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PERLSEC(1)			 Perl Programmers Reference Guide		       PERLSEC(1)

NAME
       perlsec - Perl security

DESCRIPTION
       Perl is designed to make it easy to program securely even when running with extra
       privileges, like setuid or setgid programs.  Unlike most command line shells, which are
       based on multiple substitution passes on each line of the script, Perl uses a more
       conventional evaluation scheme with fewer hidden snags.	Additionally, because the
       language has more builtin functionality, it can rely less upon external (and possibly
       untrustworthy) programs to accomplish its purposes.

SECURITY VULNERABILITY CONTACT INFORMATION
       If you believe you have found a security vulnerability in Perl, please email
       perl5-security-report@perl.org with details.  This points to a closed subscription,
       unarchived mailing list.  Please only use this address for security issues in the Perl
       core, not for modules independently distributed on CPAN.

SECURITY MECHANISMS AND CONCERNS
   Taint mode
       Perl automatically enables a set of special security checks, called taint mode, when it
       detects its program running with differing real and effective user or group IDs.  The
       setuid bit in Unix permissions is mode 04000, the setgid bit mode 02000; either or both
       may be set.  You can also enable taint mode explicitly by using the -T command line flag.
       This flag is strongly suggested for server programs and any program run on behalf of
       someone else, such as a CGI script. Once taint mode is on, it's on for the remainder of
       your script.

       While in this mode, Perl takes special precautions called taint checks to prevent both
       obvious and subtle traps.  Some of these checks are reasonably simple, such as verifying
       that path directories aren't writable by others; careful programmers have always used
       checks like these.  Other checks, however, are best supported by the language itself, and
       it is these checks especially that contribute to making a set-id Perl program more secure
       than the corresponding C program.

       You may not use data derived from outside your program to affect something else outside
       your program--at least, not by accident.  All command line arguments, environment
       variables, locale information (see perllocale), results of certain system calls
       ("readdir()", "readlink()", the variable of "shmread()", the messages returned by
       "msgrcv()", the password, gcos and shell fields returned by the "getpwxxx()" calls), and
       all file input are marked as "tainted".	Tainted data may not be used directly or
       indirectly in any command that invokes a sub-shell, nor in any command that modifies
       files, directories, or processes, with the following exceptions:

       o   Arguments to "print" and "syswrite" are not checked for taintedness.

       o   Symbolic methods

	       $obj->$method(@args);

	   and symbolic sub references

	       &{$foo}(@args);
	       $foo->(@args);

	   are not checked for taintedness.  This requires extra carefulness unless you want
	   external data to affect your control flow.  Unless you carefully limit what these
	   symbolic values are, people are able to call functions outside your Perl code, such as
	   POSIX::system, in which case they are able to run arbitrary external code.

       o   Hash keys are never tainted.

       For efficiency reasons, Perl takes a conservative view of whether data is tainted.  If an
       expression contains tainted data, any subexpression may be considered tainted, even if the
       value of the subexpression is not itself affected by the tainted data.

       Because taintedness is associated with each scalar value, some elements of an array or
       hash can be tainted and others not.  The keys of a hash are never tainted.

       For example:

	   $arg = shift;	       # $arg is tainted
	   $hid = $arg, 'bar';	       # $hid is also tainted
	   $line = <>;		       # Tainted
	   $line = <STDIN>;	       # Also tainted
	   open FOO, "/home/me/bar" or die $!;
	   $line = <FOO>;	       # Still tainted
	   $path = $ENV{'PATH'};       # Tainted, but see below
	   $data = 'abc';	       # Not tainted

	   system "echo $arg";	       # Insecure
	   system "/bin/echo", $arg;   # Considered insecure
				       # (Perl doesn't know about /bin/echo)
	   system "echo $hid";	       # Insecure
	   system "echo $data";        # Insecure until PATH set

	   $path = $ENV{'PATH'};       # $path now tainted

	   $ENV{'PATH'} = '/bin:/usr/bin';
	   delete @ENV{'IFS', 'CDPATH', 'ENV', 'BASH_ENV'};

	   $path = $ENV{'PATH'};       # $path now NOT tainted
	   system "echo $data";        # Is secure now!

	   open(FOO, "< $arg");        # OK - read-only file
	   open(FOO, "> $arg");        # Not OK - trying to write

	   open(FOO,"echo $arg|");     # Not OK
	   open(FOO,"-|")
	       or exec 'echo', $arg;   # Also not OK

	   $shout = `echo $arg`;       # Insecure, $shout now tainted

	   unlink $data, $arg;	       # Insecure
	   umask $arg;		       # Insecure

	   exec "echo $arg";	       # Insecure
	   exec "echo", $arg;	       # Insecure
	   exec "sh", '-c', $arg;      # Very insecure!

