what you don't know can hurt you
Home Files News &[SERVICES_TAB]About Contact Add New

Observium Remote Command Execution

Observium Remote Command Execution
Posted Nov 11, 2016
Site computest.nl

During a recent penetration test Computest found and exploited various issues in Observium, going from unauthenticated user to full shell access as root.

tags | advisory, shell, root
SHA-256 | 4041a850a24306c4f6f7dc1fc7c8b76067ff726516808322d468925aa4244a4f

Observium Remote Command Execution

Change Mirror Download
#############  Computest security advisory CT-2016-1110 ###############

Summary: Unauthenticated remote command execution as root
Affected software: Observium
Reference URL: https://computest.nl/advisories/
Affected versions: Versions downloaded before 26-10-2016.
(First affected version is not known)

Credit: Ronald Volgers (rvolgers@computest.nl)
Date of publication: 2016-11-10

During a recent penetration test Computest found and exploited various
issues in Observium, going from unauthenticated user to full shell
access as root. We reported these issues to the Observium project for
the benefit of our customer and other members of the community.

This was not a full audit and further issues may or may not be present.

( Note about affected versions: The Observium project does not provide
a way to download older releases for non-paying users, so there was
no way to check whether these problems exist in older versions. All
information given here applies to the latest Community Edition as
of 2016-10-05. )

About Observium
"Observium is a low-maintenance auto-discovering network monitoring
platform supporting a wide range of device types, platforms and
operating systems including Cisco, Windows, Linux, HP, Juniper, Dell,
FreeBSD, Brocade, Netscaler, NetApp and many more."
- observium.org

Issue #1: Deserialization of untrusted data

Observium uses the get_vars() function in various places to parse the
user-supplied GET, POST and COOKIE values. This function will attempt
to unserialize data from any of the requested fields using the PHP
unserialize() function.

Deserialization of untrusted data is in general considered a very bad
idea, but the practical impact of such issues can vary.

Various memory corruption issues have been identified in the PHP
unserialize() function in the past, which can lead directly to remote
code execution. On patched versions of PHP exploitability depends on
the application.

In the case of Observium the issue can be exploited to write mostly
user-controlled data to an arbitrary file, such as a PHP session file.
Computest was able to exploit this issue to create a valid Observium
admin session.

The function get_vars() eventually calls var_decode(), which
unserializes the user input.


function var_decode($string, $method = 'serialize')
$value = base64_decode($string, TRUE);
if ($value === FALSE)
// This is not base64 string, return original var
return $string;

switch ($method)
case 'json':
if ($string === 'bnVsbA==') { return NULL; };
$decoded = @json_decode($value, TRUE);
if ($decoded !== NULL)
// JSON encoded string detected
return $decoded;
if ($value === 'b:0;') { return FALSE; };
$decoded = @unserialize($value);
if ($decoded !== FALSE)
// Serialized encoded string detected
return $decoded;

Issue #2: Admins can inject shell commands, possibly as root

Admin users can change the path of various system utilities used by
Observium. These paths are directly used as shell commands, and there
is no restriction on their contents.

This is not considered a bug by the Observium project, as Admin users
are considered to be trusted. [1]

The Observium installation guide recommends running various Observium
scripts from cron. The instructions given in the installation guide
will result in these scripts being run as root, and invoking the user-
controllable shell commands as root.

Since this functionality resulted in an escalation of privilege from
web application user to system root user it is included in this
advisory despite the fact that it appears to involve no unintended
behavior in Observium.

Even if the Observium system is not used for anything else, privileged
users log into this system (and may reuse passwords elsewhere), and the
system as a whole may have a privileged network position due to its use
as a monitoring tool. Various other credentials (SNMP etc) may also be
of interest to an attacker.

The function rrdtool_pipe_open() uses the Admin-supplied config variable
to build and run a command:


function rrdtool_pipe_open(&$rrd_process, &$rrd_pipes)
global $config;

$command = $config['rrdtool'] . " -"; // Waits for input via standard input (STDIN)

$descriptorspec = array(
0 => array("pipe", "r"), // stdin
1 => array("pipe", "w"), // stdout
2 => array("pipe", "w") // stderr

$cwd = $config['rrd_dir'];
$env = array();

$rrd_process = proc_open($command, $descriptorspec, $rrd_pipes, $cwd, $env);

Issue #3: Incorrect use of cryptography in event feed authentication

Observium contains an RSS event feed functionality. Users can generate
an RSS URL that displays the events that they have access to.

Since RSS viewers may not have access to the user's session cookies,
the user is authenticated with a user-specific token in the feed URL.

This token consists of encrypted data, and the integrity of this data
is not verified. This allows a user to inject essentially random data
that the Observium code will treat as trusted.

