# Older blog entries for bagder (starting at number 780)

Embedded hacking contest #2, decoded

Okay, so here are the correct answers to the embedded hacking #2 contest (click for larger pictures):

The fact that you get the clues as hexadecimal uppercase ASCII was pretty quickly clear to everybody. I found it interesting to hear how people attacked the problem of decoding the hex into letters. Most people seem to have made a lookup-table fairly soon, and at least one contestant I talked to made a mistake in his table that turned W into X instead! This year’s winner did the conversion completely without a written down table…

So all the pieces are decoded like this:

Of course, now a pedant would argue that FORK() isn’t correct, but I decided to use all uppercase just to make the conversion slightly easier. At least I think converting only uppercase ASCII as hex is easier. So the question is “What does fork() return in the child process?”

The answer to the question is 0 (zero). Short and simple. See fork’s man page.

After 13 minutes and 20 seconds since I clicked start on the timer, Linus Nielsen Feltzing approached me with a little note with the correct answer and we had a winner!

The very happy Linus was very disappointed in the previous competition when he was very close to winning but was beaten just within seconds by last time’s winner.

Now, the Chromebook that Enea donated to the winner of the contest was handed over to Linus. (The Samsung Cortex-A15 version.)

Syndicated 2013-06-03 11:56:31 from daniel.haxx.se

Embedded hacking contest #2

I created another contest for the Embedded hacking event we just pulled off again, organized with foss-sthlm and Enea. Remember that I made one previously at our former hacking day?

The lesson from that time was that the puzzle ingredient then was slightly too difficult so people had to work a bit too long. It made many people give up and the ones who didn’t had to spend a significant time on solving it.

This time, I decided to use the same basic principle: ask N questions that all provide hints for the (N+1)th question, so that the first one to give me the answer to that final question is the winner. It makes it very easy for me to judge and it is a rather neat competition style game. I decided 10 questions should be enough.

To reduce some of the complexity from last time, I decided to provide the individual clues in the correct chronological order but instead add another twist: they aren’t in plain text! But since they’re chronological, the participants can go back and quite “easily” try other alternatives if there are some strange words appearing in the output. I made sure that all alternatives always have fine English alternatives so that if you pick the wrong answer it might still sound or look like English for a while…

I was very happy to see over 30 persons in the room that decided to accept the challenge. I suspect the prize did its part in attracting people to give it a go.

The rules in slightly longer terms as I put them (click it to see a higher resolution version):

And I clarified how the questions work:

I then started my timer, and I showed all the questions on the projector to everyone. I gave them around 40 seconds per question. It thus took almost seven minutes to go through them and then I left a final slide up showing all questions:

To allow readers to give this contest a go first before checking the answers. See the full answer and explanation.

Syndicated 2013-06-03 06:47:55 from daniel.haxx.se

A brand new libcurl security advisory was announced on April 12th, which details how libcurl can leak cookies to domains with tailmatch. Let me explain the details.

(Did I mention that security is hard?)

curl first implemented cookie support way back in the early days in the late 90s. I participated in the IETF work that much later documented how cookies work in real life. I know how cookies work, and yet this flaw still existed in the curl cookie implementation for over 13 years. Until someone spotted it. And once again that sense of gaaaah, how come we never saw this before!! came over me.

## A quick cookie 101

When cookies are used over HTTP, it is (if we simplify things a little) only a name = value pair that is set to be valid a certain domain and a path. But the path is only specifying the prefix, and the domain only specifies the tail part. This means that a site can set a cookie that is for the entire site that is under the path /members so that it will be sent by the brower even for /members/names/ as well as for /members/profile/me etc. The cookie will then not be sent to the same domain for pages under a different path, such as /logout or similar.

A domain for a cookie can set to be valid for example.org and then it will be sent by the browser also for www.example.org and www.sub.example.org but not at all for example.com or badexample.org.

Unless of course you have a bug in the cookie tailmatching function. The bug libcurl had until 7.30.0 was released made it send cookies for the domain example.org also to sites that would have the same tail but a different prefix. Like badexample.org.

## Let me try a story on you

It might not be obvious at first glance how terrible this can become to users. Let me take you through an imaginary story, backed up by some facts:

Imagine that there’s a known web site out there on the internet that provides an email service to users. Users login on a form and they read email. Or perhaps it is a social site. Preferably for our story, the site is using HTTP only but this trick can be done for most HTTPS sites as well with only a mildly bigger effort.

This known and popular site runs its services on ’site.com’. When you’re logged in to site.com, your session is a cookie that keeps getting sent to the server and the server sometimes updates the contents and sends it back to the browser. This is the way millions of sites work.

