Some STARTTLS implementations could allow a remote attacker to inject commands during the plaintext phase of the protocol.
STARTTLS is an extension to plaintext communication protocols that offers a way to upgrade a plaintext connection to an encrypted (TLS or SSL) connection instead of using a separate port for encrypted communication. Some implementations of STARTTLS contain a vulnerability that could allow a remote unauthenticated attacker to inject commands during the plaintext protocol phase, that will be executed during the ciphertext protocol phase. This vulnerability is caused by the switch from plaintext to TLS being implemented below the application's I/O buffering layer.
This issue is only of practical concern for affected implementations that also perform correct certificate validation. Implementations which do not perform certificate validation are already inherently vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.
A remote attacker with the ability to pose as a man-in-the-middle may be able to inject commands for the corresponding protocol (e.g., SMTP, POP3, etc.) during the plaintext protocol phase, that will then be executed during the ciphertext protocol phase.
Purge the application I/O buffer
Thanks to Wietse Venema for reporting this vulnerability.
This document was written by Michael Orlando.