I’ve been doing the local usergroup circuit with this lately and have been asked to write it up.
In some ways this is old news, but in other ways…well, I think few realize how absolutely devastating and omnipresent this vulnerability can be. It is an attack vector available in every application I’ve ever seen that takes user input and allows administrators to bulk export to CSV.
That is just about every application.
Edit: Credit where due, I’ve been pointed to this article from 2014 by an actual security pro which discusses some of these vectors . And another one .Edit:
So let’s set the scene - imagine a time or ticket tracking app. Users enter their time (or tickets) but cannot view those of other users. A site administrator then comes along and exports entries to a csv file, opening it up in a spreadsheet application. Pretty standard stuff.
So we all know csv files. Their defining characteristic is that they are simple. These exports might look like this
Simple enough. Nothing dangerous there. Heck the even states:
CSV files contain passive text data that should not pose any risks.
So even by specification, it should all be fine.
Hey, just for fun let’s try something, let’s modify our CSV file to the following
Huh…well that’s odd. Even though that cell was quoted it seems to have been interpreted as a formula just because the first character was an
symbol. In fact - in Excel at least - any of the symbols
will trigger this behavior causing lots of fun times for adminstrators whose data just doesn’t seem to format correctly (this is actually what brought my attention first to the issue). That’s strange, but not downright
Well hold on, a formula is code that executes. So a user can cause code - even if its only formula code - to execute on an administrator’s machine in their user’s security context.
What if we change our csv file to this then? (Note the Description column on the last line)
What’s going to happen when we open up in Excel?
Yup, that’s right, the system calculator opens right on up.
Now to be fair, there is absolutely a warning . It’s just that the warning is a big block of text, which nobody is going to read. And even if they do, it explicitly recommends:
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Publishing : Once you are ready to expose your uploaded files, you can publish them and make them visible and available to all Bintray users. Files can be published via the Bintray UI, or via the REST API, both as part of the upload , or separately . In some cases, uploading the files publishes them automatically, so you can skip this step.Publishing
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