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       Perl is designed to make it easy to program securely even
       when running with extra privileges, like setuid or setgid
       programs.  Unlike most command line shells, which are
       based on multiple substitution passes on each line of the
       script, Perl uses a more conventional evaluation scheme
       with fewer hidden snags.  Additionally, because the lan­
       guage has more builtin functionality, it can rely less
       upon external (and possibly untrustworthy) programs to
       accomplish its purposes.

       Perl automatically enables a set of special security
       checks, called taint mode, when it detects its program
       running with differing real and effective user or group
       IDs.  The setuid bit in Unix permissions is mode 04000,
       the setgid bit mode 02000; either or both may be set.  You
       can also enable taint mode explicitly by using the -T com­
       mand line flag. This flag is strongly suggested for server
       programs and any program run on behalf of someone else,
       such as a CGI script. Once taint mode is on, it's on for
       the remainder of your script.

       While in this mode, Perl takes special precautions called
       taint checks to prevent both obvious and subtle traps.
       Some of these checks are reasonably simple, such as veri­
       fying that path directories aren't writable by others;
       careful programmers have always used checks like these.
       Other checks, however, are best supported by the language
       itself, and it is these checks especially that contribute
       to making a set-id Perl program more secure than the cor­
       responding C program.

       You may not use data derived from outside your program to
       affect something else outside your program--at least, not
       by accident.  All command line arguments, environment
       variables, locale information (see perllocale), results of
       certain system calls (readdir(), readlink(), the variable
       of shmread(), the messages returned by msgrcv(), the pass­
       word, gcos and shell fields returned by the getpwxxx()
       calls), and all file input are marked as "tainted".
       Tainted data may not be used directly or indirectly in any
       command that invokes a sub-shell, nor in any command that
       modifies files, directories, or processes, with the fol­
       lowing exceptions:

       ·   Arguments to "print" and "syswrite" are not checked
           for taintedness.

       ·   Symbolic methods


       itself be tainted, even if it is logically impossible for
       the tainted data to affect the value.

       Because taintedness is associated with each scalar value,
       some elements of an array can be tainted and others not.

       For example:

           $arg = shift;               # $arg is tainted
           $hid = $arg, 'bar';         # $hid is also tainted
           $line = <>;                 # Tainted
           $line = <STDIN>;            # Also tainted
           open FOO, "/home/me/bar" or die $!;
           $line = <FOO>;              # Still tainted
           $path = $ENV{'PATH'};       # Tainted, but see below
           $data = 'abc';              # Not tainted

           system "echo $arg";         # Insecure
           system "/bin/echo", $arg;   # Considered insecure
                                       # (Perl doesn't know about /bin/echo)
           system "echo $hid";         # Insecure
           system "echo $data";        # Insecure until PATH set

           $path = $ENV{'PATH'};       # $path now tainted

           $ENV{'PATH'} = '/bin:/usr/bin';
           delete @ENV{'IFS', 'CDPATH', 'ENV', 'BASH_ENV'};

           $path = $ENV{'PATH'};       # $path now NOT tainted
           system "echo $data";        # Is secure now!

           open(FOO, "< $arg");        # OK - read-only file
           open(FOO, "> $arg");        # Not OK - trying to write

           open(FOO,"echo $arg|");     # Not OK
               or exec 'echo', $arg;   # Also not OK

           $shout = `echo $arg`;       # Insecure, $shout now tainted

           unlink $data, $arg;         # Insecure
           umask $arg;                 # Insecure

           exec "echo $arg";           # Insecure
           exec "echo", $arg;          # Insecure
           exec "sh", '-c', $arg;      # Very insecure!

