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trusting FTP PASV responses

Project curl Security Advisory, December 9th 2020 - Permalink


When curl performs a passive FTP transfer, it first tries the EPSV command and if that is not supported, it falls back to using PASV. Passive mode is what curl uses by default.

A server response to a PASV command includes the (IPv4) address and port number for the client to connect back to in order to perform the actual data transfer.

This is how the FTP protocol is designed to work.

A malicious server can use the PASV response to trick curl into connecting back to a given IP address and port, and this way potentially make curl extract information about services that are otherwise private and not disclosed, for example doing port scanning and service banner extractions.

If curl operates on a URL provided by a user (which by all means is an unwise setup), a user can exploit that and pass in a URL to a malicious FTP server instance without needing any server breach to perform the attack.


This issue has existed in curl for as long as FTP has been supported, since day 1.

The flaw only exists for IPv4 since PASV doesn't work for IPv6 and curl will prefer EPSV. The passive mode setup for FTP is used for both uploads and downloads.

curl can be built without FTP support and applications can explicitly disable FTP for single transfers.

curl users could already mitigate this flaw with CURLOPT_FTP_SKIP_PASV_IP and --ftp-skip-pasv-ip.

Other FTP clients have in the past also had this flaw and have fixed it at different points in time. Firefox fixed it in 2007: CVE-2007-1562.

The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the name CVE-2020-8284 to this issue.

CWE-200: Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor

Severity: Low


Also note that (lib)curl is used by many applications, and not always advertised as such.


The IP address part of the response is now ignored by default, by making CURLOPT_FTP_SKIP_PASV_IP default to 1L instead of previously being 0L.

This has the minor drawback that a small fraction of use cases might break, when a server truly needs the client to connect back to a different IP address than what the control connection uses and for those CURLOPT_FTP_SKIP_PASV_IP can be set to 0L.

The same goes for the command line tool, which then might need --no-ftp-skip-pasv-ip set to prevent curl from ignoring the address in the server response.


We suggest you take one of the following actions immediately, in order of preference:

A - Upgrade libcurl to version 7.74.0

B - Set CURLOPT_FTP_SKIP_PASV_IP to 1L or use --ftp-skip-pasv-ip

C - Disable FTP availability for your transfers


This issue was first reported to the curl project on November 21, 2020.

This advisory was posted on December 9 2020.


Thanks a lot!