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cookie injection with none file

Project curl Security Advisory, October 11 2023 - Permalink


This flaw allows an attacker to insert cookies at will into a running program using libcurl, if the specific series of conditions are met.

libcurl performs transfers. In its API, an application creates "easy handles" that are the individual handles for single transfers.

libcurl provides a function call that duplicates an easy handle called curl_easy_duphandle.

If a transfer has cookies enabled when the handle is duplicated, the cookie-enable state is also cloned - but without cloning the actual cookies. If the source handle did not read any cookies from a specific file on disk, the cloned version of the handle would instead store the file name as none (using the four ASCII letters, no quotes).

Subsequent use of the cloned handle that does not explicitly set a source to load cookies from would then inadvertently load cookies from a file named none - if such a file exists and is readable in the current directory of the program using libcurl. And if using the correct file format of course.


The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the name CVE-2023-38546 to this issue.

CWE-73: External Control of File Name or Path

Severity: Low

We set it to low because the flaw requires a series of conditions to be met and the likeliness that they shall allow an attacker to take advantage of it is low. Even if the bug could be made to trigger, the risk that a cookie injection can be done to cause harm is additionally also low.


libcurl is used by many applications, but not always advertised as such!

The (flawed) logic that created this bug existed even before the curl_easy_duphandle() function was added, but it did not become this problem until this API was introduced.

This flaw is not accessible using the curl command line tool.


Starting in curl 8.4.0, curl not longer stores the file name in the cookie struct.


A - Upgrade curl to version 8.4.0

B - Apply the patch to your local version

C - Call curl_easy_setopt(cloned_curl, CURLOPT_COOKIELIST, "ALL"); right after every curl_easy_duphandle(); call.


This issue was reported to the curl project on September 14, 2023. We contacted distros@openwall on October 3, 2023.

libcurl 8.4.0 was released on October 11 2023, coordinated with the publication of this advisory.


Thanks a lot!