           @files = <*.c>;             # insecure (uses readdir() or similar)
           @files = glob('*.c');       # insecure (uses readdir() or similar)

           # In Perl releases older than 5.6.0 the <*.c> and glob('*.c') would
           # have used an external program to do the filename expansion; but in

       sage, you can use the tainted() function of the
       Scalar::Util module, available in your nearby CPAN mirror,
       and included in Perl starting from the release 5.8.0.  Or
       you may be able to use the following is_tainted() func­

           sub is_tainted {
               return ! eval { eval("#" . substr(join("", @_), 0, 0)); 1 };

       This function makes use of the fact that the presence of
       tainted data anywhere within an expression renders the
       entire expression tainted.  It would be inefficient for
       every operator to test every argument for taintedness.
       Instead, the slightly more efficient and conservative
       approach is used that if any tainted value has been
       accessed within the same expression, the whole expression
       is considered tainted.

       But testing for taintedness gets you only so far.  Some­
       times you have just to clear your data's taintedness.  The
       only way to bypass the tainting mechanism is by referenc­
       ing subpatterns from a regular expression match.  Perl
       presumes that if you reference a substring using $1, $2,
       etc., that you knew what you were doing when you wrote the
       pattern.  That means using a bit of thought--don't just
       blindly untaint anything, or you defeat the entire mecha­
       nism.  It's better to verify that the variable has only
       good characters (for certain values of "good") rather than
       checking whether it has any bad characters.  That's
       because it's far too easy to miss bad characters that you
       never thought of.

       Here's a test to make sure that the data contains nothing
       but "word" characters (alphabetics, numerics, and under­
       scores), a hyphen, an at sign, or a dot.

           if ($data =~ /^([-\@\w.]+)$/) {
               $data = $1;                     # $data now untainted
           } else {
               die "Bad data in '$data'";      # log this somewhere

       This is fairly secure because "/\w+/" doesn't normally
       match shell metacharacters, nor are dot, dash, or at going
       to mean something special to the shell.  Use of "/.+/"
       would have been insecure in theory because it lets every­
       thing through, but Perl doesn't check for that.  The les­
       son is that when untainting, you must be exceedingly care­
       ful with your patterns.  Laundering data using regular
       expression is the only mechanism for untainting dirty
       data, unless you use the strategy detailed below to fork a
       When you make a script executable, in order to make it
       usable as a command, the system will pass switches to perl
       from the script's #!  line.  Perl checks that any command
       line switches given to a setuid (or setgid) script actu­
       ally match the ones set on the #! line.  Some Unix and
       Unix-like environments impose a one-switch limit on the #!
       line, so you may need to use something like "-wU" instead
       of "-w -U" under such systems.  (This issue should arise
       only in Unix or Unix-like environments that support #! and
       setuid or setgid scripts.)

       Cleaning Up Your Path

       For "Insecure $ENV{PATH}" messages, you need to set
       $ENV{'PATH'} to a known value, and each directory in the
       path must be non-writable by others than its owner and
       group.  You may be surprised to get this message even if
       the pathname to your executable is fully qualified.  This
       is not generated because you didn't supply a full path to
       the program; instead, it's generated because you never set
       your PATH environment variable, or you didn't set it to
       something that was safe.  Because Perl can't guarantee
       that the executable in question isn't itself going to turn
       around and execute some other program that is dependent on
       your PATH, it makes sure you set the PATH.

       The PATH isn't the only environment variable which can
       cause problems.  Because some shells may use the variables
       IFS, CDPATH, ENV, and BASH_ENV, Perl checks that those are
       either empty or untainted when starting subprocesses. You
       may wish to add something like this to your setid and
       taint-checking scripts.

           delete @ENV{qw(IFS CDPATH ENV BASH_ENV)};   # Make %ENV safer

       It's also possible to get into trouble with other opera­
       tions that don't care whether they use tainted values.
       Make judicious use of the file tests in dealing with any
       user-supplied filenames.  When possible, do opens and such
       after properly dropping any special user (or group!)
       privileges. Perl doesn't prevent you from opening tainted
       filenames for reading, so be careful what you print out.
       The tainting mechanism is intended to prevent stupid mis­
       takes, not to remove the need for thought.