By sending arbitrary random tokens a user has at least a 1/65536 chance
of viewing the feed with full admin permissions, since admin privileges
are granted if the decryption of this random token happens to start
with the two-character string "1|" (1 being the user id of the admin

In general a brute force attack will gain access to the feed with admin
privileges in about half an hour.


if (isset($_GET['hash']) && is_numeric($_GET['id']))
$key = get_user_pref($_GET['id'], 'atom_key');
$data = explode('|', decrypt($_GET['hash'], $key)); // user_id|user_level|auth_mechanism

$user_id = $data[0];
$user_level = $data[1]; // FIXME, need new way for check userlevel, because it can be changed
if (count($data) == 3)
$check_auth_mechanism = $config['auth_mechanism'] == $data[2];
} else {
$check_auth_mechanism = TRUE; // Old way

if ($user_id == $_GET['id'] && $check_auth_mechanism)
$_SESSION['user_id'] = $user_id;
$_SESSION['userlevel'] = $user_level;

( Note: this session is destroyed at the end of the page )

Issue #4: Authenticated SQL injection

One of the graphs supported by Observium contains a SQL injection
problem. This code is only reachable if unauthenticated users are
permitted to view this graph, or if the user is authenticated.

The problem lies in the "port_mac_acc_total" graph.

When the 'stat' parameter is set to a non-empty value that is not
'bits' or 'pkts' the 'sort' parameter will be used in a SQL statement
without escaping or validation.

The 'id' parameter can be set to an arbitary numeric value, the SQL is
executed regardless of whether this is a valid identifier.

This can be exploited to leak various configuration details including
the password hashes of Observium users.


$port = (int)$_GET['id'];
if ($_GET['stat']) { $stat = $_GET['stat']; } else { $stat = "bits"; }
$sort = $_GET['sort'];

if (is_numeric($_GET['topn'])) { $topn = $_GET['topn']; } else { $topn = '10'; }


if ($stat == "pkts")
$units='pps'; $unit = 'p'; $multiplier = '1';
$colours_in = 'purples';
$colours_out = 'oranges';
$prefix = "P";
if ($sort == "in")
$sort = "pkts_input_rate";
} elseif ($sort == "out") {
$sort = "pkts_output_rate";
} else {
$sort = "bps";
} elseif ($stat == "bits") {
$units='bps'; $unit='B'; $multiplier='8';
$colours_in = 'greens';
$colours_out = 'blues';
if ($sort == "in")
$sort = "bytes_input_rate";
} elseif ($sort == "out") {
$sort = "bytes_output_rate";
} else {
$sort = "bps";

$mas = dbFetchRows("SELECT *, (bytes_input_rate + bytes_output_rate) AS bps,
(pkts_input_rate + pkts_output_rate) AS pps
FROM `mac_accounting`
LEFT JOIN `mac_accounting-state` ON `mac_accounting`.ma_id = `mac_accounting-state`.ma_id
WHERE `mac_accounting`.port_id = ?
ORDER BY $sort DESC LIMIT 0," . $topn, array($port));


The Observium web application can be placed behind a firewall or
protected with an additional layer of authentication. Even then, admin
users should be treated with care as they are able to execute
commands (probably as root) until the issues are patched.

The various cron jobs needed by Observium can be run as the website
user (e.g. www-data) or a user created specifically for that purpose
instead of as root.


Observium has released a new Community Edition to resolve these issues.

The Observium project does not provide changelogs or version numbers
for community releases.


2016-09 Issue discovered during penetration test
2016-10-21 Vendor contacted
2016-10-21 Vendor responds that they are working on a fix
2016-10-26 Vendor publishes new version on website
2016-10-28 Vendor asks Computest to comment on changes
2016-10-31 Computest responds with quick review of changes
2016-11-10 Advisory published

About Computest

Computest helps customers build reliable software, mainly by expertise in
the areas of security, performance and functional testing.

Computest acquired Pine Digital Security in 2015 and continues Pine's
tradition of security testing based on sound technical understanding.

[1] Response to another bug report stating that Admin command injection
is not a bug: http://jira.observium.org/browse/OBSERVIUM-1821

Login or Register to add favorites

File Archive:

June 2022

  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Th
  • Fr
  • Sa
  • 1
    Jun 1st
    19 Files
  • 2
    Jun 2nd
    16 Files
  • 3
    Jun 3rd
    28 Files
  • 4
    Jun 4th
    0 Files
  • 5
    Jun 5th
    0 Files
  • 6
    Jun 6th
    19 Files
  • 7
    Jun 7th
    23 Files
  • 8
    Jun 8th
    11 Files
  • 9
    Jun 9th
    10 Files
  • 10
    Jun 10th
    4 Files
  • 11
    Jun 11th
    0 Files
  • 12
    Jun 12th
    0 Files
  • 13
    Jun 13th
    0 Files
  • 14
    Jun 14th
    0 Files
  • 15
    Jun 15th
    0 Files
  • 16
    Jun 16th
    0 Files
  • 17
    Jun 17th
    0 Files
  • 18
    Jun 18th
    0 Files
  • 19
    Jun 19th
    27 Files
  • 20
    Jun 20th
    65 Files
  • 21
    Jun 21st
    10 Files
  • 22
    Jun 22nd
    8 Files
  • 23
    Jun 23rd
    6 Files
  • 24
    Jun 24th
    6 Files
  • 25
    Jun 25th
    0 Files
  • 26
    Jun 26th
    0 Files
  • 27
    Jun 27th
    15 Files
  • 28
    Jun 28th
    14 Files
  • 29
    Jun 29th
    0 Files
  • 30
    Jun 30th
    0 Files

Top Authors In Last 30 Days

File Tags


packet storm

© 2022 Packet Storm. All rights reserved.

Hosting By