ISSalert: ISS Alert: Multiple PHP Vulnerabilities - Remote Compromise Exploit in Circulation

From: X-Force (
Date: 02/27/02

Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 11:22:43 -0500
From: X-Force <>

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Internet Security Systems Security Alert
February 27, 2002

Multiple PHP Vulnerabilities: Remote Compromise Exploit in Circulation


ISS X-Force has learned of multiple buffer overflow vulnerabilities
present in the PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) scripting language. PHP is a
popular server-side scripting language that is used heavily throughout
the Internet. PHP is most commonly used in Apache Web server
environments, but it is supported by all major Web servers and operating
systems. X-Force has verified that a functional exploit for one of the
vulnerabilities exists and may be actively circulating in the computer


Netcraft reports that as of January 2002, there are over 20.8 million
active Apache installations, which account for 57% of the sites
surveyed. Secure Space reports that PHP is the most popular Apache
module available and there are over 1.44 million active installations.

Affected Platforms:

PHP version 3.10-3.18
PHP version 4.0.1-4.03pl1
PHP version 4.0.2-4.05
PHP version 4.0.6-4.0.7RC2
PHP version 4.0.7RC3-4.1.1

The PHP 4.2.0-dev distribution is not vulnerable.


The PHP project began as an Apache Software Foundation project as a
powerful, cross-platform, server-side, embedded scripting language. PHP
code is included inline among common HTML scripting, and its commands
are executed on the server, unlike JavaScript, which is executed on the
client. PHP is an attractive alternative for Web developers who are
interested in creating dynamic content because it is considered easy to
work with, very fast, and extremely flexible.

PHP supports file uploads via HTTP POST by any RFC-1867 compliant Web
browser. This feature allows Web site visitors to upload files,
scripting, or any type of content to the server, where it can then be
stored, displayed, or operated upon, depending on the design of the
server. This feature is considered a potential security risk and many
security mechanisms have been added to PHP over time to limit its abuse.

Multiple buffer overflow vulnerabilities exist within the HTTP POST file
upload functionality. To successfully exploit these vulnerabilities,
attackers must upload a PHP form containing specially crafted MIME
encoded data. In the exploit X-Force has analyzed, this data is passed
in a buffer to a routine that locates the MIME boundary. A pointer is
set to point to the end of the boundary, and then the "Content-
disposition" header is parsed. A logic flaw in the parsing routine may
cause PHP to miscalculate the remaining byte count within the allocated
buffer. Under certain circumstances, this may lead to a one-byte
overflow within the heap memory management data.

Heap overflows are inherently difficult to exploit because the nature of
the memory heap is much more dynamic then that of the stack. The
environment of the heap management system must be favorable to the
attacker to successfully exploit this vulnerability. Web servers are
constantly allocating more memory dynamically and are serving many
clients at any given time. This environment is quite chaotic and
decreases the chances of successful exploitation in real-world

X-Force has analyzed and tested a functional exploit. This exploit is
believed to be circulating in the underground community and in use to a
limited degree. It contains nine separate exploit vectors for versions
of Debian and Red Hat Linux running various versions of Apache Web
server and PHP. X-Force predicts newer versions of this exploit may
support exploit vectors covering additional operating systems.


The exploit that X-Force has analyzed appears to be an early version,
and is somewhat unreliable. X-Force has been able to compromise remote
servers with this current exploit in a lab environment. Newer and more
effective versions may be circulating as well.

The maintainers of PHP have updated the PHP CVS source code repository
to fix this vulnerability. X-Force recommends that Web site
administrators upgrade to the latest versions available for their PHP
distributions. PHP downloads are available at:

The vulnerability associated with the exploit has been fixed in the file
"php4/main/rfc1867.c". PHP4 administrators should verify that the
revision of this file is or higher. The latest PHP version
4.1.2 packages contain the patched version of "rfc1867.c".

As a workaround, the file upload support can be disabled on Web servers
running PHP 4.0.3 or above. Open the php.ini file and modify the line
file_uploads = On to file_uploads = Off. After modifying the php.ini
file, the Web server must be restarted if PHP is running as module.

An X-Press Update for RealSecure Network Sensor will be available soon
to provide detection support for these vulnerabilities. An Internet
Scanner Flex Check will be released today to find vulnerable versions of
PHP. These updates will be available at the ISS Download Center at:

Additional Information:

Advisory: PHP remote vulnerabilities,

PHP Downloads,

Apache Module Report,


ISS X-Force Database,

ISS Download Center,

This alert is available at:
[Note: It may take up to 24 hours from the original posting of this
alert for it to appear on the Web site.]


ISS would like to thank Snort for providing the exploit for this


About Internet Security Systems (ISS)
Founded in 1994, Internet Security Systems (ISS) (Nasdaq: ISSX) is a
pioneer and world leader in software and services that protect critical
online resources from an ever-changing spectrum of threats and misuse.
Internet Security Systems is headquartered in Atlanta, GA, with
additional operations throughout the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe
and the Middle East.

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