Type packetstorm
Reporter Ulf Harnhammar
Modified 2002-09-11T00:00:00


                                            `PHP fopen() CRLF Injection  
VENDOR: The PHP Group <>  
VULNERABLE VERSIONS: 4.1.2, 4.2.2, 4.2.3, latest CVS, possibly others  
IMMUNE VERSIONS: none, but workarounds exist  
SEVERITY: medium  
"PHP is a widely-used Open Source general-purpose scripting language  
that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded  
into HTML. Its syntax draws upon C, Java, and Perl, and is easy  
to learn. PHP runs on many different platforms and can be used  
as a standalone executable or as a module under a variety of Web  
servers. It has excellent support for databases, XML, LDAP, IMAP,  
Java, various Internet protocols, and general data manipulation,  
and is extensible via its powerful API."  
(direct quote from the program's project page at Freshmeat)  
PHP is published under the terms of The PHP License. It is installed  
on millions of web servers.  
fopen(), file() and other functions in PHP have a vulnerability  
that makes it possible to add extra HTTP headers to HTTP  
queries. Attackers may use it to escape certain restrictions,  
like what host to access on a web server. In some cases, this  
vulnerability even opens up for arbitrary net connections, turning  
some PHP scripts into proxies and open mail relays.  
PHP has several functions that take filenames as one of their  
arguments: fopen(), file() and some others. If allow_url_fopen is  
set to On in php.ini, those functions also accept URLs instead of  
regular files, and they connect to the server in question with the  
correct protocol. This functionality is vulnerable to some CRLF  
Injection attacks.  
1) We start with the simple attacks. Let's say that this PHP snippet  
is saved as snippet.php:  
echo '<pre>';  
echo '</pre>';  
If an attacker surfs to:  
(should be on one line)  
this HTTP query will be sent to  
GET /api?sunnan=visby&vind=gotland HTTP/1.0  
User-Agent: Ulf/0.0  
Cookie: user=ulf  
User-Agent: PHP/4.1.2  
As you can see, the real headers from PHP are sent as well, but  
the web server ignores them, as we send two CRLFs before them to  
indicate that the headers are over.  
Using this technique, we can add arbitrary user agents, referers and  
cookies. We can also break out of restrictions and access  
instead of the site that snippet.php tries to restrict us  
to, if and are virtual hosts on the same machine.  
2) If the PHP script is even worse, like this one called dotcom.php:  
$fp = fopen($url, 'r');  
we can connect to arbitrary ports and send (almost) arbitrary  
commands, thus turning the dotcom.php script into a proxy and an  
open mail relay.  
If we surf to:  
(should be on one line)  
the PHP interpreter will connect to on port 25,  
and send the following commands:  
GET / HTTP/1.0  
HELO my.own.machine  
MAIL FROM:<me@my.own.machine>  
RCPT TO:<>  
i will never say the word PROCRASTINATE again  
User-Agent: PHP/4.1.2  
Both PHP and the MTA will complain, but the mail is still sent.  
For more information about this group of problems, read my "CRLF  
Injection" paper, which is available at  
All contact methods I could find were very public, like mailing  
lists and bug tracking systems. I ended up entering this security  
hole into their bug tracking system (as number 19160) on the 28th  
of August. The PHP developers are working on fixing this bug, but  
nothing have been committed to their CVS yet. I am releasing this  
anyway, as it is already public in their bug tracking system and  
as Matthew Murphy has published a related hole in PHP recently,  
thus making it more likely that some blackhat will find this too.  
One solution is to make sure that all variables that are used in this  
type of URL are clean, by including this command in your PHP scripts:  
$var = preg_replace('/\\s+/', '', $var);  
Another solution: if your scripts don't need to access URLs  
like files, you can switch off that functionality by setting  
allow_url_fopen to Off in php.ini.  
// Ulf Harnhammar