	   @files = <*.c>;	       # insecure (uses readdir() or similar)
	   @files = glob('*.c');       # insecure (uses readdir() or similar)

	   # In Perl releases older than 5.6.0 the <*.c> and glob('*.c') would
	   # have used an external program to do the filename expansion; but in
	   # either case the result is tainted since the list of filenames comes
	   # from outside of the program.

	   $bad = ($arg, 23);	       # $bad will be tainted
	   $arg, `true`;	       # Insecure (although it isn't really)

       If you try to do something insecure, you will get a fatal error saying something like
       "Insecure dependency" or "Insecure $ENV{PATH}".

       The exception to the principle of "one tainted value taints the whole expression" is with
       the ternary conditional operator "?:".  Since code with a ternary conditional

	   $result = $tainted_value ? "Untainted" : "Also untainted";

       is effectively

	   if ( $tainted_value ) {
	       $result = "Untainted";
	   } else {
	       $result = "Also untainted";
	   }

       it doesn't make sense for $result to be tainted.

   Laundering and Detecting Tainted Data
       To test whether a variable contains tainted data, and whose use would thus trigger an
       "Insecure dependency" message, you can use the "tainted()" function of the Scalar::Util
       module, available in your nearby CPAN mirror, and included in Perl starting from the
       release 5.8.0.  Or you may be able to use the following "is_tainted()" function.

	   sub is_tainted {
	       local $@;   # Don't pollute caller's value.
	       return ! eval { eval("#" . substr(join("", @_), 0, 0)); 1 };
	   }

       This function makes use of the fact that the presence of tainted data anywhere within an
       expression renders the entire expression tainted.  It would be inefficient for every
       operator to test every argument for taintedness.  Instead, the slightly more efficient and
       conservative approach is used that if any tainted value has been accessed within the same
       expression, the whole expression is considered tainted.

       But testing for taintedness gets you only so far.  Sometimes you have just to clear your
       data's taintedness.  Values may be untainted by using them as keys in a hash; otherwise
       the only way to bypass the tainting mechanism is by referencing subpatterns from a regular
       expression match.  Perl presumes that if you reference a substring using $1, $2, etc.,
       that you knew what you were doing when you wrote the pattern.  That means using a bit of
       thought--don't just blindly untaint anything, or you defeat the entire mechanism.  It's
       better to verify that the variable has only good characters (for certain values of "good")
       rather than checking whether it has any bad characters.	That's because it's far too easy
       to miss bad characters that you never thought of.

       Here's a test to make sure that the data contains nothing but "word" characters
       (alphabetics, numerics, and underscores), a hyphen, an at sign, or a dot.

	   if ($data =~ /^([-\@\w.]+)$/) {
	       $data = $1;		       # $data now untainted
	   } else {
	       die "Bad data in '$data'";      # log this somewhere
	   }

       This is fairly secure because "/\w+/" doesn't normally match shell metacharacters, nor are
       dot, dash, or at going to mean something special to the shell.  Use of "/.+/" would have
       been insecure in theory because it lets everything through, but Perl doesn't check for
       that.  The lesson is that when untainting, you must be exceedingly careful with your
       patterns.  Laundering data using regular expression is the only mechanism for untainting
       dirty data, unless you use the strategy detailed below to fork a child of lesser
       privilege.

       The example does not untaint $data if "use locale" is in effect, because the characters
       matched by "\w" are determined by the locale.  Perl considers that locale definitions are
       untrustworthy because they contain data from outside the program.  If you are writing a
       locale-aware program, and want to launder data with a regular expression containing "\w",
       put "no locale" ahead of the expression in the same block.  See "SECURITY" in perllocale
       for further discussion and examples.

