehow the InvalidObjectException (to stick with the AnnotationInvocationHandler example) then it is possible to access the instance of AnnotationInvocationHandler later through references. During the deserialization process ObjectInputStream keeps a cache of various sorts of objects. When AnnotationInvocationHandler.readObject is called an instance of the object is available in that cache.
This brings the number of necessary steps to write the gadget down to two. Firstly, store the AnnotationInvocationHandler in the cache by somehow wrapping it such that the exception is suppressed. Secondly, build the original gadget, but replace the AnnotationInvocationHandler in it by a reference to the object located in the cache.

Now let's step through the detailed technical explanation.
  1. References
  2. The wrapper class: BeanContextSupport
  3. The cache


If one thinks about object serialization and the fact that you can nest objects recursively it is clear that something like references must exist. Think about the following construct:
Here, the attribute a of class instance c points to an existing instance already serialized before and the serialized stream must reflect this somehow. When you look at a serialized binary stream you can immediately see the references: The hex representation usually looks like this:
71 00 7E AB CD
where AB CD is a short value which represents the array index of the referenced object in the cache. You can easily spot references in the byte stream since hex 71 is "q" and hex 7E is "~":

The wrapper class: BeanContextSupport

Wouter Coekaerts found the class java.beans.beancontext.BeanContextSupport. At some point during deserialization it does the following:
continue in the catch-branch, exactly what we need. So if we can build a serialized stream with an AnnotationInvocationHandler as first child of an instance of BeanContextSupport during deserialization we will end up in the catch (IOException ioe) branch and deserialization will continue.
Let's test this out. I will build a serialized stream with an illegal AnnotationInvocationHandler in it ("illegal" means that the type attribute is not an annotation) and we will see that the stream deserializes properly without throwing an exception. Here is what the structure of this stream will look like:
Once done, the deserialized object is a HashMap with one key/value pair, key is an instance of BeanContextSupport, value is "whatever".
Click here to see the code on github.com
You need to build Alvaro's project [6] to get the jar file necessary for building this:
[email protected]:~/eworkspace/deser$ javac -cp /home/kai/JRE8u20_RCE_Gadget/target/JRE8Exploit-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar BCSSerializationTest.java
[email protected]:~/eworkspace/deser$ java -cp .:/home/kai/JRE8u20_RCE_Gadget/target/JRE8Exploit-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar BCSSerializationTest > 4blogpost
Writing java.lang.Class at offset 1048
Done writing java.lang.Class at offset 1094
Writing java.util.HashMap at offset 1094
Done writing java.util.HashMap at offset 1172
Adjusting reference from: 6 to: 8
Adjusting reference from: 6 to: 8
Adjusting reference from: 8 to: 10
Adjusting reference from: 9 to: 11
Adjusting reference from: 6 to: 8
Adjusting reference from: 14 to: 16
Adjusting reference from: 14 to: 16
Adjusting reference from: 14 to: 16
Adjusting reference from: 14 to: 16
Adjusting reference from: 17 to: 19
Adjusting reference from: 17 to: 19
[email protected]:~/eworkspace/deser$

A little program that deserializes the created file and prints out the resulting object shows us this:
[email protected]:~/eworkspace/deser$ java -cp ./bin de.cw.deser.Main deserialize 4blogpost
{[email protected]=whatever}

This concludes the first part, we successfully wrapped an instance of AnnotationInvocationHandler inside another class such that deserialization completes successfully.

The cache

Now we need to make that instance accessible. First we need to get hold of the cache. In order to do this, we need to debug. We set a breakpoint at the highlighted line in java.util.HashMap:
Then start the deserializer program and step into readObject:

When we open it we can see that number 24 is what we were looking for.

Here is one more interesting thing: If you deserialize with an older patch level of the Java Runtime, the object is initialized as can be seen in the sceenshot below:

If you use a more recent patch level like Java 1.7.0_151 you will see that the attributes memberValues and type are null. This is the effect of the third improvement in the class I've been talking about before. More recent versions don't call defaultReadObject at all, anymore. Instead, they first check if type is an annotation type and only after that they populate the default fields.
Let's do one more little exercise. In the program above in line 150, change


baseWireHandle + 24,

and run the program again:
[email protected]:~/eworkspace/deser$ java -cp ./bin de.cw.deser.Main deserialize 4blogpost2
{[email protected][email protected]}

As you can see, the entry in the handles table can easily be referenced.
Now we'll leave the Jdk7u21 gadget and AnnotationInvocationHandler and build a gadget for groovy 2.4.5 using the techniques outlined above.

A deserialization gadget for groovy-2.4.5

Based on an idea of Sam Thomas (see [2]).
The original gadget for version 2.3.9 looks like this:
Trigger is readObject of our beloved AnnotationInvocationHandler, it will call entrySet of the memberValues hash map, which is a proxy class with invocation handler of type org.codehaus.groovy.runtime.ConvertedClosure. Now every invocation of ConvertedClosure will be delegated to doCall of the nested instance of MethodClosure which is a wrapper of the call to the groovy function execute. The OS command that will be executed is provided as member attribute to MethodClosure.
After the original gadget for version 2.3.9 showed up MethodClosure was fixed by adding a method readResolve to the class org.codehaus.groovy.runtime.MethodClosure:
If the global constant ALLOW_RESOLVE is not set to true an UnsupportedOperationException is supposed to break the deserialization. Basically, this means that an instance of MethodClosure cannot be deserialized anymore unless one explicitely enables it. Let's quickly analyze MethodClosure: The class does not have a readObject method and readResolve is called after the default built-in deserialization. So when readResolve throws the exception the situation is almost identical to the one explained in the above paragraphs: An instance of MethodClosure is already in the handle table. But there is one important difference: AnnotationInvocationHandler throws an InvalidObjectException which is a child of IOException whereas readResolve throws an UnsupportedOperationException, which is a child of RuntimeException. BeanContextSupport, however, only catches IOException and ClassCastException. So the identical approach as outlined above would not work: The exception would not be caught. Fortunately, in late 2016 Sam Thomas found the class sun.security.krb5.KRBError which in its readObject method transforms every type of exception into IOException:
This means if we put KRBError in between BeanContextSupport and MethodClosure the UnsupportedOperationException will be translated into IOException which is ultimately caught inside the readChildren method of BeanContextSupport. So our wrapper construct looks like this:
Some readers might be confused by the fact that you can nest an object of type MethodClosure inside a KRBError. Looking at the code and interface of the latter, there is no indication that this is possible. But it is important to keep in mind that what we are concerned with here are not Java objects! We are dealing with a byte stream that is deserialized. If you look again at the readObject method of KRBError you can see that this class calls ObjectInputStream.readObject() right away. So here, every serialized Java object will do fine. Only the cast to byte array will throw a ClassCastException, but remember: An exception will be thrown already before that and this is perfectly fine with the design of our exploit.
Now it is time to put the pieces together. The complete exploit consists of a hash map with one key/value pair, the BeanContextSupport is the key, the groovy gadget is the value. [1] suggests putting the BeanContextSupport inside the AnnotationInvocationHandler but it has certain advantages for debugging to use the hash map. Final structure looks like this:
The final exploit can be found on github.com.