As an evil person, you now register a domain and setup an attack server. You register a domain that has the same ending as the legitimate site. You call your domain ‘fun-cat-and-food-pics-from-site.com’ (FCAFPFS among friends).

Mr evil person also knows that there are several web browsers, typically special purpose ones for different kinds of devices, that use libcurl as its base. (But it doesn’t have to be a browser, it could be other tools as well but for this story a browser fits fine.) Lets say you know a person or two who use one of those browsers on site.com.

You send a phishing email to these persons. Or post a funny picture on the social site. The idea is to have them click your link to follow through to your funny FCAFPFS site. A little social engineering, who on the internet can truly resist funny cats?

The visitor’s browser (which uses a vulnerable libcurl) does the wrong “tailmatch” on the domain for the session cookie and gladly hands it off to the attacker site. The attacker site could then use that cookie to access site.com and hijack the user’s session. Quite likely the attacker would immediately change password or something and logout/login so that the innocent user who’s off looking at cats will get a “you are logged-out” message when he/she returns to site.com…

The attacker could then use “password reminder” features on other sites to get emails sent to site.com to allow him to continue attacking the user’s other accounts on other services. Or if site.com was a social site, the attacker would post more cat links and harvest more accounts etc…

End of story.

## Any process improvements?

For every security vulnerability a project gets, it should be a reason for scrutinizing what went wrong. I don’t mean in the actual code necessarily, but more what processes we lack that made the bug sneak in and remain in there for so long without being detected.

What didn’t we do that made this bug survive this long?

Obviously we didn’t review the code properly. But this is a tricky beast that was added a very long time ago, back in the days when the project was young and not that many developers were involved. Before we even had a test suite. I do believe that we have slightly better reviews these days, but I will also claim that it is far from sure that we would detect this flaw by a sheer code review.

Test cases! We clearly lacked the necessary test case setup that tested the limitations of how cookies are supposed to work and get sent back and forth. We’ve added a few new ones now that detect this particular flaw fine, but I think we have reasons to continue to search for various kinds of negative tests we should do. Involving cookies of course, but also generally in other areas of the curl project.

Of course, we’re all just working voluntarily here on spare time so we can’t expect miracles.

###### (an attack, picture by Andy Gardner)

Syndicated 2013-04-15 09:38:48 from daniel.haxx.se

Monitoring my voip line

My “landline” phone in my house is connected over voip through my fiber and I’m using the service provided by Affinity Telecom. A company I never heard of before and I can only presume it is a fairly small one.

Everything is working out fine, apart from one annoying little glitch: every other month or so my phone reports itself as either busy to a caller (or just as if nobody picks up the phone) and the pingcom NetPhone Adapter 201E voip box I have needs to be restarted for the phone line to get back to normal (I haven’t figured out if the box or the service provider is the actual villain).

In my household we usually discover the problem after several days of this situation since we don’t get many calls and we don’t make many calls. (The situation is usually even notable on the voip box’s set of led lights as they are flashing when they are otherwise solid but the box is not put in a place where we notice that either.) Several days of the phone beeping busy to callers is a bit annoying and I’ve decided to try to remedy that somehow. Luckily the box has a web interface that allows me to admin it and check status etc, and after all, I know a tool I can use to script HTTP to the thing, extract the status and send me a message when it needs some love!

Okay, so I just need to “login” to the box and get the status page and extract the info for the phone line and I’m done. I’ve done this dozens if not hundreds of times on sites all over the net the last decade. I merrily transferred the device info page “http://pingcom/Status/Device_Info.shtml” with curl and gave it a glance…

Oh. My. God. This is a little excerpt from the javascript magic that handles the password I enter to login to the web interface:

```    /*
* Get the salt from the router
*/
(code gets salt from a local URL)

var salt = xml_doc.textdoc;
/*
* Append the password to the salt
*/
var input = salt + password;
/*
* MD5 hash of the salt.
*/
var hash = hex_md5(input);
/*
* Append the MD5 hash to the salt.
*/
var login_hash = salt.concat(hash);
/*
* Send the login hash to the server.
*/

[cut]```

Ugha! So it downloads a salt, does hashing, salting and md5ing on the data within the browser itself before it sends it off to the server. That’s is so annoying and sure I can probably replicate that logic in a script language of my choice but it is going to take some trial and error until the details are all sorted out.

Ok, so I do the web form login with my browser again and start to look at what requests it does and so on in order to be able to mimic them with curl instead. I then spot that when viewing that device info page, it makes a whole series of HTTP requests that aren’t for pictures and not for the main HTML… Hm, at a closer look it fetches data from a bunch of URLs ending with “.cgi”! And look, among those URLs there’s one in particular that is called “voip_line_state.cgi”. Let me try to get just that and see what that might offer and what funny auth dance I may need for it…

`curl http://pingcom/voip_line_state.cgi`

And what do you know? It returns a full XML of the voip status, entirely without any login or authentication required:

```<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<LineStatus channel_count="2">
<Channel index="0" enabled="1">
<SIP state="Up">
<Name>0123456789</Name>
<Server>sip.example.org</Server>
</SIP>
<Call state="Idle"></Call>
</Channel>
<Channel index="1" enabled="0"></Channel>
</LineStatus>```

Lovely! That ‘Idle’ string in there in the <Call> tag is the key. I now poll the status and check to see the state in order to mail myself when it looks wrong. Still needs to be proven to actually trigger during the problem but hey, why wouldn’t it work?

