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The Perl open() function has several forms. The perlfunc(1) manpage lists the following:

open FILEHANDLE,EXPR
open FILEHANDLE,MODE,EXPR
open FILEHANDLE,MODE,EXPR,LIST
open FILEHANDLE,MODE,REFERENCE
open FILEHANDLE
Opens the file whose file name is given by EXPR and associates it with FILEHANDLE.

If the MODE argument is provided (that is, if open() is given three or more arguments), the MODE argument indicates if the file is opened for input or output. It can also indicate that rather than opening a file, the system should execute a shell command and treat it as an input file or an output file. If the two-argument form is used, the EXPR should contain both the MODE argument and file name to be opened or shell command to be executed.

If an attacker can provide a file name argument to be used in the two-argument form of open(), the attacker can instead provide a shell command, which gets executed by the program.

Noncompliant Code Example

This noncompliant code example uses the two-argument form of open().

Although this code clearly expects its file to be opened for reading, the file name might indicate a shell command. It might also indicate a file to be written rather than read.

Noncompliant Code Example (<)

This noncompliant code example attempts to mitigate the problem by prepending a < to the file name.

If $filename begins or ends with |, the preceding < forces it to be treated as a file name rather than a shell command. This code will not execute a shell command. However, an attacker could cause a program to hang by supplying - as the file name, which is interpreted by open() as reading standard input.

Noncompliant Code Example (<ARGV>)

This noncompliant code example uses the <ARGV> operator.

This code suffers from the same vulnerability as the first noncompliant code example. The <ARGV> operator opens every file provided in the @ARGV array and returns a line from each file. Unfortunately, it uses the two-argument form of open() to accomplish this task. If any element of @ARGV begins or ends with |, it is interpreted as a shell command and executed.

Noncompliant Code Example (<>)

This noncompliant code example uses the <> operator.

The <> operator is a synonym for <ARGV> and has the same behavior with the same vulnerability.

Noncompliant Code Example (-n)

This noncompliant code example uses the -n argument to Perl.

This code suffers from the same vulnerability as the previous noncompliant code example. The -n argument instructs Perl to open every file in the command line (in this case, every file in the current directory) and return a line from each file. If any argument in the command begins or ends with |, it is interpreted as a shell command and executed. In this manner, the -n operator acts exactly like the two-argument form of open().

Noncompliant Code Example (-p)

This noncompliant code example uses the -p argument to Perl.

This code suffers from the same vulnerability as the previous noncompliant code example. The -p argument instructs Perl to open every file in the command line (in this case, every file in the current directory) and return a line from each file. Unlike -n, -p also instructs Perl to print the line read (stored in $_) at the end of each iteration of its implicit loop. If any argument in the command begins or ends with |, it is interpreted as a shell command and executed. In this manner, the -n operator acts exactly like the two-argument form of open().

Compliant Solution

This compliant solution invokes open() with three arguments rather than two.

The three-argument invocations of open() are not subject to the same vulnerabilities as the two-argument open(). In this code, $filename is treated as a file name even if it contains characters that are treated specially by the two-argument open() function. For example, if $filename is specified as -, then the three-argument open() attempts to open a file named - rather than opening standard input.

Noncompliant Code Example (RT 3.8.8)

The RT (Request Tracker) software contains the following code in the bin/rt file:

This subroutine is called by the subroutine config_from_file, which is itself invoked from the following:

Because any user can invoke the rt executable with environment variables he or she controls, a hostile user may set the RTCONFIG environment variable to a malicious command, such as

The final | indicates to Perl that this is a shell command. When passed to the two-argument form of open(), Perl executes the command.

Compliant Solution (RT 3.8.8)

This compliant solution invokes open() with three arguments:

This code causes $file to be treated as a file name regardless of what special characters it might contain.

Note that the last line of this compliant solution still violates FIO00-PL. Do not use bareword file handles.

Risk Assessment

Failure to handle error codes or other values returned by functions can lead to incorrect program flow and violations of data integrity.

Recommendation

Severity

Likelihood

Remediation Cost

Priority

Level

IDS31-PL

high

likely

low

P27

L1

Automated Detection

Tool

 Version

Checker

 Description

Perl::Critic

 5.0

InputOutput::ProhibitTwoArgOpen

Implemented 

B::Lint

 5.0

Use of <>
Unterminated <> operator

 Implemented

Bibliography

 

 


2 Comments

  1. The proposed compliant solutions are against recommendation FIO00-PL. Do not use bareword file handles - it should at least be indicated that there is an issue with the examples although they solve the particular problem described.

    1. Good catch. I fixed the code samples to not use bareword filehandles, except for the RT code. That code now has a note about FIO00-PL.