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Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2012 14:31:19 -0400
From: George Argyros <>
To: Kurt Seifried <>
Cc:, Raphael Geissert <>, 
	Aggelos Kiayias <>, Vladimir Vorontsov <>, 
	gifts <>,
Subject: Re: Randomness Attacks Against PHP Applications

FYI, we have also released some code to exploit such vulnerabilities
about a month ago in github
(  We hope that this
framework will allow the easier development of exploits for such
The main difference with the code mentioned in the previous posts, is
that it may not always be possible to obtain the first output from
mt_rand() after seeding. For example, many applications only leak
truncated mt_rand() outputs in which case we should really compare
bits of different mt_rand outputs to test whether we found the correct
seed. For this reason, in our tool the user defines a "hash" function
that expresses any mt_rand dependent output and then we search for a
preimage for this hash function.
We also include a python API for this functionalities as well as a
sample exploit for mediawiki 1.18.1. Some POCs might indeed help...

We will also release the gaussian solver based tool we developed in
order to recover the internal state of mt_rand from its (truncated)
outputs in the following days.

Regarding the PHP security team my personal opinion is that they are
mostly stubborn. The long standing debate between them and the
security community probably does not help that (although personally I
mostly agree with the security community in these debates).
Nevertheless, when some new fundamental problem comes up with PHP they
seem to try to find a way in which they can attribute that problem to
someone else instead of searching for a way to fix it (the fact that
they attribute this problem only to PHP application developers
demonstrates that).

I agree too that education is important. This is something that we
came to an agreement with the PHP team (for example that additional
information is needed on the mt_rand manual). However, as pointed out
nothing has changed yet (the conversations between us and the PHP team
took place in March/April).

However I think that the specific issue goes beyond education. First
of all, We believe that adding simple exploit mitigations such as
secure seeding in these functions is something that should definitely
happen. Secure seeding is easy to add using randomness from the
operating system and furthermore it will incur a negligible
performance overhead since it would happen only once in the process
lifetime. This will make the exploitation of these vulnerabilities
much more difficult (compare the simple attack of connecting to a
fresh process and bruteforcing the seed with connecting repeatedly to
the same process and using a complex algorithm to recover the internal
state from the outputs).

For a more concrete solution I think that the existence of secure
PRNGs is not enough. Even if mt_rand() was producing secure random
numbers we would still be having a lot of vulnerable applications just
from the way this function is used. Just as PHP devs use
session_start() to start a new PHP session there is a need for a
generate_token() function that will return a random token and take
care of providing the necessary level of security for this token.

On Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 9:22 PM, Kurt Seifried <> wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
> On 09/17/2012 10:58 AM, Raphael Geissert wrote:
>> On Monday 17 September 2012 10:36:46 Josh Bressers wrote:
>>>> On Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 02:31:07PM +0400, Solar Designer
>>>> wrote: Maybe these PoCs will help convince someone.
>> Just a note regarding the sessionid case: IIRC since 5.4
>> session.entropy_length is set to, erm, 32 (bytes.) Basically it
>> appends N bytes from /dev/urandom to the other input for the digest
>> and then it is computed. (why 32 bytes, and why still use md5 by
>> default, well...)
>>> I'm skeptical they will. I've been doing a lot of work for the
>>> past year on various proactive security efforts. I keep coming
>>> back to two basic things.
>> [...]
>>> Has anyone tried to talk to them about this further to see if the
>>> issue is they don't understand, or are they being stubborn?
>> I think the main problem is education. For instance, there is no
>> word about mt_rand not being suitable for criptographic pourposes
>> (much less what that means.)
> Agreed. One example of a similar problem with good images displaying
> the issue clearly:
>> Sure, searching for "crypt" in the page shows a few comments saying
>> that it isn't suitable, but: a) there are far more "encryption
>> functions", "random password generators", and similar stuff in the
>> comments than those that do mention its weaknesses. b) the official
>> documentation itself doesn't say a word. It should say it loud and
>> clear.
>> Comments should also be moderated. Many examples available as
>> comments in the documentation are incorrect.
>> Now, pointing it out is easy, but somebody has to actually do the
>> work. *That* is another issue.
>> Cheers,
> - --
> Kurt Seifried Red Hat Security Response Team (SRT)
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