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Bug #28932 glob() in safe mode only checks UID for the first file matched by pattern
Submitted: 2004-06-26 07:36 UTC Modified: 2005-02-06 23:34 UTC
Avg. Score:5.0 ± 0.0
Reproduced:3 of 3 (100.0%)
Same Version:4 (133.3%)
Same OS:2 (66.7%)
From: php at ter dot dk Assigned: iliaa (profile)
Status: Not a bug Package: Safe Mode/open_basedir
PHP Version: 4CVS, 5CVS (2005-02-03) OS: *
Private report: No CVE-ID: None
 [2004-06-26 07:36 UTC] php at ter dot dk
The SAFE_MODE handling of glob() needs a checkup for security reasons.

In short - always with SAFE_MODE on:

1) glob() can still fetch all filenames in a directory not owned by the same UID as the user, if just the first file in the directory (or more specific, the glob-pattern) happens to be owned by the same user as the PHP-script.

2a) No warning is raised if glob is used on another owner's directory and there is no match.

2b) In those cases where SAFE_MODE correctly prohibits glob() from fetching a list of files, the warning still discloses the first filename.

Solution: glob() in SAFE_MODE should be restricted in the same way as opendir() is.

Longer version + rationale:

I assume the premise for glob() should be the same as opendir(). But glob() isn't handled in the same way.

It appears that glob() only checks *the first file* (assuming the directory isn't owned by the same user) in the glob()-result for ordinary SAFE_MODE UID-comparsion.

If we have three files in a directory (owned by xyzzy, UID 999):

a.txt (owned by user foo, UID 1000)
b.txt (owned by user bar, UID 1001)
c.txt (owned by user baz, UID 1002)

.. a PHP-script owned by foo executing glob("/path/to/directory/*") will return all file names, regardless of the ownership (of course, the Apache User would have to have read/execute-access to the directory)

The exact same PHP-script owned by bar will give an error, just because the first file in the directory doesn't happen to be owned by bar.

glob() is allowed to check whether no files match a specific pattern.

Furthermore, the glob() SAFE_MODE warning (when present) disclose the first file name (where the UID check is performed):

opendir("/path/to/directory/") raises a warning like "The script whose uid is 1001 is not allowed to access /path/to/directory/ owned by uid 999". This is fine.

glob("/path/to/directory/*") raises a warning like "The script whose uid is 1001 is not allowed to access /path/to/directory/a.txt owned by uid 1000". Notice that "a.txt" is mentioned in the error - a file name we might not have known in advance.

Combining the problems mentioned in 2a and 2b gives us a possibility to get an almost complete list of files in a directory by walking through the letters, as in this example:

("Does a* exists? No. Does b* exist? No. Does c* exist? Yes, cyber.txt exists. Does cz* exist? No. Does d* exist? Yes, door.php exists. Does dp* exist? No. Does dq* exist? No.")

Of course, instead of "Yes, cyber.txt exists", one would recieve ".. not allowed to access cyber.txt", still disclosing the name.

Reproduce code:

1. touch /tmp/a as the same user as the owner of the following PHP-code (create the file out of PHP - yes, this might require shell access in this setup, but this is just a controlled preparation to highlight the problem)

2. make sure PHP is running in safe_mode

3. Test code:

// Example 1
$a = glob("/tmp/*");

// Example 2a
$b = glob("/tmp/doesnotexist*");

// Example 2b
$c = glob("/tmp/sess_*");

Expected result:
In all cases:

Warning: glob(): SAFE MODE Restriction in effect. The script whose uid is 1000 is not allowed to access /tmp/ owned by uid 0

Actual result:
For $a:
glob() works unrestricted and a list of all file names is retrieved.

For $b:
glob() works unrestricted and returns false (giving us the knowledge that no files begin with "doesnotexist").

For $c:
"Warning: glob(): SAFE MODE Restriction in effect. The script whose uid is 1000 is not allowed to access /tmp/sess_14758f1afd44c09b7992073ccf00b43d owned by uid 33" (disclosing the session file name [33 is the Apache User])


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 [2004-06-28 05:36 UTC] php at ter dot dk
As a sidenote related to session security this bug could in a default setup with multiple virtual hosts in safe mode (as in a typical webhosting-setup) be exploited pretty bad by a single customer, retrieving ALL current sessionids:

1. Create a folder which is world-writable
2. Create a PHP-script that writes to a new .php-file in that folder (making that file having the same user as the Apache user), using something like glob(ini_get("session.save_path")."/sess_*")
3. Access that PHP-script via a browser.