I had mentioned 3 improvements in AnnotationInvocationHandler but I only provided one code snippet. For the sake of completeness, here are the two:
The second fix in jdk1.7.0_80 which already breaks the jdk gadget is a check in equalsImpl:
The highlighted check will filter out the methods getOutputProperties and newTransformer of TemplatesImpl because they are not considered annotation methods, and getMemberMethods returns an empty array so the methods of TemplatesImpl are never called and nothing happens. The third fix which you can find for example in version 1.7.0_151 finally fixes readObject:
As one can see, only the 2 last calls actually set the member attributes type and memberValues. defeaultReadObject is not used at all. Before, the type check for the annotation class is performed. If it fails, an InvalidObjectException is thrown and type and memberValues remain null.


  1. https://www.thezdi.com/blog/2017/12/19/apache-groovy-deserialization-a-cunning-exploit-chain-to-bypass-a-patch
  2. http://www.zerodayinitiative.com/advisories/ZDI-17-044/
  3. http://wouter.coekaerts.be/2015/annotationinvocationhandler
  4. https://github.com/pwntester/JRE8u20_RCE_Gadget/blob/master/src/main/java/ExploitGenerator.java
  5. https://gist.github.com/frohoff/24af7913611f8406eaf3
  6. https://github.com/frohoff/ysoserial/blob/master/src/main/java/ysoserial/payloads/Groovy1.java

Exploiting Adobe ColdFusion before CVE-2017-3066

13 March 2018 at 14:41
By: Unknown
In a recent penetration test my teammate Thomas came across several servers running Adobe ColdFusion 11 and 12. Some of them were vulnerable to CVE-2017-3066 but no outgoing TCP connections were possible to exploit the vulnerability. He asked me whether I had an idea how he could still get a SYSTEM shell and the outcome of the short research effort is documented here.

Introduction Adobe ColdFusion & AMF

Before we go into technical details, I will give you a short intro to Adobe ColdFusion (CF). Adobe ColdFusion is an Application Development Platform like ASP.net, however several years older. Adobe ColdFusion allows a developer to build websites, SOAP and REST web services and interact with Adobe Flash using the Action Message Format (AMF).

The AMF protocol is a custom binary serialization protocol. It has two formats, AMF0 and AMF3. An Action Message consists of headers and bodies. Several data types are supported in AMF0 and AMF3. For example the AMF3 format supports the following protocol elements with their type identifier:
Details about the binary message formats of AMF0 and AMF3 can be found on Wikipedia (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_Message_Format).
    There are several implementations for AMF in different languages. For Java we have Adobe BlazeDS (now Apache BlazeDS), which is also used in Adobe ColdFusion.
    The BlazeDS AMF serializer can serialize complex object graphs. The serializer starts with the root object and serializes its members recursively.
    Two general serialization techniques are supported by BlazeDS to serialize complex objects:
    1. Serialization of Bean Properties (AMF0 and AMF3)
    2. Serialization using Java's java.io.Externalizable interface. (AMF3)

    Serialization of Bean Properties

    This technique requires the object to be serialized to have a public no-arg constructor and for every member public Getter-and Setter-Methods (JavaBeans convention).
    In order to collect all member values of an object, the AMF serializer invokes all Getter-methods during serialization. The member names and values are put in the Action message body with the class name of the object.
    During deserialization, the classname is taken from the Action Message, a new object is constructed and for every member name the corresponding setmethod is called with the value as argument. This all happens either in method readScriptObject() of class flex.messaging.io.amf.Amf3Input or readObjectValue() of class flex.messaging.io.amf.Amf0Input.

    Serialization using Java's java.io.Externalizable interface

    BlazeDS further supports serialization of complex objects of classes implementing the java.io.Externalizable interface which inherits from java.io.Serializable.
    Every class implementing this interface needs to provide its own logic to deserialize itself by calling methods on the java.io.ObjectInput-implementation to read serialized primitive types and Strings (e.g. method read(byte[] paramArrayOfByte)).
    During deserialization of an object (type 0xa) in AMF3, the method readScriptObject()of class flex.messaging.io.amf.Amf3Input gets called. In line #759 the method readExternalizable is invoked which calls the readExternal() method on the object to be deserialized.

    This should be sufficient to serve as an introduction to Adobe ColdFusion and AMF.

    Previous work

    Chris Gates (@Carnal0wnage) published the paper ColdFusion for Pentesters which is an excellent introduction to Adobe ColdFusion.
    Wouter Coekaerts (@WouterCoekaerts) already showed in his blog post that deserializing untrusted AMF data is dangerous.
    Looking at the history of Adobe ColdFusion vulnerabilities at Flexera/Secunia's database you can find mostly XSS', XXE's and information disclosures.
    The most recent ones are:
    • Deserialization of untrusted data over RMI (CVE-2017-11283/4 by @nickstadb)
    • XXE (CVE-2017-11286 by Daniel Lawson of @depthsecurity)
    • XXE (CVE-2016-4264 by @dawid_golunski)


    In 2017 Moritz Bechler of AgNO3 GmbH and my teammate Markus Wulftange discovered independently the vulnerability CVE-2017-3066 in Apache BlazeDS.
    The core problem of this vulnerability was that Adobe Coldfusion never did any whitelisting of allowed classes. Thus any class in the classpath of Adobe ColdFusion, which either fulfills the Java Beans Convention or implements java.io.Externalizable could be sent to the server and get deserialized. Both Moritz and Markus found JRE classes (sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef2sun.rmi.server.UnicastRef) which implemented the java.io.Externalizable interface and triggered an outgoing TCP connection during AMF3 deserialization. After the connection was made to the attacker's server, its response was deserialized using Java's native deserialization using ObjectInputStream.readObject(). Both found a great "bridge" from AMF deserialization to Java's native deserialization which offers well known exploitation primitives using public gadgets. Details about the vulnerability can also be found in Markus' blog post.
    Apache introduced validation through the class flex.messaging.validators.ClassDeserializationValidator. It has a default whitelist but can also be configured with a configuration file. For details see the Apache BlazeDS release notes.

