Incomplete Identification of Uploaded File Variables (PHP)

The PHP application uses an old method for processing uploaded files by referencing the four global variables that are set for each file (e.g. $varname, $varname_size, $varname_name, $varname_type). These variables could be overwritten by attackers, causing the application to process unauthorized files.


These global variables could be overwritten by POST requests, cookies, or other methods of populating or overwriting these variables. This could be used to read or process arbitrary files by providing values such as "/etc/passwd".


The following examples help to illustrate the nature of this weakness and describe methods or techniques which can be used to mitigate the risk.

Note that the examples here are by no means exhaustive and any given weakness may have many subtle varieties, each of which may require different detection methods or runtime controls.

Example One

As of 2006, the "four globals" method is probably in sharp decline, but older PHP applications could have this issue.

In the "four globals" method, PHP sets the following 4 global variables (where "varname" is application-dependent):

$varname = name of the temporary file on local machine
$varname_size = size of file
$varname_name = original name of file provided by client
$varname_type = MIME type of the file

Example Two

"The global $_FILES exists as of PHP 4.1.0 (Use $HTTP_POST_FILES instead if using an earlier version). These arrays will contain all the uploaded file information."

$_FILES['userfile']['name'] - original filename from client
$_FILES['userfile']['tmp_name'] - the temp filename of the file on the server

** note: 'userfile' is the field name from the web form; this can vary.

See Also

SFP Secondary Cluster: Tainted Input to Variable

This category identifies Software Fault Patterns (SFPs) within the Tainted Input to Variable cluster (SFP25).

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.

Weaknesses Introduced During Implementation

This view (slice) lists weaknesses that can be introduced during implementation.

Weaknesses in Software Written in PHP

This view (slice) covers issues that are found in PHP programs that are not common to all languages.

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