🚨 HTTP/2 CONTINUATION Flood: Security Advisory

Security Implications of net/textproto.Reader Misuse

Posted on March 5, 2024 by Bartek Nowotarski
tl;dr: net/textproto.Reader should be only used with io.LimitReader. It turns out that often this is not the case, even in Golang standard library. This caused Out Of Memory crash vulnerabilities in Golang net/http package (CVE-2023-45290) and other open-source projects.

Infinite read in net/textproto.Reader

In September 2023 I discovered an issue in Golang’s net/textproto.Reader. In one of its internal methods (readLineSlice), the code (in an infinite loop) reads data from bufio.Reader and concatenates to line: previously read data. It is using ReadLine which behaves differently from other bufio.Reader methods: this is the only method that does not return an error when internal the buffer fills full. Instead, when the buffer becomes full it returns more=true value which indicates there is more data to be read.

52func (r *Reader) readLineSlice() ([]byte, error) {
53	r.closeDot()
54	var line []byte
55	for {
56		l, more, err := r.R.ReadLine()
57		if err != nil {
58			return nil, err
59		}
60		// Avoid the copy if the first call produced a full line.
61		if line == nil && !more {
62			return l, nil
63		}
64		line = append(line, l...)
65		if !more {
66			break
67		}
68	}
69	return line, nil

If a very long line is passed to this method, it will be read into memory until \n is found which can lead to an OOM crash. However, net/textproto.NewReader godoc explicitly mentions this case:

NewReader returns a new Reader reading from r.

To avoid denial of service attacks, the provided bufio.Reader should be reading from an io.LimitReader or similar Reader to bound the size of responses.

CodeQL query to find net/textproto.Reader usage

Out of curiosity, I used CodeQL to find projects which use net/textproto.Reader. Below you can find CodeQL query to check if your code might be vulnerable (if used without io.LimitReader or a similar limiter).

 1import go
 3predicate textprotoFunction(CallExpr cs, string name) {
 4    cs.getTarget().(Function).hasQualifiedName("net/textproto", name)
 7predicate textprotoReaderMethod(CallExpr cs, string name) {
 8    cs.getTarget().(Method).hasQualifiedName("net/textproto", "Reader", name)
11class TextProto extends CallExpr {
12    TextProto() {
13        textprotoFunction(this, "Dial") or
14        textprotoFunction(this, "NewConn") or
15        textprotoFunction(this, "NewReader") or
16        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadLine") or
17        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadLineBytes") or
18        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadContinuedLine") or
19        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadContinuedLineBytes") or
20        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadResponse") or
21        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadCodeLine") or
22        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadDotBytes") or
23        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadDotLines") or
24        textprotoReaderMethod(this, "ReadMIMEHeader")
25    }
28from TextProto call
29select call, "Direct usage of textproto.Reader methods"

Unfortunately, this query will not find all the cases and will give false positives.

First, it doesn’t check if the provided bufio.Reader is using io.LimitReader internally (and if it’s N value makes sense). Second, I discovered that textproto is used in some HTTP helper packages and CodeQL is unable to find cross-repository calls. Finally, kind of connected to the previous one, textproto.Reader is used internally in other standard packages of Golang.

Misuse in net/http.ReadRequest

Turns out that misusing this API is very common, even in Golang standard library. The net/textproto.Reader is used in net/http.ReadRequest and its godoc does not even mention io.LimitReader:

1017// ReadRequest reads and parses an incoming request from b.
1019// ReadRequest is a low-level function and should only be used for
1020// specialized applications; most code should use the Server to read
1021// requests and handle them via the Handler interface. ReadRequest
1022// only supports HTTP/1.x requests. For HTTP/2, use golang.org/x/net/http2.
1023func ReadRequest(b *bufio.Reader) (*Request, error) {
1024	req, err := readRequest(b)
1025	if err != nil {
1026		return nil, err
1027	}
1029	delete(req.Header, "Host")
1030	return req, err
1033func readRequest(b *bufio.Reader) (req *Request, err error) {
1034	tp := newTextprotoReader(b)
1035	defer putTextprotoReader(tp)
1037	req = new(Request)
1039	// First line: GET /index.html HTTP/1.0
1040	var s string
1041	if s, err = tp.ReadLine(); err != nil {
1042		return nil, err
1043	}
1044	defer func() {
1045		if err == io.EOF {
1046			err = io.ErrUnexpectedEOF
1047		}
1048	}()
1049// ...

To exploit this, an attacker can simply send an infinite byte stream in the first line of an HTTP request and they will all be loaded into memory, ultimately crashing the server.

As mentioned before, some HTTP servers and helper packages use this function without limiters. Most notably Caddy which was fixed in v2.7.5 after my report. There are more cases like this but my reports were ignored or simply have not been fixed months after the initial report.

Other usages in Golang

Here’s a list of public methods that use textproto.Reader on a provided arguments found using my CodeQL query on Golang 1.21.5:

  • net/http.ReadResponse and methods in which it’s used internally:
    • rpc.DialHTTP
    • rpc.DialHTTPPath
    • net/http/httputil.ClientConn.Read (marked as deprecated)
  • net/http.ReadRequest (previous section)
    • net/http/httputil.ServerConn.Read (marked as deprecated)
  • mail.ReadMessage
  • smtp.NewClient
  • smtp.StartTLS

I reported it to Golang team but they decided not to fix and improve docs instead. Except net/http cases, I agree with this decision: either some obscure use cases were required to trigger the vulnerable code (like a proxy used to make HTTP request had to respond in a rogue way) or the code was in deprecated packages.

Nevertheless, be extra cautious when using any of the functions above in production code!

