The Heartbleed bug

Posted: April 11, 2014 by teser02 in Bug

When I wrote about the GnuTLS bug, I said that this isn’t the last severe TLS stack bug we’d see. I didn’t expect it to be quite this bad, however.

The Heartbleed bug is a particularly nasty bug. It allows an attacker to read up to 64KB of memory, and the security researchers have said:

Without using any privileged information or credentials we were able steal from ourselves the secret keys used for our X.509 certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, emails and business critical documents and communication.

How could this happen? Let’s read the code and find out.

The bug

The fix starts here, in ssl/d1_both.c:

dtls1_process_heartbeat(SSL *s)
    unsigned char *p = &s->s3->[0], *pl;
    unsigned short hbtype;
    unsigned int payload;
    unsigned int padding = 16; /* Use minimum padding */

So, first we get a pointer to the data within an SSLv3 record. That looks like this:

typedef struct ssl3_record_st
        int type;               /* type of record */
        unsigned int length;    /* How many bytes available */
        unsigned int off;       /* read/write offset into 'buf' */
        unsigned char *data;    /* pointer to the record data */
        unsigned char *input;   /* where the decode bytes are */
        unsigned char *comp;    /* only used with decompression - malloc()ed */
        unsigned long epoch;    /* epoch number, needed by DTLS1 */
        unsigned char seq_num[8]; /* sequence number, needed by DTLS1 */
    } SSL3_RECORD;

Records have a type, a length, and data. Back to dtls1_process_heartbeat:

/* Read type and payload length first */
hbtype = *p++;
n2s(p, payload);
pl = p;

The first byte of the SSLv3 record is the heartbeat type. The macro n2s takes two bytes from p, and puts them in payload. This is actually the length of the payload. Note that the actual length in the SSLv3 record is not checked.

The variable pl is then the resulting heartbeat data, supplied by the requester.

Later in the function, it does this:

unsigned char *buffer, *bp;
int r;

/* Allocate memory for the response, size is 1 byte
 * message type, plus 2 bytes payload length, plus
 * payload, plus padding
buffer = OPENSSL_malloc(1 + 2 + payload + padding);
bp = buffer;

So we’re allocating as much memory as the requester asked for: up to 65535+1+2+16, to be precise. The variable bp is going to be the pointer used for accessing this memory. Then:

/* Enter response type, length and copy payload */
s2n(payload, bp);
memcpy(bp, pl, payload);

The macro s2n does the inverse of n2s: it takes a 16-bit value and puts it into two bytes. So it puts the same payload length requested.

Then it copies payload bytes from pl, the user supplied data, to the newly allocated bp array. After this, it sends this all back to the user. So where’s the bug?

The user controls payload and pl

What if the requester didn’t actually supply payload bytes, like she said she did? What if pl really is only one byte? Then the read from memcpy is going to read whatever memory was near the SSLv3 record and within the same process.

And apparently, there’s a lot of stuff nearby.

There are two ways memory is dynamically allocated with malloc (at least on Linux): using sbrk(2) and using mmap(2). If the memory is allocated with sbrk, then it uses the old heap-grows-up rules and limits what can be found with this, although multiple requests (especially simultaneously) could still find some fun stuff1.

The allocations for bp don’t matter at all, actually. The allocation for pl, however, matters a great deal. It’s almost certainly allocated with sbrk because of the mmap threshold in malloc. However, interesting stuff (like documents or user info), is very likely to be allocated with mmap and might be reachable from pl. Multiple simultaneous requests will also make some interesting data available.

Python Heartbleed (CVE-2014-0160) Proof of Concept: (rename it to .py)


Heartbleed test: Test Heartbleed/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s