   Switches On the "#!" Line
       When you make a script executable, in order to make it usable as a command, the system
       will pass switches to perl from the script's #!	line.  Perl checks that any command line
       switches given to a setuid (or setgid) script actually match the ones set on the #! line.
       Some Unix and Unix-like environments impose a one-switch limit on the #!  line, so you may
       need to use something like "-wU" instead of "-w -U" under such systems.	(This issue
       should arise only in Unix or Unix-like environments that support #! and setuid or setgid
       scripts.)

   Taint mode and @INC
       When the taint mode ("-T") is in effect, the "." directory is removed from @INC, and the
       environment variables "PERL5LIB" and "PERLLIB" are ignored by Perl. You can still adjust
       @INC from outside the program by using the "-I" command line option as explained in
       perlrun. The two environment variables are ignored because they are obscured, and a user
       running a program could be unaware that they are set, whereas the "-I" option is clearly
       visible and therefore permitted.

       Another way to modify @INC without modifying the program, is to use the "lib" pragma,
       e.g.:

	 perl -Mlib=/foo program

       The benefit of using "-Mlib=/foo" over "-I/foo", is that the former will automagically
       remove any duplicated directories, while the later will not.

       Note that if a tainted string is added to @INC, the following problem will be reported:

	 Insecure dependency in require while running with -T switch

   Cleaning Up Your Path
       For "Insecure $ENV{PATH}" messages, you need to set $ENV{'PATH'} to a known value, and
       each directory in the path must be absolute and non-writable by others than its owner and
       group.  You may be surprised to get this message even if the pathname to your executable
       is fully qualified.  This is not generated because you didn't supply a full path to the
       program; instead, it's generated because you never set your PATH environment variable, or
       you didn't set it to something that was safe.  Because Perl can't guarantee that the
       executable in question isn't itself going to turn around and execute some other program
       that is dependent on your PATH, it makes sure you set the PATH.

       The PATH isn't the only environment variable which can cause problems.  Because some
       shells may use the variables IFS, CDPATH, ENV, and BASH_ENV, Perl checks that those are
       either empty or untainted when starting subprocesses. You may wish to add something like
       this to your setid and taint-checking scripts.

	   delete @ENV{qw(IFS CDPATH ENV BASH_ENV)};   # Make %ENV safer

       It's also possible to get into trouble with other operations that don't care whether they
       use tainted values.  Make judicious use of the file tests in dealing with any user-
       supplied filenames.  When possible, do opens and such after properly dropping any special
       user (or group!)  privileges. Perl doesn't prevent you from opening tainted filenames for
       reading, so be careful what you print out.  The tainting mechanism is intended to prevent
       stupid mistakes, not to remove the need for thought.

       Perl does not call the shell to expand wild cards when you pass "system" and "exec"
       explicit parameter lists instead of strings with possible shell wildcards in them.
       Unfortunately, the "open", "glob", and backtick functions provide no such alternate
       calling convention, so more subterfuge will be required.

       Perl provides a reasonably safe way to open a file or pipe from a setuid or setgid
       program: just create a child process with reduced privilege who does the dirty work for
       you.  First, fork a child using the special "open" syntax that connects the parent and
       child by a pipe.  Now the child resets its ID set and any other per-process attributes,
       like environment variables, umasks, current working directories, back to the originals or
       known safe values.  Then the child process, which no longer has any special permissions,
       does the "open" or other system call.  Finally, the child passes the data it managed to
       access back to the parent.  Because the file or pipe was opened in the child while running
       under less privilege than the parent, it's not apt to be tricked into doing something it
       shouldn't.