Vulnerability in http.Request.FormValue leads to OOM crash

Months have passed and I almost forgot about the issue but one day I noticed that there was one more usage of textproto.Reader my CodeQL query would never find…

Linking readMIMEHeader in mime/multipart

I was checking the mime/multipart package and noticed a file (readmimeheader.go) with just a couple lines:

 1// Copyright 2023 The Go Authors. All rights reserved.
 2// Use of this source code is governed by a BSD-style
 3// license that can be found in the LICENSE file.
 4package multipart
 6import (
 7	"net/textproto"
 8	_ "unsafe" // for go:linkname
11// readMIMEHeader is defined in package net/textproto.
13//go:linkname readMIMEHeader net/textproto.readMIMEHeader
14func readMIMEHeader(r *textproto.Reader, lim int64) (textproto.MIMEHeader, error)

So basically mime/multipart was using a function from net/textproto but instead of using the public API, it linked a private function. Why was it done this way? Maybe to avoid circular dependency? But there was no way my CodeQL query could find it, that’s why I’ve missed it!

Parsing multipart form data format using ParseMultipartForm

Anyway, this function is using readLineSlice internally and is used by mime/multipart.Reader.populateHeaders method:

152func (p *Part) populateHeaders(maxMIMEHeaderSize int64) error {
153	r := textproto.NewReader(p.mr.bufReader)
154	header, err := readMIMEHeader(r, maxMIMEHeaderSize)
155	if err == nil {
156		p.Header = header
157	}
158	// TODO: Add a distinguishable error to net/textproto.
159	if err != nil && err.Error() == "message too large" {
160		err = ErrMessageTooLarge
161	}
162	return err

What does it do? It parses multipart form data (when Content-Type is multipart/form-data). Here’s a quick reminder how a request with a multipart body looks like:

 1POST / HTTP/1.0
 2Host: localhost
 3Content-Type: multipart/form-data; boundary=----boundary
 4Content-Length: 16525
 7Content-Disposition: form-data; name="data1"
 8Content-Type: text/plain
10data here
13Content-Disposition: form-data; name="data2"
14Content-Type: text/plain
16data there

Thus, a body can consist of multiple parts, each of which can be of a different type and each part has a set of headers. Turns out, each part’s headers in multipart data are parsed by a function from net/textproto package, the one which can lead to vulnerabilities if not used properly.

I quickly checked if io.LimitReader was used internally and it was not, however multipart.NewReader accepts io.Reader. This means that the caller must ensure that io.Reader should be in fact an io.LimitReader. Similarly to other functions I reported in September 2023, this one is also missing this essential information in godoc.

Additionally, populateHeaders requires maxMIMEHeaderSize argument which is passed to readMIMEHeader. However, this argument is only taken into account after reading the headers using vulnerable methods. So it should not be a problem if there is a vulnerability connected to this method.

Obviously, the next step was checking if mime/multipart.Reader is used anywhere in Go codebase. A quick search revealed that it is only used by net/http.Request.ParseMultipartForm. But there was a gotcha: it required maxMemory, explained in godoc:

1316// ParseMultipartForm parses a request body as multipart/form-data.
1317// The whole request body is parsed and up to a total of maxMemory bytes of
1318// its file parts are stored in memory, with the remainder stored on
1319// disk in temporary files.
1320// ParseMultipartForm calls ParseForm if necessary.
1321// If ParseForm returns an error, ParseMultipartForm returns it but also
1322// continues parsing the request body.
1323// After one call to ParseMultipartForm, subsequent calls have no effect.
1324func (r *Request) ParseMultipartForm(maxMemory int64) error {
1325	if r.MultipartForm == multipartByReader {
1326		return errors.New("http: multipart handled by MultipartReader")
1327	}
1328	var parseFormErr error
1329	if r.Form == nil {
1330		// Let errors in ParseForm fall through, and just
1331		// return it at the end.
1332		parseFormErr = r.ParseForm()
1333	}
1334	if r.MultipartForm != nil {
1335		return nil
1336	}
1338	mr, err := r.multipartReader(false)
1339	if err != nil {
1340		return err
1341	}
1343	f, err := mr.ReadForm(maxMemory)
1344	if err != nil {
1345		return err
1346	}
1347// ...

So everything below maxMemory with default value of:

1defaultMaxMemory = 32 << 20 // 32 MB

would be stored in memory, the rest on disk. However, if one can exploit readMIMEHeader method, it’s possible to store more data in memory…

Exploiting the lack of read limits in net/http.Request.FormValue

A couple of CodeQL queries later I discovered that net/http.Request.ParseMultipartForm is used by net/http.Request.FormValue which is a pretty common method even for small Golang apps.

The call stack to reach readMIMEHeader was looking like this:

  • net/http.Request.FormValue
  • net/http.Request.ParseMultipartForm
  • mime/multipart.Reader.ReadForm
  • mime/multipart.Reader.readForm
  • mime/multipart.Reader.nextPart
  • mime/multipart.nextPart
  • mime/multipart.populateHeaders
  • mime/multipart.readMIMEHeader

At this point, the last remaining part to call this a vulnerability was checking if multipart.Reader created in net/http.Request.ParseMultipartForm is indeed a io.LimitReader. The easiest way was simply writing a test case and setting a proper breakpoint in a debugger.

Turns out that the reader type is net/http.body which internally reads from io.LimitReader. However, its N value is set to… Content-Length header and it’s value is never checked! What we can do is send an HTTP request with a very large Content-Length value (like 2GiB) followed by a single part with an infinite header name, like this:

Host: localhost
Content-Type: multipart/form-data; boundary=----boundary
Content-Length: 2147483648

Content-Disposition: form-data; name="text1"
Content-Type: text/plain

The issue was assigned the CVE-2023-45290 number and was fixed in Golang 1.21.8 and 1.22.1.