This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)
We have observed exploits in the wild for a recently disclosed command injection vulnerability affecting WebSVN, an open-source web application for browsing source code. The critical command injection vulnerability was discovered and patched in May 2021. A proof of concept was released and within a week, on June 26, 2021, attackers exploited the vulnerability to deploy variants of the Mirai DDoS malware. We strongly recommend that WebSVN users upgrade to the latest software version.
Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls protect customers from the exploitation of CVE-2021-32305, and Cortex XDR detects Mirai variants and prevents infection.
Root Cause and Patch Analysis of CVE-2021-32305
Like many source code browsing tools, WebSVN allows users to search through the revision history to find relevant code changes. These search requests are made by sending a query to the backend, which is written in PHP.
In versions of WebSVN prior to 2.6.1, the user’s search query is not escaped when it is used in a shell command. Inside include/svnlook.php the function getListSearch is responsible for creating the shell command by concatenating the search query with command arguments.
A function called runCommand inside include/command.php finally executes the command by passing it to PHP’s proc_open function. The documentation for this function contains the following warning regarding the command parameter:
Without properly escaping the user’s input, it is possible to achieve code execution by including special characters in the search query. To fix this vulnerability, the code was changed to sanitize the user input with escapeshellarg before concatenating it to the other command arguments.
Another possible solution is to allow proc_open to automatically escape and quote the command by passing an array of strings as the first argument. This approach might be considered more concise and easier to maintain. However, it would have required making bigger changes to the existing code, and it is not compatible with older versions of PHP, which is likely the reason this solution was not chosen.
proc_open(['svn', 'list', '-R', '--search', $searchstring, '--xml'], ...);
Figure 5. Hypothetical code for safely running the shell command.
Exploitation in the Wild
Shortly after CVE-2021-32305 was made public, Unit 42 researchers observed attackers exploiting it in the wild. One example of an attack is shown here:
The attacker uses command injection to download a shell script that will infect the system with malware. When abusing these types of web vulnerabilities, some important details about the target environment may be unknown to the attacker. These details include the operating system and processor architecture that the web server is running. The shell script used in the next step of the attack shows how the attacker can overcome this issue:
Malicious Linux binaries are provided for 12 different architectures. Instead of detecting which one is correct for the target environment, a brute force approach is taken. The script simply downloads and attempts to execute the binaries for every one of the possible architectures, disregarding any incompatibility errors. Although WebSVN is a cross-platform PHP application capable of running on many operating systems, only Linux binaries are used in this attack.
Analysis of this malware reveals that it is used to perform distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and that it shares some of its code with the Mirai botnet family. To reduce the size of the executable files, each one is compressed with a modified version of the popular open-source packer, UPX. Because the packer is modified, it is less likely for reverse engineering tools to succeed in automatically unpacking the executable files, requiring more manual effort for analysis. Additionally, the malware achieves portability by statically linking all of its dependencies and making system calls directly inside the code.
After the malware is executed, it continuously tries to connect to its command and control (C2) server on port 666. Once it establishes a connection, it communicates using a custom text-based TCP protocol. It begins by informing the C2 of its architecture, and then it awaits commands from the operator.
The main purpose of this malware family is to perform DDoS attacks, and the effectiveness of an attack depends on the network protocols and techniques that are used. In the analyzed sample, there are eight types of attacks, each designed to be effective against a different type of target. The following table shows the commands the malware operator can send to initiate each one.
|OVHHEX||UDP||Targets servers hosted by OVH, a French cloud computing company.|
|UDPBYPASS||UDP||Attempts to bypass network mitigations by sending crafted packets at calculated time intervals.|
|NFOHEX||UDP||Floods the target with randomly generated hex-encoded data.|
|STD||UDP||Randomly sends packets from a list of three predefined payloads.|
|VSE||UDP||Targets game servers built with Valve Source Engine.|
|TCP||TCP||General attack for TCP-based protocols.|
|SYN||TCP||Sends SYN packets to imitate a TCP connection request.|
|ACK||TCP||Sends ACK packets to imitate acknowledgement messages.|
Table 1. DDoS methods.
We observed exploits in the wild for a recently disclosed command injection vulnerability affecting WebSVN. In one particular attack, the vulnerability is used to deploy DDoS malware. Attackers will continue to exploit the latest vulnerabilities to expand their army of infected devices and increase the strength of their DDoS attacks. Customers are strongly advised to upgrade to the latest software version.
Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall customers are protected by the subscriptions:
- Threat Prevention can block the attack with best practices via Threat Prevention Signature 91280.
- WildFire accurately detects and blocks these attacks.
- Advanced URL Filtering blocks malicious malware domains.
Cortex XDR detects Mirai variants and prevents infection.
Indicators of Compromise
Get updates from
Sign up to receive the latest news, cyber threat intelligence and research from us