       Here's a way to do backticks reasonably safely.	Notice how the "exec" is not called with
       a string that the shell could expand.  This is by far the best way to call something that
       might be subjected to shell escapes: just never call the shell at all.

	       use English '-no_match_vars';
	       die "Can't fork: $!" unless defined($pid = open(KID, "-|"));
	       if ($pid) {	     # parent
		   while (<KID>) {
		       # do something
		   }
		   close KID;
	       } else {
		   my @temp	= ($EUID, $EGID);
		   my $orig_uid = $UID;
		   my $orig_gid = $GID;
		   $EUID = $UID;
		   $EGID = $GID;
		   # Drop privileges
		   $UID  = $orig_uid;
		   $GID  = $orig_gid;
		   # Make sure privs are really gone
		   ($EUID, $EGID) = @temp;
		   die "Can't drop privileges"
		       unless $UID == $EUID  && $GID eq $EGID;
		   $ENV{PATH} = "/bin:/usr/bin"; # Minimal PATH.
		   # Consider sanitizing the environment even more.
		   exec 'myprog', 'arg1', 'arg2'
		       or die "can't exec myprog: $!";
	       }

       A similar strategy would work for wildcard expansion via "glob", although you can use
       "readdir" instead.

       Taint checking is most useful when although you trust yourself not to have written a
       program to give away the farm, you don't necessarily trust those who end up using it not
       to try to trick it into doing something bad.  This is the kind of security checking that's
       useful for set-id programs and programs launched on someone else's behalf, like CGI
       programs.

       This is quite different, however, from not even trusting the writer of the code not to try
       to do something evil.  That's the kind of trust needed when someone hands you a program
       you've never seen before and says, "Here, run this."  For that kind of safety, you might
       want to check out the Safe module, included standard in the Perl distribution.  This
       module allows the programmer to set up special compartments in which all system operations
       are trapped and namespace access is carefully controlled.  Safe should not be considered
       bullet-proof, though: it will not prevent the foreign code to set up infinite loops,
       allocate gigabytes of memory, or even abusing perl bugs to make the host interpreter crash
       or behave in unpredictable ways. In any case it's better avoided completely if you're
       really concerned about security.

   Security Bugs
       Beyond the obvious problems that stem from giving special privileges to systems as
       flexible as scripts, on many versions of Unix, set-id scripts are inherently insecure
       right from the start.  The problem is a race condition in the kernel.  Between the time
       the kernel opens the file to see which interpreter to run and when the (now-set-id)
       interpreter turns around and reopens the file to interpret it, the file in question may
       have changed, especially if you have symbolic links on your system.

       Fortunately, sometimes this kernel "feature" can be disabled.  Unfortunately, there are
       two ways to disable it.	The system can simply outlaw scripts with any set-id bit set,
       which doesn't help much.  Alternately, it can simply ignore the set-id bits on scripts.

       However, if the kernel set-id script feature isn't disabled, Perl will complain loudly
       that your set-id script is insecure.  You'll need to either disable the kernel set-id
       script feature, or put a C wrapper around the script.  A C wrapper is just a compiled
       program that does nothing except call your Perl program.   Compiled programs are not
       subject to the kernel bug that plagues set-id scripts.  Here's a simple wrapper, written
       in C:

	   #define REAL_PATH "/path/to/script"
	   main(ac, av)
	       char **av;
	   {
	       execv(REAL_PATH, av);
	   }

       Compile this wrapper into a binary executable and then make it rather than your script
       setuid or setgid.

       In recent years, vendors have begun to supply systems free of this inherent security bug.
       On such systems, when the kernel passes the name of the set-id script to open to the
       interpreter, rather than using a pathname subject to meddling, it instead passes
       /dev/fd/3.  This is a special file already opened on the script, so that there can be no
       race condition for evil scripts to exploit.  On these systems, Perl should be compiled
       with "-DSETUID_SCRIPTS_ARE_SECURE_NOW".	The Configure program that builds Perl tries to
       figure this out for itself, so you should never have to specify this yourself.  Most
       modern releases of SysVr4 and BSD 4.4 use this approach to avoid the kernel race
       condition.

   Protecting Your Programs
       There are a number of ways to hide the source to your Perl programs, with varying levels
       of "security".

       First of all, however, you can't take away read permission, because the source code has to
       be readable in order to be compiled and interpreted.  (That doesn't mean that a CGI
       script's source is readable by people on the web, though.)  So you have to leave the
       permissions at the socially friendly 0755 level.  This lets people on your local system
       only see your source.

       Some people mistakenly regard this as a security problem.  If your program does insecure
       things, and relies on people not knowing how to exploit those insecurities, it is not
       secure.	It is often possible for someone to determine the insecure things and exploit
       them without viewing the source.  Security through obscurity, the name for hiding your
       bugs instead of fixing them, is little security indeed.