The final tip is probably the lovely tool xml2, which converts an XML input to a “flat” output. That output is perfect to use grep or sed on to properly catch the correct situation, and it keeps me from resorting to the error-prone concept of grepping or regexing actual XML. After xml2 the above XML looks like this:

```/LineStatus/@channel_count=2
/LineStatus/Channel/@index=0
/LineStatus/Channel/@enabled=1
/LineStatus/Channel/SIP/@state=Up
/LineStatus/Channel/SIP/Name=012345679
/LineStatus/Channel/SIP/Server=sip.example.org
/LineStatus/Channel/Call/@state=Idle
/LineStatus/Channel
/LineStatus/Channel/@index=1
/LineStatus/Channel/@enabled=0```

Now I’ll just have to wait until the problem hits again to see that my scripts actually work… Once proven to detect the situation, my next step will probably be to actually maneuver the web interface and reboot it. I’ll get back to that later..

Syndicated 2013-04-06 14:35:52 from daniel.haxx.se

Better pipelining in libcurl 7.30.0

Back in October 2006, we added support for HTTP pipelining to libcurl. The implementation was naive and simple: it basically preferred to pipeline everything on the single connection to a given host if it could. It works only with the multi interface and if you do a second request to the same host it will try to pipeline that.

Over the years the feature was bugfixed and improved slightly, which proved that at least a couple of applications actually used it – but it was never any particularly big hit among libcurl’s vast amount of features.

Related background information that gives details on some of the problems with pipelining in the wild can be found in Mark Nottingham’s Making HTTP Pipelining Usable on the Open Web internet-draft, Mozilla’s bug report “HTTP pipelining by default” and Chrome’s pipelining docs.

Now, more than six years later, Linus Nielsen Feltzing (a colleague and friend at Haxx) strikes back with a much improved and almost completely revamped HTTP pipelining support (merged into master just hours before the new-feature window closed for the pending 7.30.0 release). This time, the implementation features and provides:

• a configurable number of connections and pipelines to each unique host name
• a round-robin approach that favors starting new connections first, and then pipeline on existing connections once the maximum number of connections to the host is reached
• a max-depth value that when filled makes the code not add any more requests on that connection/pipeline
• a pipe penalization system that avoids adding new requests to pipes that are known to be receiving very large contents and thus possibly would stall subsequent requests for an extended period of time
• a server blacklist that allows the application to specify a list of servers for which HTTP pipelining should not be attempted – real world tests has proven that some servers are too broken to be allowed to play the game

The code also adds a feature that helps out applications to do massive amount of requests in a controlled manner:

A hard maximum amount of connections, that when reached makes libcurl queue up easy handles internally until they can create a new connection or re-use a previously used one. That allows an application to for example set the limit to 50 and then add 400 handles to the multi handle but it will still only use 50 connections as a maximum so over time when requests get completed it will start new transfers on the requests that are waiting in line and thus shrinking the queue and keeping the maximum amount of connections until there’s less than 50 left to do…

Previously that kind of queuing had to be done by the application itself, but now with the much more extensive pipelining support it really isn’t as easy for an application to know when the new request can get pipelined or create a new connection so this logic is now provided by libcurl itself. It is likely going to be appreciated and used also by non-pipelining applications…

This implementation is accompanied with a bunch of new test cases for libcurl (and even a new HTTP test server for the purpose), and it has been tested in the wild for a while with libcurl as the engine in a web browser implementation (the company doing that has requested to remain anonymous). We believe it is in fairly decent state, but as this is a large step and the first release it is shipped with I expect there to be some hiccups along the way.

Two things to take note of:

1. pipelining is only available for users of libcurl’s multi interface, and only if explicitly enabled with CURLMOPT_PIPELINING
2. the curl command line tool does not use the multi interface and thus it will not use pipelining

Syndicated 2013-03-26 21:26:47 from daniel.haxx.se

Why no curl 8

In this little piece I’ll explain why there won’t be any version 8 of curl and libcurl in a long time. I won’t rule out that it might happen at some point in the future. Just that it won’t happen anytime soon and explain the reasons why.

## Seven point twenty nine, really?

We’ve done 29 minor releases and many more patch releases since version seven was born, on August 7 2000. We did in fact bump the ABI number a couple of times so we had the chance of bumping the version number as well, but we didn’t take the chance back then and these days we have much harder commitment and determinism to not break the ABI.