       Perl does not call the shell to expand wild cards when you
       pass system and exec explicit parameter lists instead of
       strings with possible shell wildcards in them.  Unfortu­
       nately, the open, glob, and backtick functions provide no
       such alternate calling convention, so more subterfuge will
       be required.


       Here's a way to do backticks reasonably safely.  Notice
       how the exec is not called with a string that the shell
       could expand.  This is by far the best way to call some­
       thing that might be subjected to shell escapes: just never
       call the shell at all.

               use English '-no_match_vars';
               die "Can't fork: $!" unless defined($pid = open(KID, "-|"));
               if ($pid) {           # parent
                   while (<KID>) {
                       # do something
                   close KID;
               } else {
                   my @temp     = ($EUID, $EGID);
                   my $orig_uid = $UID;
                   my $orig_gid = $GID;
                   $EUID = $UID;
                   $EGID = $GID;
                   # Drop privileges
                   $UID  = $orig_uid;
                   $GID  = $orig_gid;
                   # Make sure privs are really gone
                   ($EUID, $EGID) = @temp;
                   die "Can't drop privileges"
                       unless $UID == $EUID  && $GID eq $EGID;
                   $ENV{PATH} = "/bin:/usr/bin"; # Minimal PATH.
                   # Consider sanitizing the environment even more.
                   exec 'myprog', 'arg1', 'arg2'
                       or die "can't exec myprog: $!";

       A similar strategy would work for wildcard expansion via
       "glob", although you can use "readdir" instead.

       Taint checking is most useful when although you trust
       yourself not to have written a program to give away the
       farm, you don't necessarily trust those who end up using
       it not to try to trick it into doing something bad.  This
       is the kind of security checking that's useful for set-id
       programs and programs launched on someone else's behalf,
       like CGI programs.

       This is quite different, however, from not even trusting
       the writer of the code not to try to do something evil.
       That's the kind of trust needed when someone hands you a
       program you've never seen before and says, "Here, run
       this."  For that kind of safety, check out the Safe mod­
       ule, included standard in the Perl distribution.  This
       module allows the programmer to set up special compart­

       Fortunately, sometimes this kernel "feature" can be dis­
       abled.  Unfortunately, there are two ways to disable it.
       The system can simply outlaw scripts with any set-id bit
       set, which doesn't help much.  Alternately, it can simply
       ignore the set-id bits on scripts.  If the latter is true,
       Perl can emulate the setuid and setgid mechanism when it
       notices the otherwise useless setuid/gid bits on Perl
       scripts.  It does this via a special executable called
       suidperl that is automatically invoked for you if it's

       However, if the kernel set-id script feature isn't dis­
       abled, Perl will complain loudly that your set-id script
       is insecure.  You'll need to either disable the kernel
       set-id script feature, or put a C wrapper around the
       script.  A C wrapper is just a compiled program that does
       nothing except call your Perl program.   Compiled programs
       are not subject to the kernel bug that plagues set-id
       scripts.  Here's a simple wrapper, written in C:

           #define REAL_PATH "/path/to/script"
           main(ac, av)
               char **av;
               execv(REAL_PATH, av);

       Compile this wrapper into a binary executable and then
       make it rather than your script setuid or setgid.

       In recent years, vendors have begun to supply systems free
       of this inherent security bug.  On such systems, when the
       kernel passes the name of the set-id script to open to the
       interpreter, rather than using a pathname subject to med­
       dling, it instead passes /dev/fd/3.  This is a special
       file already opened on the script, so that there can be no
       race condition for evil scripts to exploit.  On these sys­
       tems, Perl should be compiled with "-DSE­
       TUID_SCRIPTS_ARE_SECURE_NOW".  The Configure program that
       builds Perl tries to figure this out for itself, so you
       should never have to specify this yourself.  Most modern
       releases of SysVr4 and BSD 4.4 use this approach to avoid
       the kernel race condition.