       You can try using encryption via source filters (Filter::* from CPAN, or
       Filter::Util::Call and Filter::Simple since Perl 5.8).  But crackers might be able to
       decrypt it.  You can try using the byte code compiler and interpreter described below, but
       crackers might be able to de-compile it.  You can try using the native-code compiler
       described below, but crackers might be able to disassemble it.  These pose varying degrees
       of difficulty to people wanting to get at your code, but none can definitively conceal it
       (this is true of every language, not just Perl).

       If you're concerned about people profiting from your code, then the bottom line is that
       nothing but a restrictive license will give you legal security.	License your software and
       pepper it with threatening statements like "This is unpublished proprietary software of
       XYZ Corp.  Your access to it does not give you permission to use it blah blah blah."  You
       should see a lawyer to be sure your license's wording will stand up in court.

   Unicode
       Unicode is a new and complex technology and one may easily overlook certain security
       pitfalls.  See perluniintro for an overview and perlunicode for details, and "Security
       Implications of Unicode" in perlunicode for security implications in particular.

   Algorithmic Complexity Attacks
       Certain internal algorithms used in the implementation of Perl can be attacked by choosing
       the input carefully to consume large amounts of either time or space or both.  This can
       lead into the so-called Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

       o   Hash Function - the algorithm used to "order" hash elements has been changed several
	   times during the development of Perl, mainly to be reasonably fast.	In Perl 5.8.1
	   also the security aspect was taken into account.

	   In Perls before 5.8.1 one could rather easily generate data that as hash keys would
	   cause Perl to consume large amounts of time because internal structure of hashes would
	   badly degenerate.  In Perl 5.8.1 the hash function is randomly perturbed by a
	   pseudorandom seed which makes generating such naughty hash keys harder.  See
	   "PERL_HASH_SEED" in perlrun for more information.

	   In Perl 5.8.1 the random perturbation was done by default, but as of 5.8.2 it is only
	   used on individual hashes if the internals detect the insertion of pathological data.
	   If one wants for some reason emulate the old behaviour (and expose oneself to DoS
	   attacks) one can set the environment variable PERL_HASH_SEED to zero to disable the
	   protection (or any other integer to force a known perturbation, rather than random).
	   One possible reason for wanting to emulate the old behaviour is that in the new
	   behaviour consecutive runs of Perl will order hash keys differently, which may confuse
	   some applications (like Data::Dumper: the outputs of two different runs are no longer
	   identical).

	   Perl has never guaranteed any ordering of the hash keys, and the ordering has already
	   changed several times during the lifetime of Perl 5.  Also, the ordering of hash keys
	   has always been, and continues to be, affected by the insertion order.

	   Also note that while the order of the hash elements might be randomised, this
	   "pseudoordering" should not be used for applications like shuffling a list randomly
	   (use List::Util::shuffle() for that, see List::Util, a standard core module since Perl
	   5.8.0; or the CPAN module Algorithm::Numerical::Shuffle), or for generating
	   permutations (use e.g. the CPAN modules Algorithm::Permute or Algorithm::FastPermute),
	   or for any cryptographic applications.

       o   Regular expressions - Perl's regular expression engine is so called NFA (Non-
	   deterministic Finite Automaton), which among other things means that it can rather
	   easily consume large amounts of both time and space if the regular expression may
	   match in several ways.  Careful crafting of the regular expressions can help but quite
	   often there really isn't much one can do (the book "Mastering Regular Expressions" is
	   required reading, see perlfaq2).  Running out of space manifests itself by Perl
	   running out of memory.

       o   Sorting - the quicksort algorithm used in Perls before 5.8.0 to implement the sort()
	   function is very easy to trick into misbehaving so that it consumes a lot of time.
	   Starting from Perl 5.8.0 a different sorting algorithm, mergesort, is used by default.
	   Mergesort cannot misbehave on any input.

       See <http://www.cs.rice.edu/~scrosby/hash/> for more information, and any computer science
       textbook on algorithmic complexity.

SEE ALSO
       perlrun for its description of cleaning up environment variables.

perl v5.16.3				    2013-03-04				       PERLSEC(1)
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