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CERT Coordination Center

ibrow NewsDesk does not securely handle input passed to open()

Vulnerability Note VU#496064

Original Release Date: 2002-04-02 | Last Revised: 2002-04-08


A vulnerability in ibrow NewsDesk allows an attacker to view files and execute operating system commands with the privileges of the web server.


ibrow NewsDesk is a Perl CGI script that is designed to create and display news articles on a web site. The code for NewsDesk is implemented in the file newsdesk.cgi. This code accepts input from a URL and uses this data in an argument to the Perl open() command. Since NewsDesk does not adequately filter URL input, it is possible to construct a URL containing shell meta-characters such as "../" and "|" (pipe), and these characters will be processed with the privileges of the web server.


By submitting a specially crafted URL, an attacker can execute operating system commands and traverse the file system and read files with the permission of the web server.


The CERT/CC is currently unaware of a practical solution to this problem.

Modify NewsDesk

  • Modify newsdesk.cgi to only allow acceptable characters in URL input that is passed to open(). This type of input validation is referred to as "positive" or "whitelist" filtering. See Laundering and Detecting Tainted Data in perlsec for more information.
  • Enabling Perl "taint" checking will prevent execution of commands using the pipe character ("|"). See perlsec and the Secure Programming for Linux and Unix HOWTO for more information.
  • Rewrite the vulnerable open() calls in newsdesk.cgi to be safer, possibly by using sysopen(). See perlopentut for more information.

Vendor Information


ibrow Affected

Notified:  March 27, 2002 Updated: April 02, 2002



Vendor Statement

We have not received a statement from the vendor.

Vendor Information

The vendor has not provided us with any further information regarding this vulnerability.


In testing, the CERT/CC found NewsDesk 1.2 to be vulnerable to directory traversal and command execution attacks. A message posted on the ibrow web site further discusses this vulnerability.

If you have feedback, comments, or additional information about this vulnerability, please send us email.

CVSS Metrics

Group Score Vector



The CERT Coordination Center acknowledges as the reporter of this vulnerability.

This document was written by Art Manion.

Other Information

CVE IDs: CVE-2001-0231
Severity Metric: 2.97
Date Public: 2001-01-04
Date First Published: 2002-04-02
Date Last Updated: 2002-04-08 18:38 UTC
Document Revision: 23

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