       Prior to release 5.6.1 of Perl, bugs in the code of suid­
       perl could introduce a security hole.

       Protecting Your Programs

       There are a number of ways to hide the source to your Perl
       programs, with varying levels of "security".
       source.  Security through obscurity, the name for hiding
       your bugs instead of fixing them, is little security

       You can try using encryption via source filters (Filter::*
       from CPAN, or Filter::Util::Call and Filter::Simple since
       Perl 5.8).  But crackers might be able to decrypt it.  You
       can try using the byte code compiler and interpreter
       described below, but crackers might be able to de-compile
       it.  You can try using the native-code compiler described
       below, but crackers might be able to disassemble it.
       These pose varying degrees of difficulty to people wanting
       to get at your code, but none can definitively conceal it
       (this is true of every language, not just Perl).

       If you're concerned about people profiting from your code,
       then the bottom line is that nothing but a restrictive
       licence will give you legal security.  License your soft­
       ware and pepper it with threatening statements like "This
       is unpublished proprietary software of XYZ Corp.  Your
       access to it does not give you permission to use it blah
       blah blah."  You should see a lawyer to be sure your
       licence's wording will stand up in court.


       Unicode is a new and complex technology and one may easily
       overlook certain security pitfalls.  See perluniintro for
       an overview and perlunicode for details, and "Security
       Implications of Unicode" in perlunicode for security
       implications in particular.

       Algorithmic Complexity Attacks

       Certain internal algorithms used in the implementation of
       Perl can be attacked by choosing the input carefully to
       consume large amounts of either time or space or both.
       This can lead into the so-called Denial of Service (DoS)

       ·   Hash Function - the algorithm used to "order" hash
           elements has been changed several times during the
           development of Perl, mainly to be reasonably fast.  In
           Perl 5.8.1 also the security aspect was taken into

           In Perls before 5.8.1 one could rather easily generate
           data that as hash keys would cause Perl to consume
           large amounts of time because internal structure of
           hashes would badly degenerate.  In Perl 5.8.1 the hash
           function is randomly perturbed by a pseudorandom seed
           which makes generating such naughty hash keys harder.
           times during the lifetime of Perl 5.  Also, the order­
           ing of hash keys has always been, and continues to be,
           affected by the insertion order.

           Also note that while the order of the hash elements
           might be randomised, this "pseudoordering" should not
           be used for applications like shuffling a list ran­
           domly (use List::Util::shuffle() for that, see
           List::Util, a standard core module since Perl 5.8.0;
           or the CPAN module Algorithm::Numerical::Shuffle), or
           for generating permutations (use e.g. the CPAN modules
           Algorithm::Permute or Algorithm::FastPermute), or for
           any cryptographic applications.

       ·   Regular expressions - Perl's regular expression engine
           is so called NFA (Non-Finite Automaton), which among
           other things means that it can rather easily consume
           large amounts of both time and space if the regular
           expression may match in several ways.  Careful craft­
           ing of the regular expressions can help but quite
           often there really isn't much one can do (the book
           "Mastering Regular Expressions" is required reading,
           see perlfaq2).  Running out of space manifests itself
           by Perl running out of memory.

       ·   Sorting - the quicksort algorithm used in Perls before
           5.8.0 to implement the sort() function is very easy to
           trick into misbehaving so that it consumes a lot of
           time.  Nothing more is required than resorting a list
           already sorted.  Starting from Perl 5.8.0 a different
           sorting algorithm, mergesort, is used.  Mergesort is
           insensitive to its input data, so it cannot be simi­
           larly fooled.

       See <http://www.cs.rice.edu/~scrosby/hash/> for more
       information, and any computer science text book on the
       algorithmic complexity.


       perlrun for its description of cleaning up environment

perl v5.8.1                 2003-09-02                 PERLSEC(1)



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