    Finding exploitation primitives before CVE-2017-3066

    As already mentioned in the very beginning my teammate Thomas required an exploit which also works without outgoing connection.
    I had a quick look into the excellent research paper "Java Unmarshaller Security" of Moritz Bechler where he analysed several "Unmarshallers" including BlazeDS. The exploitation payloads he discovered weren't applicable since the libraries were missing in the classpath.
    So I started with my typical approach, fired up my favorite "reverse engineering tool" when it comes to Java, Eclipse. Eclipse together with the powerful decompiler plugin "JD-Eclipse" (https://github.com/java-decompiler/jd-eclipse) is all you need for static and dynamic analysis. As a former Dev I was used to work with IDE's which make your life easier and decompiling and grepping through code is often very inefficient and error prone. So I created a new Java project and added all jar-files of Adobe Coldfusion 12 as external libraries.
    The first idea was to look for further calls to Java's ObjectInputStream.readObject-method. Using Eclipse this is very easy. Just open class ObjectInputStream, right click on the readObject() method and click "Open Call Hierarchy". Thanks to JD-Eclipse and its decompiler, Eclipse is able to construct call graphs based on class information without having any source. The call graph looks big in the very beginning. But with some experience you see very quickly which nodes in the graph are interesting.
    After some hours I found two promising call graphs.

    Setter-based Exploit

    The first one starts with method setState(byte[] new_state) of class org.jgroups.blocks.ReplicatedTree.

    Looking at the implementation of this method, we already can imagine what is happening in line #605. A quick look at the call graph confirms that we eventually end up in a call to ObjectInputStream.readObject().

    The only thing to mention here is that the byte[] passed to setState()needs to have an additional byte 0x2 at offset 0x0 as we can see from line 364 of class org.jgroups.util.Util.
    The exploit can be found in the following image.

    The exploit works against Adobe ColdFusion 12 only since JGroups is only available in this specific version.

    Externalizable-based Exploit

    The second call graph starts in class org.apache.axis2.util.MetaDataEntrywith a call to readExternal which is what we are looking for.

    In line #297 we have a call to SafeObjectInputStream.install(inObject).
    In this function our AMF3Input instance gets wrapped by a org.apache.axis2.context.externalize.SafeObjectInputStreaminstance.
    In line #341 a new instance of class org.apache.axis2.context.externalize.ObjectInputStreamWithCL is created. This class just extends the standard java.io.ObjectInputStream. In line #342 we finally have our call to readObject().
    The following image shows the request for the exploit.

    The exploit works against Adobe ColdFusion 11 and 12.


    To make your life easier I created the simple tool ColdFusionPwn. It works on the command line and allows you to generate the serialized AMF message. It incorporates Chris Frohoff's ysoserial for gadget generation. It can be found on our github.


    Deserializing untrusted input is bad, that's for sure. From an exploiters perspective exploiting deserialization vulnerabilities is a challenging task since you need to find the "right" objects (gadgets) which trigger functionality you can reuse for exploitation. But it's also more fun :-)

    By the way: If you want to make a deep dive into serverside Java Exploitation and all sorts of deserialization vulnerabilities and how to do proper static and dynamic analysis in Java, you might be interested in our upcoming "Advanced Java Exploitation" course.

    Poor RichFaces

    30 May 2018 at 13:00

    RichFaces is one of the most popular component libraries for JavaServer Faces (JSF). In the past, two vulnerabilities (CVE-2013-2165 and CVE-2015-0279) have been found that allow RCE in versions 3.x ≤ 3.3.3 and 4.x ≤ 4.5.3. Code White discovered two new vulnerabilities which bypass the implemented mitigations. Thereby, all RichFaces versions including the latest 3.3.4 and 4.5.17 are vulnerable to RCE.


    JavaServer Faces (JSF) is a framework for building user interfaces for web applications. While there are only two major JSF implementations (i. e., Apache MyFaces and Oracle Mojarra), there are several component libraries, which provide additional UI components and features. RichFaces is one of the most popular libraries among these component libraries and since it became part of JBoss (and thereby also part of Red Hat), it is also part of several JBoss/Red Hat products, for example JBoss EAP and JBoss Portal.[1]

    RichFaces has three major version branches: 3.x, 4.x, and 5.x. However, as 5.x has never left alpha state, it is rather irrelevant. In early 2016, the developers of RichFaces announced the end-of-life of RichFaces in June 2016. The latest releases of the respective branches are 3.3.4 and 4.5.17.

    The Past

    In the past, two significant vulnerabilities have been discovered by Takeshi Terada of MBSD, which both affect various RichFaces versions:

    CVE-2013-2165: Arbitrary Java Deserialization in RichFaces 3.x ≤ 3.3.3 and 4.x ≤ 4.3.2
    Deserialization of arbitrary Java serialized object streams in org.ajax4jsf.resource.ResourceBuilderImpl allows remote code execution.
    CVE-2015-0279: Arbitrary EL Evaluation in RichFaces 4.x ≤ 4.5.3 (RF-13977)
    Injection of arbitrary EL method expressions in org.richfaces.resource.MediaOutputResource allows remote code execution.

    Both vulnerabilities rely on the feature to generate images, video, sounds, and other resources on the fly based on data provided in the request. The provided data is either interpreted as a plain array of bytes or as a Java serialized object stream. In RichFaces 3.x, the data gets appended to the URL path preceded by either /DATB/ (byte array) or /DATA/ (Java serialized object stream); in RichFaces 4.x, the data is transmitted in a request parameter named db (byte array) or do (Java serialized object stream). In all cases, the binary data is compressed using DEFLATE and then encoded using a URL-safe Base64 encoding.

    CVE-2013-2165: Arbitrary Java Deserialization

    This vulnerability is a straight forward Java deserialization vulnerability. When a RichFaces 3.x resource is requested, it eventually gets processed by ResourceBuilderImpl.getResourceDataForKey(String). If the requested resource key begins with /DATA/, the remaining data gets decoded and decompressed (using ResourceBuilderImpl.decrypt(byte[]), which actually, despite its name, does not incorporate encryption[2]) and finally deserialized without any further validation.