There’s really no particular downside with having a minor version 29. Given our current speed and minor versioning rules, we’ll bump it 4-6 times/year and we won’t have any practical problems until we reach 256. (This particular detail is because we provide the version number info with the API using 8 bits per major, minor and patch field and 8 bits can as you know only hold values up to 255.) Assuming we bump minor number 6 times per year, we’ll reach the problematic limit in about 37 years in the fine year 2050. Possibly we’ll find a reason to bump to version 8 before that.

Prepare yourself for seven point an-increasingly-higher-number for a number of years coming up!

## Is bumping the ABI number that bad?

Yes!

We have a compatibility within the ABI number so that a later version always work with a program built to use the older version. We have several hundred million users. That means an awful lot of programs are built to use this particular ABI number. Changing the number has a ripple effect so that at some point in time a new version has to replace all the old ones and applications need to be rebuilt – and at worst also possibly have to be rewritten in parts to handle the ABI/API changes. The amount of work done “out there” on hundreds or thousands of applications for a single little libcurl tweak can be enormous. The last time we bumped the ABI, we got a serious amount of harsh words and critical feedback and since then we’ve gotten many more users!

## Don’t sensible systems handle multiple library versions?

Yes in theory they do, but in practice they don’t.

If you build applications they have the ABI number stored for which lib to use, so if you just keep the different versions of the libraries installed in the file system you’ll be fine. Then the older applications will keep using the old version and the ones you rebuild will be made to use the new version. Everything is fine and dandy and over time all rebuilt applications will use the latest ABI and you can delete the older version from the system.

In reality, libraries are provided by distributions or OS vendors and they ship applications that link to a specific version of the underlying libraries. These distributions only want one version of the lib, so when an ABI bump is made all the applications that use the lib will be rebuilt and have to be updated.

## Most importantly, there’s no pressing need!

If we would find ourselves cornered without ability to continue development without a bump then of course we would take the pain it involves. But as things are right now, we have a few things we don’t really like with the current API and ABI but in general it works fine and there’s no major downsides or great pains involved. We simply do not have any particularly good reason to bump version number or ABI version. Things work pretty good with the current way.

The future is of course unknown and at some point we’ll face a true limitation in the API that we need to bridge over with a bump, but it can also take a long while until we hit that snag.

Syndicated 2013-03-23 12:52:37 from daniel.haxx.se

some missing github features

I think github is a lovely resource for collaborating on source code with my friends all over the globe. Among other things, we host the primary curl repository there and we’ve been doing so for almost three years now. This experience has led me to discover a bunch of things I miss in the service…

github is clearly aimed at repositories run by one person or a small set of persons, while in the projects I run I try to involve as many as possible in wide collaboration and I put efforts into informing everyone to get the widest possible attention and feedback. I may have created the account and “own” the repository, but I want the work to be done by a large team and I want everything that happens to it to be seen by a large audience. This is not always possible to do easily with the existing github services.

To further this spirit and to widen cooperation more, I would like to see the following improvements:

• pull requests can’t be disabled nor can i control to which email address to send the notification. In our project I want all patches posted to the mailing list for review, archiving and discussions before I get a pull request, and I don’t use github’s merge feature since it is hardly ever good enough (I want fast-forward and I usually feel a need to edit the commit message ever so slightly etc). I want the pull request to get translated into a patch review submission to the mailing list.
• similarly, I cannot redirect where notifications are sent when someone comments a commit or a source line and this is highly annoying since we merge a lot of outsiders’ patches etc and as they may still read the mailing list we want the discussion there! Many times the contributors don’t have github accounts and of course we don’t want to require that.
• after the death of the CIA.vc service, the current IRC notification service offered by github is nothing but inferior. The stupid bot has to join, tell its message and leave again. It is not an IRC friendly behavior and I can’t make it announce exactly what I’d like it to say…
• I wish it had much better email notification on commits that would allow me to customize what it sends out without forcing me to write a full blown replacement. I want a unified diff included!

I realize github has features that offer me to create an “organization” to host a repository instead of it being owned by me as a person, but I don’t think that should be a requirement to get this functionality. And I don’t know if github truly offers better group functionality then either.

Syndicated 2013-03-09 18:58:52 from daniel.haxx.se

curl and new technologies

At March 5 2013 we had another foss-sthlm meetup. The 12th one in fact, and out of the five talks during the event I spoke about curl and new technologies. Here are the slides from my talk: