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RedHat 9 (Linux i386) - man page for perlsec (redhat section 1)

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

       perlsec - Perl security

       Perl is designed to make it easy to program securely even when running with extra privi-
       leges, 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) pro-
       grams to accomplish its purposes.

       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 some-
       one else, such as a CGI script. Once taint mode is on, it's on for the remainder of your

       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 vari-
       ables, 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


	   and symbolic sub references


	   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 sym-
	   bolic 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.

       The value of an expression containing tainted data will itself be tainted, even if it is
       logically impossible for the tainted data to affect the value.

       Because taintedness is associated with each scalar value, some elements of an array can be
       tainted and others not.

       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
	       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}".

       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 mod-
       ule, 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 {
	       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 oper-
       ator 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.  The only way to bypass the tainting mechanism is by referencing sub-
       patterns 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 (alphabet-
       ics, 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 pat-
       terns.  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 privi-

       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

       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 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 exe-
       cutable 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-sup-
       plied 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 pro-
       gram: 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 environ-
       ment 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 pro-
       gram 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 pro-

       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, check out
       the Safe module, included standard in the Perl distribution.  This module allows the pro-
       grammer to set up special compartments in which all system operations are trapped and
       namespace access is carefully controlled.

       Security Bugs

       Beyond the obvious problems that stem from giving special privileges to systems as flexi-
       ble 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 ker-
       nel 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.
       If the latter is true, Perl can emulate the setuid and setgid mechanism when it notices
       the otherwise useless setuid/gid bits on Perl scripts.  It does this via a special exe-
       cutable called suidperl that is automatically invoked for you if it's needed.

       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 pro-
       gram 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 mod-
       ern releases of SysVr4 and BSD 4.4 use this approach to avoid the kernel race condition.

       Prior to release 5.6.1 of Perl, bugs in the code of suidperl could introduce a security

       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 per-
       missions 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 Fil-
       ter::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 crack-
       ers 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 diffi-
       culty 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 licence 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 licence's wording will stand up in court.


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

       perlrun for its description of cleaning up environment variables.

perl v5.8.0				    2003-02-18				       PERLSEC(1)

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