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Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2019 09:51:43 +0200 (EET)
From: Harry Sintonen <>
Subject: SCP client multiple vulnerabilities

scp client multiple vulnerabilities
The latest version of this advisory is available at:


SCP clients from multiple vendors are susceptible to a malicious scp server performing
unauthorized changes to target directory and/or client output manipulation.


Many scp clients fail to verify if the objects returned by the scp server match those
it asked for. This issue dates back to 1983 and rcp, on which scp is based. A separate
flaw in the client allows the target directory attributes to be changed arbitrarily.
Finally, two vulnerabilities in clients may allow server to spoof the client output.


Malicious scp server can write arbitrary files to scp target directory, change the
target directory permissions and to spoof the client output.


The discovered vulnerabilities, described in more detail below, enables the attack
described here in brief.

1. The attacker controlled server or Man-in-the-Middle(*) attack drops .bash_aliases
    file to victim's home directory when the victim performs scp operation from the
    server. The transfer of extra files is hidden by sending ANSI control sequences
    via stderr. For example:$ scp user@...ote:readme.txt .
    readme.txt                                         100%  494     1.6KB/s   00:00$

2. Once the victim launches a new shell, the malicious commands in .bash_aliases get

*) Man-in-the-Middle attack does require the victim to accept the wrong host


1. CWE-20: scp client improper directory name validation [CVE-2018-20685]

The scp client allows server to modify permissions of the target directory by using empty
("D0777 0 \n") or dot ("D0777 0 .\n") directory name.

2. CWE-20: scp client missing received object name validation [CVE-2019-6111]

Due to the scp implementation being derived from 1983 rcp [1], the server chooses which
files/directories are sent to the client. However, scp client only perform cursory
validation of the object name returned (only directory traversal attacks are prevented).
A malicious scp server can overwrite arbitrary files in the scp client target directory.
If recursive operation (-r) is performed, the server can manipulate subdirectories
as well (for example overwrite .ssh/authorized_keys).

The same vulnerability in WinSCP is known as CVE-2018-20684.

3. CWE-451: scp client spoofing via object name [CVE-2019-6109]

Due to missing character encoding in the progress display, the object name can be used
to manipulate the client output, for example to employ ANSI codes to hide additional
files being transferred.

4. CWE-451: scp client spoofing via stderr [CVE-2019-6110]

Due to accepting and displaying arbitrary stderr output from the scp server, a
malicious server can manipulate the client output, for example to employ ANSI codes
to hide additional files being transferred.


Proof of concept malicious scp server will be released at a later date.

Vulnerable versions

The following software packages have some or all vulnerabilities:

                    ver      #1  #2  #3  #4
OpenSSH scp        <=7.9    x   x   x   x
PuTTY PSCP         ?        -   -   x   x
WinSCP scp mode    <=5.13   -   x   -   -

Tectia SSH scpg3 is not affected since it exclusively uses sftp protocol.


1. OpenSSH

1.1 Switch to sftp if possible

1.2 Alternatively apply the following patch to harden scp against most server-side
     manipulation attempts:

     NOTE: This patch may cause problems if the the remote and local shells don't
     agree on the way glob() pattern matching works. YMMV.

2. PuTTY

2.1 No fix is available yet

3. WinSCP

3.1. Upgrade to WinSCP 5.14 or later

Similar or prior work

1. CVE-2000-0992 - scp overwrites arbitrary files




The vulnerability was discovered by Harry Sintonen / F-Secure Corporation.


2018.08.08  initial discovery of vulnerabilities #1 and #2
2018.08.09  reported vulnerabilities #1 and #2 to OpenSSH
2018.08.10  OpenSSH acknowledged the vulnerabilities
2018.08.14  discovered & reported vulnerability #3 to OpenSSH
2018.08.15  discovered & reported vulnerability #4 to OpenSSH
2018.08.30  reported PSCP vulnerabilities (#3 and #4) to PuTTY developers
2018.08.31  reported WinSCP vulnerability (#2) to WinSCP developers
2018.09.04  WinSCP developers reported the vulnerability #2 fixed
2018.11.12  requested a status update from OpenSSH
2018.11.16  OpenSSH fixed vulnerability #1
2019.01.07  requested a status update from OpenSSH
2019.01.08  requested CVE assignments from MITRE
2019.01.10  received CVE assignments from MITRE
2019.01.11  public disclosure of the advisory
2019.01.14  added a warning about the potential issues caused by the patch

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