    In RichFaces 4.x, it is basically the same: the org.richfaces.resource.DefaultCodecResourceRequestData holds the request data passed via db/do and Util.decodeObjectData(String) is used in the latter case. That method then decodes and decompresses the data in a similar way and finally deserializes it without any further validation.

    This can be exploited with ysoserial using a suitable gadget.

    The arbitrary Java deserialization was patched in RichFaces 3.3.4 and 4.3.3 by introducing look-ahead deserialization with a limited set of whitelisted classes.[3] Due to several aftereffects, the list was extended occasionally.[4]

    CVE-2015-0279: Arbitrary EL Evaluation

    The RichFaces issue RF-13977 corresponding to this vulnerability is public and actually quite detailed. It describes that the RichFaces Showcase application utilizes the MediaOutputResource dynamic resource builder. The data object passed in the do URL parameter holds the state object, which is used by MediaOutputResource.restoreState(FacesContext, Object) to restore its state. This includes the contentProducer field, which is expected to be a MethodExpression object. That MethodExpression later gets invoked by MediaOutputResource.encode(FacesContext) to pass execution to the referenced method to generate the resource's contents. In the mentioned example, the EL method expression #{mediaBean.process} references the process method of a Java Bean named mediaBean.

    Now the problem with that is that the EL expression can be changed, even just with basic Linux utilities. There is no protection in place that would prevent one from tampering with it. Depending on the EL implementation, this allows arbitrary code execution, as demonstrated by the reporter:

    However, exploitation of this vulnerability is not always that easy. Especially if there is no existing sample of a valid do state object that can be tampered with. Because if one would want to create the state object, it would require the use of compatible libraries, otherwise the deserialization may fail. Moreover, the EL implementation does not allow arbitrary expressions with parameterized invocations in method expressions as this has only just been added in EL 2.2. EL exploitation is quite an interesting topic in itself.

    The patch for this issue introduced in RichFaces 4.5.4 was to check the expression of the contentProducer whether it contains a parenthesis. This would prevent the invocation of methods with parameters like loadClass("java.lang.Runtime").

    The Present

    The kind of the past vulnerabilities led to the assumption that there may be a way to bypass the mitigations. And after some research, two ways were found to gain remote code execution in a similar manner also affecting the latest RichFaces versions 3.3.4 and 4.5.17:

    RF-14310: Arbitrary EL Evaluation in RichFaces 3.x ≤ 3.3.4
    Injection of arbitrary EL expressions allows remote code execution via org.richfaces.renderkit.html.Paint2DResource.
    RF-14309: Arbitrary EL Evaluation in RichFaces 4.5.3 ≤ 4.5.17
    Injection of arbitrary EL variable mapper allows to bypass mitigation of CVE-2015-0279 and thereby remote code execution.

    Although the issues RF-14309 and RF-14310 were discovered in the order of their identifier, we'll explain them in the opposite order. Also note that the issues are not public but only visible to persons responsible to resolve security issues.

    RF-14310: Arbitrary EL Evaluation

    This vulnerability is very similar to CVE-2015-0279/RF-13799. While the injection of arbitrary EL expressions was possible right from the beginning, there is always a need to get them triggered somehow. This similarity was found in the org.richfaces.renderkit.html.Paint2DResource class. When a resource of that type gets requested, its send(ResourceContext) method gets called. The resource data transmitted in the request must be an org.richfaces.renderkit.html.Paint2DResource$ImageData object. This passes the whitelisting as ImageData extends org.ajax4jsf.resource.SerializableResource, which actually was introduced in 3.3.4 to fix the Java deserialization vulnerability.

    RF-14309: Arbitrary EL Evaluation

    As the patch to CVE-2015-0279 introduced in 4.5.4 disallowed the use of parenthesis in the EL method expression of the contentProducer, it seemed like a dead end. But if you are fimilar with EL internals, you would know that they can have custom function mappers and variable mappers, which are used by the ELResolver to resolve functions (i. e., name in ${prefix:name()}) and variables (i. e., var in ${var.property}) to Method and ValueExpression instances respectively. Fortunately, various VariableMapper implementations were added to the whitelist starting with 4.5.3.[5]

    So to exploit this, all that is needed is to use a variable in the contentProducer method expression like ${dummy.toString} and add an appropriate VariableMapper to the method expression that maps dummy to a ValueExpression of your choice.

    The Future

    RichFaces has reached its end-of-life in June 2016 and their RichFaces End-Of-Life Questions & Answers is pretty clear on the time thereafter:

    What will happen if a serious bug or security issue is discovered in the future?

    There will be no patches after the end of support. In case of discovering a serious issue you will have to develop a patch yourself or switch to another framework.

    RichFaces End-Of-Life Questions & Answers

    So we can't expect official patches.

    The Bonus

    While looking for ways to exploit the recent versions of RichFaces, there were two classes in the JSF API 2.0 and later, which seemed promising:

    The interesting thing about these classes is that they have a equals(Object) method, which eventually calls getType(ELContext) on a EL value expression. For example, if equals(Object) gets called on a ValueExpressionValueBindingAdapter object with a ValueExpression object as other, getType(ELContext) of other gets called. And as the value expression has to be evaluated to determine its resulting type, this can be used as a Java deserialization primitive to execute EL value expressions on deserialization.

    This is very similar to the Myfaces1 and Myfaces2 gadgets in ysoserial.[6] However, while they require Apache MyFaces, this one is independent from the JSF implementation and only requires a matching EL implementation.

    Unfortunately, this gadget does not work for RichFaces. The reason for that is that ValueExpressionValueBindingAdapter needs to have a valid value binding as getType(ELContext) gets called first. But javax.faces.el.ValueBinding is not whitelisted. And wrapping it in a StateHolderSaver does not work because the state object is of type Object[] and therefore the cast to Serializable[] in StateHolderSaver.restore(FacesContext) fails.[7] This is probably a bug in RichFaces as Serializable[] is not whitelisted either although StateHolderSaver uses Serializable[] internally on StateHolder instances.


