Top Five ColdFusion Security Issues

SySmox WEB security
Top seven ColdFusion Security Issues
This installment discusses the most prevalent security issues with server configurations and
application implementations for ColdFusion. Future articles will discuss other security-related topics,
both for other sysmox products specifically as well as for general security concepts that should be
helpful for developers, server administrators, and others involved in web implementations.
+ Why Should You Care About Security Issues?
Coldfusion Directory traversal
FCKeditor bug
ColdFusion Administrator on Production Servers
Unvalidated Browser Input
Sample Applications and Documentation on Production Servers
ColdFusion Studio and RDS with Production Servers
Please keep in mind that keeping computer security issues at bay can be a full-time job. While these
columns seek to provide general education and point out common security issues in implementations,
they are not meant as a substitute for a full-time security specialist group or individual in your
Please also remember that when links are provided for reference, they may be advisories not
applicable to your server or configuration. Be sure to carefully check whether the fixes and
workarounds suggested apply to your configuration before implementing them. Also, be sure to test
any patch in a testing environment prior to applying to a production environment.
Why Should You Care About Security Issues?
Security should be everyone's concern. Over time, the professional security community has learned
that the best-implemented security is carried out in a thorough and prevalent manner. If a developer,
architect, or designer is not thinking explicitly about security, it simply won't happen spontaneously.
Additionally, the wild, wild web is literally saturated with motivated attackers just waiting for a juicy
target to attack and subvert. To make matters worse, many would-be attackers can find simple,
automated "scripts" (automated tools that search for and exploit known security issues) with which to
attack and subvert your server(s).
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If any standard, well-known security issue is a concern with your server's configuration, it is only a
matter of time before an unknown attacker finds that she can, and does, successfully attack and
potentially subvert your systems.
1 - Coldfusion directory traversal:
Variation of a classic directory traversal vulnerability it can be used for arbitrary
file retrieval ;
special encoding the bug will let you grab any file ending in “.xml”, but by
adding a “%00″ its sophisticated
The exploit:
If the login admin password was stored hash (Using SHA1 algorithm, similar to CF MX7), the
attacker then attempts to crack it via an offline password cracking attack or rainbow
table lookup. Note that the default setting in ColdFusion 8 is encrypted=true as per file. Otherwise.
At this point, the attacker would be able to use the decrypted password to login as a CF
admin and upload a COLDFUSION BACKDOOR (Trojan horse CFM script that
provides an unauthorized remote user with access to a compromised COLDFUSION
webserver SYSTEM privileges by default).
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Uploading files to a CF server via the administrator console
is a bit counter-intuitive.
The attacker would basically add a scheduled task that would download backdoor.cfm to the
server’s webroot .
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2- Fckeditor
Last year a vulnerability in some ColdFusion installations. It involves the richtext feature found in
cftexarea ; Actually uses an open source app called FCKEditor. The
FCKEditor has functionality to handle file uploads and file management but
this feature should be disabled in the version embedded in CF server. The
problem lies in that in some cases the connector that runs this feature is
actually turn on.
Checking config.cfm if conector is on this mean hackers can upload backdoors and files to your web
server .
3 -ColdFusion Administrator on Production Servers:
Coldfusion server configuration issues is on of the most important production environments is the
default installation . Macromedia advises to use a strongly password that the Administrator login
interface requires for login .
Alternatively, if (and only if) you must use the Administrator for remote administration (i.e. for some
reason you do not have physical access or file system access to the server itself), we recommend that
you install at least one additional layer of security on top of the default provided by the ColdFusion
Administrator. Some additional form of authentication is in order, like installing web server-level
directory-based authentication or Virtual Private Network (VPN) access via an internal IP address. (A
VPN uses encryption to virtually create a private network on otherwise possibly non-secure networks.)
4 - Unvalidated Browser Input :
Unvalidated browser input is an issue that just keeps coming back, not only for users of
Macromedia products, but also all over the Internet (see the end of this section for relevant
links). For instance, a widely published issue called "Cross-Site Scripting" got a lot of news .
This issue as a whole applies to a large portion of the security risks inherent in designing web
applications, especially with CFML and Java, which are not generally vulnerable to "buffer
overruns," a common security vulnerability .
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For more discussion about some advanced kinds of browser input validation, see the section
about CFFILE, CFFTP, and CFPOP later in this article.
Unvalidated browser input is a risk wherever the application you develop hands off
information gathered from the browser to any other resource. explains that some ODBC
drivers potentially allowed users to execute Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) commands
on the hosting server without permission.
For the users, doing so was simply a matter of inserting a special character into the HTML
form data, and knowing VBA syntax. The offending special character was a '|' character,
combined with single quotes. It rested on the shoulders of ColdFusion developers to make
sure that any browser data that was going into such a query filtered out the '|' character.
Otherwise, there was a potential for hostile users to attack the server by manipulating the data
they submitted to the server.
For example, theoretically, if a hostile user changed a URL to look like:
http://myserver/page.cfm?x='|shell("cmd /c 1 > c:\temp\foo.txt")|'
and the template, page.cfm, contained a query like:
The URL would cause Microsoft Access to create a file at c:\temp\foo.txt on the server.
In this case, the most appropriate approach to stopping this kind of attack would be to filter
URL.x and remove the character '|' before passing the URL.x data on to the query.
In general, browser input validation is a subject you, as a web application architect, designer,
or developer, will need to keep in mind as the industry grows and as you encounter more and
more situations where it applies. Be on the lookout for any security advisory with the products
you use that involves "malformed input". "Malformed", in the security field, loosely translates
to something the programmer wasn't expecting, but formally applies only to data or
commands that don't follow standard protocol.
