The software, when opening a file or directory, does not sufficiently account for when the file is a symbolic link that resolves to a target outside of the intended control sphere. This could allow an attacker to cause the software to operate on unauthorized files.
A software system that allows UNIX symbolic links (symlink) as part of paths whether in internal code or through user input can allow an attacker to spoof the symbolic link and traverse the file system to unintended locations or access arbitrary files. The symbolic link can permit an attacker to read/write/corrupt a file that they originally did not have permissions to access.
The table(s) below shows the weaknesses and high level categories that are related to this weakness. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as PeerOf and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar weaknesses that the user may want to explore.
Relevant to the view "Research Concepts" (CWE-1000)
The different Modes of Introduction provide information about how and when this weakness may be introduced. The Phase identifies a point in the software life cycle at which introduction may occur, while the Note provides a typical scenario related to introduction during the given phase.
These are typically reported for temporary files or privileged programs.
The listings below show possible areas for which the given weakness could appear. These may be for specific named Languages, Operating Systems, Architectures, Paradigms, Technologies, or a class of such platforms. The platform is listed along with how frequently the given weakness appears for that instance.
The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the weakness. The Scope identifies the application security area that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in exploiting this weakness. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a weakness will be exploited to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Technical Impact: Read Files or Directories; Modify Files or Directories
Symbolic link attacks often occur when a program creates a tmp directory that stores files/links. Access to the directory should be restricted to the program as to prevent attackers from manipulating the files.
Phase: Architecture and Design
Strategy: Separation of Privilege
Follow the principle of least privilege when assigning access rights to entities in a software system.
Denying access to a file can prevent an attacker from replacing that file with a link to a sensitive file. Ensure good compartmentalization in the system to provide protected areas that can be trusted.
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
Symlink vulnerabilities are regularly found in C and shell programs, but all programming languages can have this problem. Even shell programs are probably under-reported.
"Second-order symlink vulnerabilities" may exist in programs that invoke other programs that follow symlinks. They are rarely reported but are likely to be fairly common when process invocation is used. Reference: [Christey2005]