    It has been shown that all RichFaces versions 3.x and 4.x including the latest 3.3.4 and 4.5.17 are exploitable by one or multiple vulnerabilities:

    • RichFaces 3
      • 3.1.0 ≤ 3.3.3: CVE-2013-2165
      • 3.1.0 ≤ 3.3.4: RF-14310
    • RichFaces 4
      • 4.0.0 ≤ 4.3.2: CVE-2013-2165
      • 4.0.0 ≤ 4.5.4: CVE-2015-0279
      • 4.5.3 ≤ 4.5.17: RF-14309

    As we can't expect official patches, one way to mitigate all these vulnerabilities is to block requests to the concerned URLs:

    • Blocking requests of URLs with paths containing /DATA/ should mitigate CVE-2013-2165 and RF-14310.
    • Blocking requests of URLs with paths containing org.richfaces.resource.MediaOutputResource (literally or URL encoded) should mitigate CVE-2015-0279 and RF-14309.

    Marshalling to SYSTEM - An analysis of CVE-2018-0824

    15 June 2018 at 13:19
    By: Unknown
    In May 2018 Microsoft patched an interesting vulnerability (CVE-2018-0824) which was reported by Nicolas Joly of Microsoft's MSRC:
    A remote code execution vulnerability exists in "Microsoft COM for Windows" when it fails to properly handle serialized objects. An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could use a specially crafted file or script to perform actions. In an email attack scenario, an attacker could exploit the vulnerability by sending the specially crafted file to the user and convincing the user to open the file. In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a website (or leverage a compromised website that accepts or hosts user-provided content) that contains a specially crafted file that is designed to exploit the vulnerability. However, an attacker would have no way to force the user to visit the website. Instead, an attacker would have to convince the user to click a link, typically by way of an enticement in an email or Instant Messenger message, and then convince the user to open the specially crafted file. The security update addresses the vulnerability by correcting how "Microsoft COM for Windows" handles serialized objects.
    The keywords "COM" and "serialized" pretty much jumped into my face when the advisory came out. Since I had already spent several months of research time on Microsoft COM last year I decided to look into it. Although the vulnerability can result in remote code execution, I'm only interested in the privilege escalation aspects.

    Before I go into details I want to give you a quick introduction into COM and how deserialization/marshalling works. As I'm far from being an expert on COM, all this information is either based on the great book "Essential COM" by Don Box or the awesome Infiltrate '17 Talk "COM in 60 seconds". I have skipped several details (IDL/MIDL, Apartments, Standard Marshalling, etc.) just to keep the introduction short.

    Introduction to COM and Marshalling

    COM (Component Object Model) is a Windows middleware having reusable code (=component) as a primary goal. In order to develop reusable C++ code, Microsoft engineers designed COM in an object-oriented manner having the following key aspects in mind:
    • Portability
    • Encapsulation
    • Polymorphism
    • Separation of interfaces from implementation
    • Object extensibility
    • Resource Management
    • Language independence

    COM objects are defined by an interface and implementation class. Both interface and implementation class are identified by a GUID. A COM object can implement several interfaces using inheritance.
    All COM objects implement the IUnknown interface which looks like the following class definition in C++:

    The QueryInterface() method is used to cast a COM object to a different interface implemented by the COM object. The AddRef() and Release() methods are used for reference counting.

    Just to keep it short I rather go on with an existing COM object instead of creating an artificial example COM object.A Control Panel COM object is identified by the GUID {06622D85-6856-4460-8DE1-A81921B41C4B}. To find out more about the COM object we could analyze the registry manually or just use the great tool "OleView .NET".

    The "Control Panel" COM object implements several interfaces as we can see in the screenshot of OleView .NET: The implementation class of the COM object (COpenControlPanel) can be found in shell32.dll. To open a "Control Panel" programmatically we make use of the COM API:
    • In line 6 we initialize the COM environment
    • In line 7 we create an instance of a "Control Panel" object
    • In line 8 we cast the instance to the IOpenControlPanel interface
    • In line 9 we open the "Control Panel" by calling the "Open" method
    Inspecting the COM object in the debugger after running until line 9 shows us the virtual function table (vTable) of the object:

    The function pointers in the vTable of the object point to the actual implementation functions in shell32.dll. The reason for that is that the COM object was created as a so called InProc server which means that shell32.dllgot loaded into the current process address space. When passing CLSCTX_ALL, CoCreateInstance() tries to create an InProc server first. If it fails, other activation methods are tried (see CLSCTX enumeration).

    By changing the CLSCTX_ALL parameter to function CoCreateInstance() to CLSCTX_LOCAL_SERVER and running the program again we can notice some differences: The vTable of the object contains now function pointers from the OneCoreUAPCommonProxyStub.dll. And the 4th function pointer which corresponds to the Open()" method now points to OneCoreUAPCommonProxyStub!ObjectStublessClient3().

    The reason for that is that we created the COM object as an out-of-process server. The following diagram tries to give you an architectural overview (shamelessly borrowed from Project Zero):

    The function pointers in the COM object point to functions of the proxy class. When we execute the IOpenControlPanel::Open()" method, the method OneCoreUAPCommonProxyStub!ObjectStublessClient3() gets called on the proxy. The proxy class itself eventually calls RPC methods (e.g. RPCRT4!NdrpClientCall3) to send the parameters to the RPC server in the out-of-process server. The parameters need to get serialized/marshalled to send them over RPC. In the out-of-process-server the parameters get deserialized/unmarshalled and the Stub invokes shell32!COpenControlPanel::Open(). For non-complex parameters like strings the serialization/marshalling is trivial as these are sent by value.

    How about complex parameters like COM objects? As we can see from the method definition of IOpenControlPanel::Open() the third parameter is a pointer to an IUnknown COM object:
    The answer is that a complex object can either get marshalled by reference (standard marshalling) or the serialization/marshalling logic can be customized by implementing the IMarshal interface (custom marshalling).

    The IMarshal interface has a few methods as we can see in the following definition:
    During serialization/marshalling of a COM object the IMarshal::GetUnmarshalClass() method gets called by the COM which returns the GUID of the class to be used for unmarshalling. Then the method IMarshal::GetMarshalSizeMax() is called to prepare a buffer for marshalling data. Finally the IMarshal::MarshalInterface() method is called which writes the custom marshalling data to the IStream object. The COM runtime sends the GUID of the "Unmarshal class" and the IStream object via RPC to the server.

    On the server the COM runtime creates the "Unmarshal class" using the CoCreateInstance() function, casts it to the IMarshal interface using QueryInterface and eventually invokes the IMarshsal::UnmarshalInterface() method on the "Unmarshal class" instance, passing the IStream as a parameter.