Also, be sure to keep in mind that any user could be malicious. There's no way to tell if an
attacker may have subverted someone's password without your knowledge. Don't assume that
any user has your best interests in mind.
5 -Sample Applications and Documentation on Production Servers :
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One important security maxim is that a secured or "hardened" server should have available
only the services and resources it needs to do its job and no more. The fewer services or
resources a server has installed and available, the fewer details an administrator has to worry
about being non-secure, and the fewer possible entrance points a potential attacker has.
Keeping this and the assumption that any production server should also be a hardened server
in mind, it becomes obvious that sample applications and documentation have no legitimate
place on a production server. The sample applications and documentation have a place in a
development environment. However, once your projects and applications reach the testing
phase, the servers they reside on should not have either the sample applications or
documentation installed.
Another aspect of this issue that is also a risk for many production environments is the
propensity for development or test servers to be rolled into production. Often, unless there is
sufficient double-checking, the on-server sample applications and documentation will be
rolled into production with the development server. If you know that your test or development
servers will be rolled into production after testing is complete, think about what you're doing
before you enable the option to install sample applications and documentation during
ColdFusion Server installs.
For programmers, it's a good idea to keep in mind that one common method of attack through
web applications is finding ways to save unauthorized files to a web server's file system. This
is useful in many two-step attacks: the first step is to get an unauthorized file saved to the
server's file system, and the second step is to get it executed in some way.
If an attacker could get, for example, her copy of "application.cfm" saved to your application's
root directory, all sorts of heck could break loose. Even saving a file that was any regular
CFML template could be very dangerous. If the file were saved to a web root directory or
lower, the attacker would only need to figure out the URL to the template in order to have it
executed. In addition, if the server under attack is running Windows NT and the Windows NT
Registry is not properly secured, a template like this could read your entire Registry, which
often contains passwords, license keys, and other restricted information, out to the attacker.
The reason CFFILE, CFFTP, and CFPOP are important is that they all allow developers to
determine whether files will be uploaded to your server. Developers should keep in mind the
security issues relevant to having potentially unauthorized or unvalidated files saved to the
CFFILE allows users to upload a file to the server. CFFTP allows the server to send files to or
retrieve files from FTP servers on the Internet. CFPOP allows the server to act as a POP3
client and download mail from POP3 servers on the Internet and save them to your server. All
three of these tags potentially allow unvalidated and unauthorized files onto the server and
should be used and implemented with great care.
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If you must use any of these tags in your application, a good way to deal with the risk is to
manage it. The best way to manage this risk is to validate the data retrieved. First, save the
file(s) to a safe directory. "Safe" means a directory from which the web server will not serve
content. This helps prevent a possible attack from targeting a directory from which the web
server might execute an uploaded template. In addition, a safe directory should be protected
from execution by any other service running on the server.
Second, be sure to validate the data either before it is saved to the safe directory, or
immediately afterwards. This means that if you can find or create a utility, CFX tag, or other
mechanism to do so, it's a very good idea to make sure that the data is what it says it is. For
example, if your application allows uploading graphics to your server, the uploaded files
should be checked to make sure they truly are graphics before they're incorporated into any
other process. For example, some existing CFX tags are image loaders that will return errors
if the file specified is not a valid graphics file.
Finally, validate the file with a virus scanner. If you're going to use the file again, the file may
be executed in some way by a word processor, mail client, web server, or some other process.
If this is a possibility, some attacker may upload a virus-infected file to try to compromise the
security and/or functionality of your server. Configuring a virus scanner to do regular scans of
the particular directory where the files are stored is a great way to add an extra layer of
security to the process.
Also, server administrators have the option to lock out the use of some of these tags
completely using Basic Security. If using Advanced Security and security sandboxing,
administers can lock out the use of these tags by some developers and allow their use by
others. They can also lock down the directories to which the retrieved files are saved with a
secure sandbox. Particularly in a hosting environment where developers from different
organizations might share the same server and where the server administrator may not be 100
percent sure of the motivation or intentions of the developers, it would be a good idea for the
hosting company to investigate use of security sandboxing.
7 -ColdFusion Studio and RDS with Production Servers
ColdFusion Studio and Remote Data Services (RDS) should only be used with secure
Intranets or with internal development servers. Without additional measures of protection,
RDS should not be relied upon for secure access to production servers or other missioncritical resources.
If you must use RDS in a secure environment or with a protected resource, be sure to use a
non-default password. You should also consider setting up another secure layer to protect the
transaction(s), such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or some kind of file-drop secured
relay from the staging server to the production server.
With VPN implementations, it would be possible to give users a protected, encrypted, virtual
secure network on which to use RDS without fear that the RDS session could be hijacked or
otherwise compromised.
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A file-drop secured relay is an older technology, which may mean that the solution would be
less packaged. Still, file-drop relays are related to full-cycle implementations, which you
should consider using to develop your web applications if you aren't already assuming you
have the resources to do so.
A full-cycle implementation includes project phases like requirements gathering, design,
development (implementation), unit testing, regression testing, and rollout (moving the
application into production). With a file-drop relay, a developer or tester could signal that her
package was ready for the next stage and an automated, secure process (e.g., FTP over
secured network pathways, a supervised manual process, etc.) would copy the templates and
supporting files from the development or testing server to its next logical destination within
the process.
For instance, a developer, once finished with her own development and unit testing, could
signal the file-drop process to copy the files from her development server to the testing server
for more unit and regression testing.
The Macromedia leaves final implementations to your network and systems groups. Ideally,
RDS should not be involved in unprotected remote connections to production servers. At the
same time, compromise may be required. Remember that compromise can often mean taking
security risks. There's usually a clear tradeoff between convenience and security.
Ammara reda
SySmox operations manager
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