Potential F5 Vulnerability

It all started with an email about a WebInspect report. It listed a buffer overflow, which we had marked as a false positive. I read the WebInspect report carefully, and found a note at the bottom that said you could test manually to confirm whether it was a false positive or not. Unfortunately, the manual test listed had a few problems. First, it jammed the lines together, without the proper line-breaks. Second, it assumed the site was using HTTP, not HTTPS, so used telnet. Third, it was testing against a page that didn’t exist, giving a 404. Keeping those in mind, I tried the manual test using the openssl s_client command:

openssl s_client -quiet -connect mysite.example.com:443
POST /login HTTP/1.1
Host: mysite.example.com
Transfer-Encoding: chunked


The test terminated immediately. The report said that this meant that the server was vulnerable to a buffer overflow and arbitrary code execution.

At first, we thought this was caused by Apache or Tomcat, or possibly the application code. But the reported vulnerability was an Apache CVE from 2002 (CVE-2002-0392), fixed by vendors long ago. After a while, we realized that if we hit the servers directly, we did not get the indication of a vulnerability. If we hit the site through the F5 VIP, we saw the immediate termination of the connection. The issue is with handling of HTTP chunked encoding. Nginx had a similar issue in 2013 (CVE-2013-2028).

So we turned our attention to the F5 load balancers. We were able to confirm that other sites using F5 load balancers were exhibiting the same behavior. We also confirmed that WebInspect run against the servers directly did not show the issue (even as a false positive). We reported the issue to F5, and they are looking into it.

I’m disclosing this publicly now for a few reasons. First, I’m not a security researcher, and almost nobody follows my blog — especially people looking for security issues that could be exploited. Second, I’ve not developed a payload, so I have no idea whether this is exploitable. But at this point, it’s merely a potential vulnerability. I’m not sure I’ll even spend the time to research and create a payload to prove the vulnerability. If I do, I’ll be more careful with the disclosure.


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