    And that's also where all the misery starts ...

    Diffing the patch

    After downloading the patch for Windows 8.1 x64 and extracting the files, I found two patched DLLs related to Microsoft COM:
    • oleaut32.dll
    • comsvcs.dll
    Using Hexray's IDA Pro and Joxean Koret's Diaphora I analyzed the changes made by Microsoft.
    In oleaut32.dll several functions were changed but nothing special related to deserialisation/marshalling:

    In comsvcs.dll only four functions were changed:

    Clearly, one method stood out: CMarshalInterceptor::UnmarshalInterface().

    The method CMarshalInterceptor::UnmarshalInterface() is the implementation of the UnmarshalInterface() method of the IMarshal interface. As we already know from the introduction this method gets called during unmarshalling.

    The bug

    Further analysis was done on Windows 10 Redstone 4 (1803) including March patches (ISO from MSDN). In the very beginning of the method CMarshalInterceptor::UnmarshalInterface() 20 bytes are read from the IStream object into a buffer on the stack.

    Later the bytes in the buffer are compared against the GUID of the CMarshalInterceptor class (ECABAFCB-7F19-11D2-978E-0000F8757E2A). If the bytes in the stream match we reach the function CMarshalInterceptor::CreateRecorder().

    In function CMarshalInterceptor::CreateRecorder() the COM-API function ReadClassStm is called. This function reads a CLSID(GUID) from the IStream and stores it into a buffer on the stack. Then the CLSID gets compared against the GUID of a CompositeMoniker.
    As you may have already followed the different Moniker "vulnerabilities" in 2016/17 (URLMoniker, ScriptMoniker, SOAPMoniker), Monikers are definitely something you want to find in code which you might be able to trigger.

    The IMoniker interface inherits from IPersistStream which allows a COM object implementing it to load/save itself from/to an IStream object. Monikers identify objects uniquely and can locate, activate and get a reference to the object by calling the BindToObject() method of the IMoniker instance.

    If the CLSID doesn't match the GUID of the CompositeMoniker we follow the path to the right. Here, the COM-API functionCoCreateInstance() is called with the CLSID read from the IStream as the first parameter. If COM finds the specific class and is able to cast it to an IMoniker interface we reach the next basic block. Next, the IPersistStream::Load() method is called on the newly created instance which restores the saved Moniker state from the IStream object.

    And finally we reach the call to BindToObject() which triggers all evil ...

    Exploiting the bug

    For exploitation I'm following the same approach as described in the bug tracker issue "DCOM DCE/RPC Local NTLM Reflection Elevation of Privilege" by Project Zero.
    I'm creating a fake COM Object class which implements the IStorage and IMarshal interfaces.

    All implementation methods for the IStorage interface will be forwarded to a real IStorage instance as we will see later. Since we are implementing custom marshalling, the COM runtime wants to know which class will be used to deserialize/unmarshal our fake object. Therefore the COM runtime calls IMarshal::GetUnmarshalClass(). To trigger the Moniker, we just need to return the GUID of the "QC Marshal Interceptor Class" class (ECABAFCB-7F19-11D2-978E-0000F8757E2A).

    The final step is to implement the IMarshal::MarshalInterface() method. As you already know the method gets called by the COM runtime to marshal an object into an IStream.
    To trigger the call to IMoniker::BindToObject(), we only need to write the required bytes to the IStream object to satisfy all conditions in CMarshalInterceptor::UnmarshalInterface().

    I tried to create a Script Moniker COM object with CLSID {06290BD3-48AA-11D2-8432-006008C3FBFC} using CoCreateInstance(). But hey, I got a "REGDB_E_CLASSNOTREG" error code. Looks like Microsoft introduced some changes. Apparently, the Script Moniker wouldn't work anymore. So I thought of exploiting the bug using the "URLMoniker/hta file". But luckily I remembered that in the method CMarshalInterceptor::CreateRecorder() we had a check for a CompositeMoniker CLSID.

    So following the left path, we have a basic block in which 4 bytes are read from the stream into the stack buffer (var_78). Next we have a call to CMarshalInterceptor::LoadAndCompose() with the IStream, a pointer to an IMoniker interface pointer and the value from the stack buffer as parameters.

    In this method an IMoniker instance is read and created from the IStream using the OleLoadFromStream() COM-API function. Later in the method, CMarshalInterceptor::LoadAndCompose() is called recursively to compose a CompositeMoniker. By invoking IMoniker::ComposeWith() a new IMoniker is created being a composition of two monikers. The pointer to the new CompositeMoniker will be stored in the pointer which was passed to the current function as parameter. As we have seen in one of the previous screenshots the BindToObject() method will be called on the CompositeMoniker later on.

    As I remembered from Haifei Li's blog post there was a way to create a Script Moniker by composing a File Moniker and a New Moniker. Armed with that knowledge I implemented the final part of the IMarshal::MarshalInterface() method.

    I placed a SCT file in "c:\temp\poc.sct" which runs notepad from an ActiveXObject. Then I tried BITS as a target server first which didn't work.

    Using OleView .NET I found out that BITS doesn't support custom marshalling (see EOAC_NO_CUSTOM_MARSHAL). But the SearchIndexer service with CLSID {06622d85-6856-4460-8de1-a81921b41c4b} was running as SYSTEM and allowed custom marshalling.
    So I created a PoC which has the following main() function.

    The call to CoGetInstanceFromIStorage() will activate the target COM server and trigger the serialization of the FakeObject instance. Since the COM-API function requires an IStorage as a parameter, we had to implement the IStorage interface in our FakeObject class.
    After running the POC we finally have a "notepad.exe" running as SYSTEM.

    The POC can be found on our github.

    The patch

    Microsoft is now checking a flag read from the Thread-local storage. The flag is set in a different method not related to marshalling. If the flag isn't set, the function CMarshalInterceptor::UnmarshalInterface() will exit early without reading anything from the IStream.


    Serialization/Unmarshalling without validating the input is bad. That's for sure.
    Although this blog post only covers the privilege escalation aspect, the vulnerability can also be triggered from Microsoft Office or by an Active X running in the browser. But I will leave this as an exercise to the reader :-)

    LethalHTA - A new lateral movement technique using DCOM and HTA

    6 July 2018 at 12:08
    By: Unknown

    The following blog post introduces a new lateral movement technique that combines the power of DCOM and HTA. The research on this technique is partly an outcome of our recent research efforts on COM Marshalling: Marshalling to SYSTEM - An analysis of CVE-2018-0824.