Since the script is owned by the same UID as the Apache-user and the session-files, and glob() checks the UID for the first file (where it instead only should check the UID for the directory), a full list of *all* session files is available - even sessions for sites under other virtual hosts.

Combined with the possible exploit mentioned in bug #28242 (online test at - the bug was dismissed as "not our problem; every single administrator in the world would just have to create a custom save_path for each and every virtual host"), the user could read and write sesssion data to every single session on the server.

The Filesystem and Security chapter still doesn't mention anything about the problem, and even the Safe Mode chapter states: " The PHP safe mode is an attempt to solve the shared-server security problem. It is architecturally incorrect to try to solve this problem at the PHP level, but since the alternatives at the web server and OS levels aren't very realistic, many people, especially ISP's, use safe mode for now." 

I agree that it would be nice if every single administrator would have separate session.save_path for each virtual host or even jailed every user, but as mentioned above, it isn't that realistic.

I really hope that one would consider reworking the session storage process as mentioned in bug #28242, and somewhat creating a harder job to find or accessing session files

Some approaches to solve parts of the problem could be adding the UID to the session file in safe mode (as HTTP authentication currently is doing), the servername, a hash of both, and/or by other means not having users to be able to access the session files directly (which even could mean not allowing scripts - still in safe mode - with the same UID as the Apache user, although some applications might depend on this functionality with serverside-generated php-code) or otherwise disallow file related functions from accessing sess_*-files at all - once again, still only in safe mode.

.. and even if my session-related concern is disregarded, I still hope the glob()-bug is fixed :)

- Peter Brodersen
 [2004-06-28 22:04 UTC]
Thank you for taking the time to write to us, but this is not
a bug. Please double-check the documentation available at and the instructions on how to report
a bug at

Checking each file inside a directory would be too slow, 
same thing goes for opendir() & readdir(). Given that you 
just get a file list and no other information or the 
ability to access those file. In this particular case there 
is no loss of security. 
 [2004-06-29 01:47 UTC] php at ter dot dk
I'm baffled... I really am!

First of all, I propose a change to *one* UID-check on the directory alone (currently there are *two' checks, whether UID matches on the directory || the UID matches on the first file). I'm not voting for a UID check for every single file and I haven't mentioned that as a solution, so please don't use that argument.

Furthermore, currently safe_mode-users would be able to access every single session file. Not only the one they created themselves (as mentioned in bug #28242 ), but each and every single session stored on the server!

Please answer: What is the rationale for just checking the first file? There isn't any. It will lead to random, unpredicted results and confusion.

Safemode has prevented users of accessing any information that they aren't permitted to. It doesn't make sense deciding globally that "It wouldn't harm for users to know of files at another host". There is no reason for providing users in safe mode with this information in the first place.

What I really would like to see is:

1. Rationale for this random-check at first file. This is slower than just checking the dir alone, so please no "This is too slow"-argument. At least remove this check, as it doesn't make any sense.

2. Rationale for not updating the documentation regarding file and session security. There is no mention at all for using custom save_paths. If this bug really is "bogus", at least change it to a documentation issue, instead of hiding important information for the users. The same problem was mentioned in bug #28242 - the documentation really is pretty poor on this issue!

3. In summary, as of marking this bug as bogus, please state clearly: "Yes, a user should be able to see every session file in safe_mode" and "Yes, a user should be able to figure out every filename on the system requiring a small amount of work as opposed to brute force".

As mentioned, I'm baffled.

Peter Brodersen
 [2004-06-29 17:45 UTC]
Thank you for taking the time to write to us, but this is not
a bug. Please double-check the documentation available at and the instructions on how to report
a bug at

safe_mode is not entirely safe and has many drawbacks. It 
is much better to use open_basedir to restrict the user to 
their home directory or any other set of directories. 
As far as glob() goes the check is done on the 1st file, 
since ultimately you get data about the files inside the 
directory and not the directory itself. More over glob 
directory may infact be a pattern and not an actual 
directory, making the check based on that nearly 
 [2004-07-27 03:54 UTC] php at ter dot dk
I have now performed some tests with open_basedir as you suggested.

