Unrestricted File Upload
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Last revision (mm/dd/yy): 11/9/2008
Uploaded files represent a significant risk to applications. The first step in many attacks is to get some code to the system to be attacked. Then the attack only needs to find a way to get the code executed. Using a file upload helps the attacker accomplish the first step.
The consequences of unrestricted file upload can vary, including complete system takeover, an overloaded file system, forwarding attacks to backend systems, and simple defacement. It depends on what the application does with the uploaded file, including where it is stored.
There are really two different classes of problems here. The first is with the file metadata, like the path and filename. These are generally provided by the transport, such as HTTP multipart encoding. This data may trick the application into overwriting a critical file or storing the file in a bad location. You must validate the metadata extremely carefully before using it.
The other class of problem is with the file content. The range of problems here depends entirely on what the file is used for. See the examples below for some ideas about how files might be misused. To protect against this type of attack, you should analyze everything your application does with files and think carefully about what processing and interpreters are involved.
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Attacks on application platform
- Upload .jsp file into web tree - jsp code executed as web user
- Upload .gif to be resized - image library flaw exploited
- Upload huge files - file space denial of service
- Upload file using malicious path or name - overwrite critical file
- Upload file containing personal data - other users access it
- Upload file containing "tags" - tags get executed as part of being "included" in a web page
Attacks on other systems
- Upload .exe file into web tree - victims download trojaned executable
- Upload virus infected file - victims' machines infected
- Upload .html file containing script - victim experiences Cross-site Scripting (XSS)
Related Technical Impacts