Ruby 2.x Universal RCE Deserialization Gadget Chain

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2021-09-28 07:30:02

This blog post details exploitation of arbitrary deserialization for the Ruby programming language and releases the first public universal gadget chain to achieve arbitrary command execution for Ruby 2.x. This will be described in the following sections which detail deserialization issues and related work, discovery of usable gadget chains, and finally exploitation of ruby serialization.

Serialization is the process of converting an object into a series of bytes which can then be transferred over a network or be stored on the filesystem or in a database. These bytes include all the relevant information required to reconstruct the original object. This reconstruction process is called deserialization. Each programming language typically has it’s own distinct serialization format. Some programming languages refer to this process by a name other than serialization/deserialization. In the case of Ruby, the terms marshalling and unmarshalling are commonly used.

A common security vulnerability occurs when a developer incorrectly assumes that an attacker cannot view or tamper with a serialized object as it is an opaque binary format. This can result in any sensitive information stored within the object, such as credentials or application secrets, being disclosed to an attacker. It also frequently results in privilege escalation in the case of the serialized object having instance variables which are subsequently used for permission checks. For example, consider a User object, containing a username instance variable, that is serialized and may be tampered with by an attacker. It is trivial to modify the serialized data and change the username variable to a username of a higher privileged user, such as “admin”. While these attacks can be powerful, they are highly context sensitive as well as being unexciting from a technical point-of-view and are not discussed further in this blog post.

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