Two of the issues (2a: empty glob-match is not restricted, and 2b: filenames is disclosed in warning) is also present under open_basedir.

Proof of concept: (2a) (2b)

As mentioned in , even:

- with safe_mode-restriction
- with open_basedir-restriction
- with custom session.save_path for each virtual host/user
- without allowing php-scripts of the same UID as the Apache user to be executed (mostly because of the possibility of bypassing a safe_mode-UID-check)

.. a user can still walk around and get info on directory and file names fairly easy, e.g. finding session files, giving a hijack-opportunity.

In other words: open_basedir will not help us from preventing glob() to be maliciously used to get information about directory and file names. This is why I have re-opened the bug: two of the issues is still present under open_basedir-restriction (although the Summary could be changed to reflect this).

As a side note, not related to the above reasons for re-opening the bug:

The retrieval of a file list is usually connected to the permissions for the directory (e.g. the read-bit for a directory in unix). Following this logic, the same restriction should be added here. At least that's the case for opendir().

There are no differences between glob() and opendir(), since the directory handle from opendir() is only usable by readdir(), that returns a filename from the directory.

Both functions is used to retrieve filenames from a directory, no more, no less. Same effect, different approaches.

Futhermore, the first-file-check is still useless, as a similar check isn't performed on readdir(). If we perform opendir() on our own directory, the ownership of the files in the directory has no effect on readdir() - there is no restriction by safe_mode in this case. I could put up a test case for this too, although it is pretty easy to test out.

If there are any more suggestions for restrictions I could test (besides safe_mode, open_basedir, etc.), please let me know :)

Thanks for your patience.

- Peter Brodersen
 [2005-02-03 05:49 UTC] php at ter dot dk
Sorry - still no luck with that CVS snapshot (4.3.11).

glob() still just check the first file. Example:

$ php4-STABLE-200502030330/sapi/cli/php -d safe_mode=On -r 'print_r(glob("/tmp/*"));'

Warning: glob(): SAFE MODE Restriction in effect.  The script whose uid is 1000 is not allowed to access /tmp/build owned by uid 33 in Command line code on line 1

$ touch /tmp/a

$ php4-STABLE-200502030330/sapi/cli/php -d safe_mode=On -r 'print_r(glob("/tmp/*"));'
    [0] => /tmp/a
    [1] => /tmp/build
    [2] => /tmp/config
    [3] => /tmp/lib
    [4] => /tmp/magic5su99j
    [5] => /tmp/mailgraph
    [6] => /tmp/out.txt
    [7] => /tmp/phptest_sess_03735f0f339412345678901234567890
    [8] => /tmp/phptest_sess_0e838e6ff9e312345678901234567890
(.. and so on ..)

1) appearently doesn't seem to be fixed. Please don't comment on the fact that if I have shell access, I have access to those file names anyway - this was just a quick test :)

As the example above shows, 2b) isn't fixed either. The error (".. is not allowed to access /tmp/build owned by .."). An error due to open_basedir-restriction discloses it as well: "open_basedir restriction in effect. File(/tmp/build) is not within the allowed path(s): .."

So, it still seem that even under open_basedir- and safe_mode-restriction, the issue is still present.

.. and just to clarify: I do agree that safe_mode is not per se safe, and all these vulnerabilities would be present if a user had access to a shell or other languages - but there's no need for further inconsistency.

I'll e-mail a simple proof-of-concept-code of filepath-walking security@ and sniper@. The code utilizes these warning messages. The code is pretty simple (not to mention ugly), though.

- Peter Brodersen
 [2005-02-06 23:34 UTC]
It is not practical to test every single file returned by glob() against safe_mode & open_basedir, it would terribly slow to check every single file/directory.

As far as the error message goes, everytime you hit open_basedir limit the error indicating that path XYZ could not be opened due to open_basedir/safe_mode restriction.
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