    Previous Work

    Several lateral movement techniques using DCOM were discovered in the past by Matt Nelson, Ryan Hanson, Philip Tsukerman and @bohops. A good overview of all the known techniques can be found in the blog post by Philip Tsukerman. Most of the existing techniques execute commands via ShellExecute(Ex). Some COM objects provided by Microsoft Office allow you to execute script code (e.g VBScript) which makes detection and forensics even harder.


    LethalHTA is based on a very well-known COM object that was used in all the Office Moniker attacks in the past (see FireEye's blog post):

    • ProgID: "htafile"
    • CLSID : "{3050F4D8-98B5-11CF-BB82-00AA00BDCE0B}"
    • AppID : "{40AEEAB6-8FDA-41E3-9A5F-8350D4CFCA91}"
    Using James Forshaw's OleViewDotNet we get some details on the COM object. The COM object runs as local server.

    It has an App ID and default launch and access permissions. Only COM objects having an App ID can be used for lateral movement.

    It also implements various interfaces as we can see from OleViewDotNet.

    One of the interfaces is IPersistMoniker. This interface is used to save/restore a COM object's state to/from an IMoniker instance.

    Our initial plan was to create the COM object and restore its state by calling the IPersistMoniker->Load() method with a URLMoniker pointing to an HTA file. So we created a small program and run it in VisualStudio.

    But calling IPersistMoniker->Load() returned an error code 0x80070057. After some debugging we realized that the error code came from a call to CUrlMon::GetMarshalSizeMax(). That method is called during custom marshalling of a URLMoniker. This makes perfect sense since we called IPersistMoniker->Load() with a URLMoniker as a parameter. Since we do a method call on a remote COM object the parameters need to get (custom) marshalled and sent over RPC to the RPC endpoint of the COM server.

    So looking at the implementation of CUrlMon::GetMarshalSizeMax() in IDA Pro we can see a call to CUrlMon::ValidateMarshalParams() at the very beginning.

    At the very end of this function we can find the error code set as return value of the function. Microsoft is validating the dwDestContext parameter. If the parameter is MSHCTX_DIFFERENTMACHINE (0x2) then we eventually reach the error code.

    As we can see from the references to CUrlMon::ValidateMarshalParams() the method is called from several functions during marshalling.

    In order to bypass the validation we can take the same approach as described in our last blog post: Creating a fake object. The fake object needs to implement IMarshal and IMoniker. It forwards all calls to the URLMoniker instance. To bypass the validation the implementation methods for CUrlMon::GetMarshalSizeMax, CUrlMon::GetUnmarshalClass, CUrlMon::MarshalInterface need to modify the dwDestContext parameter to MSHCTX_NOSHAREDMEM(0x1). The implementation for CUrlMon::GetMarshalSizeMax() is shown in the following code snippet.

    And that's all we need to bypass the validation. Of course we could also patch the code in urlmon.dll. But that would require us to call VirtualProtect() to make the page writable and modify CUrlMon::ValidateMarshalParams() to always return zero. Calling VirtualProtect() might get caught by EDR or "advanced" AV products so we wouldn't recommend it.

    Now we are able to call the IPersistMoniker->Load() on the remote COM object. The COM object implemented in mshta.exe will load the HTA file from the URL and evaluate its content. As you already know the HTA file can contain script code such as JScript or VBScript. You can even combine our technique with James Forshaw's DotNetToJScript to run your payload directly from memory!

    It should be noted that the file doesn't necessarily need to have the hta file extension. Extensions such as html, txt, rtf work fine as well as no extension at all.

    LethalHTA and LethalHTADotNet

    We created implementations of our technique in C++ and C#. You can run them as standalone programms. The C++ version is more a proof-of-concept and might help you creating a reflective DLL from it. The C# version can also be loaded as an Assembly with Assembly.Load(Byte[]) which makes it easy to use it in a Powershell script. You can find both implementations under releases on our GitHub.

    CobaltStrike Integration

    To be able to easily use this technique in our day-to-day work we created a Cobalt Strike Aggressor Script called LethalHTA.cna that integrates the .NET implementation (LethalHTADotNet) into Cobalt Strike by providing two distinct methods for lateral movement that are integrated into the GUI, named HTA PowerShell Delivery (staged - x86) and HTA .NET In-Memory Delivery (stageless - x86/x64 dynamic)

    The HTA PowerShell Delivery method allows to execute a PowerShell based, staged beacon on the target system. Since the PowerShell beacon is staged, the target systems need to be able to reach the HTTP(S) host and TeamServer (which are in most cases on the same system).

    The HTA .NET In-Memory Delivery takes the technique a step further by implementing a memory-only solution that provides far more flexibility in terms of payload delivery and stealth. Using the this option it is possible to tunnel the HTA delivery/retrieval process through the beacon and also to specify a proxy server. If the target system is not able to reach the TeamServer or any other Internet-connected system, an SMB listener can be used instead. This allows to reach systems deep inside the network by bootstrapping an SMB beacon on the target and connecting to it via named pipe from one of the internal beacons.

    Due to the techniques used, everything is done within the mshta.exe process without creating additional processes.

    The combination of two techniques, in addition to the HTA attack vector described above, is used to execute everything in-memory. Utilizing DotNetToJScript, we are able to load a small .NET class (SCLoader) that dynamically determines the processes architecture (x86 or x64) and then executes the included stageless beacon shellcode. This technique can also be re-used in other scenarios where it is not apparent which architecture is used before exploitation.

    For a detailed explanation of the steps involved visit our GitHub Project.


    To detect our technique you can watch for files inside the INetCache (%windir%\[System32 or SysWOW64]\config\systemprofile\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\IE\) folder containing "ActiveXObject". This is due to mshta.exe caching the payload file. Furthermore it can be detected by an mshta.exe process spawned by svchost.exe.

    Telerik Revisited

    7 February 2019 at 10:04

    In 2017, several vulnerabilities were discovered in Telerik UI, a popular UI component library for .NET web applications. Although details and working exploits are public, it often proves to be a good idea to take a closer look at it. Because sometimes it allows you to explore new avenues of exploitation.


