Lakey Lakey - 5 months ago 6x
PHP Question

Ways to stop people from uploading GIFs with injections in them?

I have a PHP website where people can fill out help-tickets. It allows them to upload screenshots for their ticket. I allow gif, psd, bmp, jpg, png, tif to be uploaded. Upon receiving the upload, the PHP script ignores the file extension. It identifies the filetype using only the MIME information, which for these filetypes is always stored within the first 12 bytes of the file.

Someone uploaded several GIFs, which when viewed with a browser, the browser said it was invalid, and my virus scanner alerted me that it was a injection (or something like that). See below for a zip file containing these GIFs.

I don't think only checking header info is adequate. I have heard that an image can be completely valid, but also contain exploit code.

So I have two basic questions:

  1. Does anyone know how they did injected bad stuff into a GIF (while still keeping a valid GIF MIME type)? If I know this, maybe I can check for it at upload time.

  2. How can I prevent someone from uploading files like this?

    • I am on shared hosting so I can't install a server-side virus

    • Submitting the info to a online virus scanning website
      might be too slow.

    • Is there any way to check myself using a PHP class that checks for these things?

    • Will resize the image using GD fail if it's not valid? Or would the exploit still slip through and be in the resized image? If it fails, that would be ideal because then I could use resizing as a technique to see if they are valid.

Update: Everyone, thanks for replying so far. I am attempting to look on the server for the GIFs that were uploaded. I will update this post if I find them.

Update 2: I located the GIFs for anyone interested. I put them in a zip file encrypted with password "123". It is located here (be careful there are multiple "Download" buttons on this hosting site -- some of them are for ads) The one called 5060.gif is flagged by my antivirus as a trojan (TR/Graftor.Q.2). I should note that these files were upload prior to me implementing the MIME check of the first 12 bytes. So now, I am safe for these particular ones. But I'd still like to know how to detect an exploit hiding behind a correct MIME type.

Important clarification: I'm only concerned about the risk to the PC who downloads these files to look at them. The files are not a risk to my server. They won't be executed. They are stored using a clean name (a hex hash output) with extension of ".enc" and I save them to disk in an encrypted state using an fwrite filter:

// Generate random key to encrypt this file.
$AsciiKey = '';
for($i = 0; $i < 20; $i++)
$AsciiKey .= chr(mt_rand(1, 255));

// The proper key size for the encryption mode we're using is 256-bits (32-bytes).
// That's what "mcrypt_get_key_size(MCRYPT_RIJNDAEL_128, MCRYPT_MODE_CBC)" says.
// So we'll hash our key using SHA-256 and pass TRUE to the 2nd parameter, so we
// get raw binary output. That will be the perfect length for the key.
$BinKey = hash('SHA256', '~~'.TIME_NOW.'~~'.$AsciiKey.'~~', true);

// Create Initialization Vector with block size of 128 bits (AES compliant) and CBC mode
$InitVec = mcrypt_create_iv(mcrypt_get_iv_size(MCRYPT_RIJNDAEL_128, MCRYPT_MODE_CBC), MCRYPT_RAND);
$Args = array('iv' => $InitVec, 'key' => $BinKey, 'mode' => 'cbc');

// Save encoded file in uploads_tmp directory.
$hDest = fopen(UPLOADS_DIR_TMP.'/'.$Hash.'.enc', 'w');
stream_filter_append($hDest, 'mcrypt.rijndael-128', STREAM_FILTER_WRITE, $Args);
fwrite($hDest, $Data);


As for the first question, you'll never really know if you're not able to retrieve any logs or the images in question, because there are many things these exploit may have targeted and depending on what's the target the way the exploit was put into the file can be completely different.

Edit: W32/Graftor is a generic name for programs that appear to have trojan-like characteristics.

After opening the file 5060.gif in a hex editor, I noticed the program is actually a renamed windows program. Although it's not a browser exploit and thus harmless unless it's actually opened and executed, you'll have to make sure it isn't served with the MIME type defined by the uploader because a user may still be tricked into opening the program; see the answer to the second question.

As for the second question: to prevent any exploit code from being run or a user, you'll have to make sure all files are stored with a safe extension in the filename so they are served with the correct MIME type. For example, you can use this regular expression to check the file name:

if(!preg_match ( '/\\.(gif|p(sd|ng)|tiff?|jpg)$/' , $fileName)){
    header("415 Unsupported Media Type");
    die("File type not allowed.");

Also make sure you're serving the files with the correct Content Type; make sure you don't use the content type specified with the uploaded file when serving the file to the user. If you rely on the Content-Type specified by the uploader, the file may be served as text/html or anything similar and will be parsed by the users' browser as such.

Please note that this only protects against malicious files exploiting vulnerabilities in the users' browser, the image parser excluded.

If you're trying to prevent exploits against the server you'll have to make sure that you won't let the PHP parser execute the contents of the image and that the image library you are using to process the image does not have any known vulnerabilities.

Also note that this code does not defend you against images that contain an exploit for the image parser used by the users browser; to defend against this, you can check if getimagesize() evaluates to true as suggested by Jeroen.

Note that using getimagesize() alone isn't sufficient if you don't check file names and make sure files are served with the correct Content-Type header, because completely valid images can have HTML / PHP code embedded inside comments.