[NEWS] IBM Informix Web DataBlade Local Root by Design

From: support@securiteam.com
Date: 04/18/02

From: support@securiteam.com
To: list@securiteam.com
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 22:06:28 +0200 (CEST)

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  IBM Informix Web DataBlade Local Root by Design


The <http://www-4.ibm.com/software/data/informix/blades/web/> Informix
Web DataBlade module is a collection of tools, functions, and examples
that ease development of "intelligent", interactive, Web-enabled database
applications. The Web DataBlade module supports most Web Server
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and enables a truly interactive
Web site. A security vulnerability in the product allows attackers to run
perl script with the security context of the database user (usually
'root'), allowing them to compromise the remote operating system's


Vulnerable systems:
Web DataBlade 4.12, IDS 9.20/9.21, Linux 2.2/2.4, SunOS 5.7 (OS, IDS and
WDB versions seem to be irrelevant).

Technical details:
The Web DataBlade has an unrestricted facility for running commands of
choice as the database user. Usually the database runs as root, unless you
have taken special precautions to start it as another user. Therefore, you
can get root, by design. Or at the very least, "informix", if the
administrator managed to start the database as this user.

The Web DataBlade language has no built-in commands for dealing with
files, network etc. Instead, Informix allows calling of external scripts.
Such a feature, you would think, would simply allow execution of shell
commands, like system(). This is not the case of DataBlade, Informix
decided to implement a much more complex setup using a daemon written in
Perl. You cannot call shell commands from the HTML pages, instead pages
instructs the daemon to execute a labeled piece of (Perl) code; a "meta"
function. The Perl daemon is connected through a socket connection. The
daemon is started the first time a function in it is called, and keeps
running until the database itself is shutdown.

This design may look nice. Some actions can be done with Perl code alone,
avoiding spawning a new process and thus gaining optimization speed.
Moreover, it limits what commands can be run; this is decided by the
person who has access to change the Perl script. In addition, it can take
some complexity away from the HTML code.

But this is where the trouble begins. Anyone with write access to anywhere
on the server's disk can add his own Perl script. Anybody who can add WDB
HTML code can request his own page and thus call the script and the
functions within it. Several different Perl daemons can run
simultaneously, and there are no restrictions on where the scripts should
be placed, who can call the actions within them, who should own them, or
what their permissions should be.

Not all this would be so bad, if the script were just run as stand-alone,
one-time shell commands, running under the uid of the calling user.
However, the scripts are started by the database, and keep running as the
database user (again, usually 'root'), regardless of caller's identity.
Simply said, you can create a Perl script of choice and have it run as

Unfortunately, this utter design mistake cannot easily be fixed, at least
not without breaking existing scripts. The Webdriver module usually logs
into the database using one specific username/password, but it can also be
configured to login on behalf of the actual user making the connection to
the web server. This would not be a problem if external commands were
executed as separate processes running under the uid of the connecting
user, but here we are dealing with a daemon executing commands on behalf
of possibly many different uids (any uid that the webdriver can connect
as). Therefore, Informix decided that when we do not know what uid we will
serve, we will better just get the uid of the database server itself,
which usually happens to be 'root'.

As a side note, Informix' own example script contains an action that is
intended to allow execution of user-defined Perl code.

Any user who can:
1) Save a Perl script anywhere on the server's disk.
2) Run WebDataBlade HTML code of his own choice (calling that Perl

Can execute any code of choice as the database uid, which is usually
'root'. Any WDB developer can do this. Any other local user with
administrator right on any database can do it by loading the WDB module
into their database. Other local users will not be able to exploit this by
default, but if just one WDB developer has lax permissions on his scripts,
other users may modify it to assign root access to themselves. Finally,
the SQL injection vulnerability (other report) allows any remote user to
save Perl script and execute it from HTML code. These vulnerabilities can
therefore be combined into a remote root exploit.

Disable the entire Perl script feature.


The information has been provided by <mailto:simonl@mirrormind.com> Simon


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