    Telerik UI for ASP.NET is a popular UI component library for ASP.NET web applications. In 2017, several vulnerabilities were discovered, potentially resulting in remote code execution:

    CVE-2017-9248: Cryptographic Weakness
    A cryptographic weakness allows the disclosure of the encryption key (Telerik.Web.UI.DialogParametersEncryptionKey and/or the MachineKey) used to protect the DialogParameters via an oracle attack. It can be exploited to forge a functional file manager dialog and upload arbitrary files and/or compromise the ASP.NET ViewState in case of the latter.
    CVE-2017-11317: Hard-coded default key
    A hard-coded default key is used to encrypt/decrypt the AsyncUploadConfiguration, which holds the path where uploaded files are stored temporarily. It can be exploited to upload files to arbitrary locations.
    CVE-2017-11357: Insecure Direct Object Reference
    The name of the file stored in the location specified in AsyncUploadConfiguration is taken from the request and thus allows the upload of files with arbitrary extension.

    The vulnerabilities were fixed in R2 2017 SP1 (2017.2.621) and R2 2017 SP2 (2017.2.711), respectively. As for CVE-2017-9248, there is an analysis by PatchAdvisor[1] that gives some insights and exploitation hints. And regarding CVE-2017-11317, the detailed writeup by @straight_blast seems to have been published even half a year before Telerik published an updated version. It describes in detail how the vulnerability was discovered and how it can be exploited to upload an arbitrary file to an arbitrary location. If you're unfamiliar with these vulnerabilities, you may want to read the linked advisories first to get a better understanding.

    The Catch

    Although the vulnerabilities sound promising, they all have their catch: exploiting CVE-2017-9248 requires many thousands of requests, which can be pretty noticeable and suspicious. And unless it is actually possible to leak the MachineKey (which would allow an exploitation via deserialization of arbitrary ObjectStateFormatter stream), a file upload to an arbitrary location (i. e., CVE-2017-11317) is still limited to the knowledge of an appropriate location with sufficient write permissions.

    The problem here is that by default the account that the IIS worker process w3wp.exe runs with is a special account like IIS AppPool\DefaultAppPool. And such an account usually does not have write permissions to the web document root directory like C:\inetpub\wwwroot or similar. Additionally, the web document root of the web application can also be somewhere else and may not be known. So simply writing an ASP.NET web shell probably won't work in many cases.

    The Dead End

    This was exactly the case when we faced Managed Workplace RMM by Avast Business in a red team assessment where we didn't want to make too much noise. Additionally, unauthenticated access to all *.aspx pages except for Login.aspx was denied, i. e., the handler Telerik.Web.UI.DialogHandler.aspx for exploiting CVE-2017-9248 was not reachable, and the other one, Telerik.Web.UI.SpellCheckHandler.axd, was not registered. So, CVE-2017-11317 seemed to be the only option left.

    By enumerating known versions of Telerik Web UI, one request to upload to C:\Windows\Temp was finally successful. But an upload to C:\inetpub\wwwroot did not succeed. And since we did not have access to an installation of Managed Workplace, we had no insights into its directory structure. So this seemed to be a dead end.

    The New Avenue

    While tracing the path of the provided rauPostData through the Telerik code, there was one aspect that became apparent that was never mentioned before by anyone else: The exploitation of CVE-2017-11317 was always advertised as an arbitrary upload. This seems obvious as the handler's name is AsyncUploadHandler and rauPostData contains the upload configuration.

    But after taking a closer look at the code that processes the rauPostData, it showed that the rauPostData is expected to consist of two parts separated by a &.

    // Telerik.Web.UI.AsyncUpload.SerializationService internal static object Deserialize(string obj, Type type) {  JavaScriptSerializer serializer = SerializationService.GetSerializer(obj.Length);  SerializationService.ApplyConverters(type, serializer);  MethodInfo methodInfo = typeof(JavaScriptSerializer).GetMethod("Deserialize", new Type[]  {   typeof(string)  }, null).MakeGenericMethod(new Type[]  {   type  });  return methodInfo.Invoke(serializer, new object[]  {   obj  }); }

    The first part is the JSON data (line 9). And the second part is the assembly qualified type name (line 10) that the JSON data should be deserialize to. The call in line 11 then ends up in SerializationService.Deserialize(string, Type).

    // Telerik.Web.UI.AsyncUploadHandler internal IAsyncUploadConfiguration GetConfiguration(string rawData) {  string[] array = rawData.Split(new char[]  {   '&'  });  string obj = array[0];  Type type = Type.GetType(CryptoService.GetService().Decrypt(array[1]));  IAsyncUploadConfiguration asyncUploadConfiguration = (IAsyncUploadConfiguration)SerializationService.Deserialize(obj, type, true);  if (!this.IsValidHMac(asyncUploadConfiguration.TargetFolder) || !this.IsValidHMac(asyncUploadConfiguration.TempTargetFolder))  {   throw new CryptographicException("The hash is not valid!");  }  asyncUploadConfiguration.TargetFolder = AsyncUploadHandler.DecryptFolder(this.GetEncryptedText(asyncUploadConfiguration.TargetFolder));  asyncUploadConfiguration.TempTargetFolder = AsyncUploadHandler.DecryptFolder(this.GetEncryptedText(asyncUploadConfiguration.TempTargetFolder));  return asyncUploadConfiguration; }

    Here a JavaScriptSerializer gets parameterized with the type provided in the rauPostData. That means this is an arbitrary JavaScriptSerializer deserialization!

    From the research Friday the 13th JSON Attacks by Alvaro Muñoz & Oleksandr Mirosh it is known that arbitrary JavaScriptSerializer deserialization can be harmful if the expected type can be specified by the attacker. During deserialization, appropriate setter methods get called. A suitable gadget is the System.Configuration.Install.AssemblyInstaller, which allows the loading of a DLL by specifying its path. If the DLL is a mixed mode assembly, its DllMain() entry point gets called on load, which allows the execution of arbitrary code in the context of the w3wp.exe process.

    This allowed the remote code execution on Managed Workplace without authentication. The issue has been addressed and should be fixed in Managed Workplace 11 SP4 MR2.


    So CVE-2017-11317 can be exploited even without the requirement of being able to write to the web document root:

    1. Upload a mixed mode assembly DLL to a writable location using the regular AsyncUploadConfiguration exploit.
    2. Load the uploaded DLL and thereby trigger its DllMain() function using the AssemblyInstaller exploit described above.

    This is an excellent example that revisiting old vulnerabilities can be worthwhile and result in new ways out of a supposed dead end.