CVE-2019-8081 in Adobe Experience Manager

Adobe Experience Manager is a suite of online cloud-based services provided by Adobe for content and digital asset management. It includes a set of analytics, social, advertising, media optimization, targeting, Web experience management and content management products aimed at the advertising industry. There are various functions to enable consumers in managing their digital asset and content in different ways. One of the function provided by Adobe is ‘Workflows‘.

Workflows consist of a series of steps that are executed in a specific order. Each step performs a distinct activity such as activating a page or sending an email message. A workflow is made of steps which can be customized by using either an ECMA script or a Java class. AEM provides many useful workflow processes “by default”.

Vulnerability Details:

One of the Adobe provided workflow utility, urlcaller (which is a simple workflow process that calls any given URL), was logging the supplied password in the debug log. Adobe does mention here that this workflow process should be used only during development and demonstrations but people/organizations unaware of this condition and unaware of the password logging issue here, might have used this workflow process in any security sensitive setting which might have logged the passwords unknowingly in their debug logs.

Below is path of this workflow script and arguments it take.

  • ECMAScript path/etc/workflow/scripts/urlcaller.ecma
  • Payload: None.
  • Arguments:
    • args := url [‘,’ login ‘,’ password]
    • url := /* The URL to be called */
    • login := /* The login to access the URL */
    • password := /* The password to access the URL */
    • for example: http://localhost:4502/my.jsp, mylogin, mypassword

How I came across this issue?

While testing one of the AEM targets, I came across an open and misconfigured querybuilder servlet and used it to query the internal system for *.ecma files. I came across this file urlcaller.ecma, and when I looked at the source code, I noticed that this code was logging the supplied password to the debug log.  

I reported this issue to Adobe PSIRT. They did their investigation and confirmed the issue. Adobe released an advisory regarding this issue in their security bulletin and assigned CVE-2019-8081 to this finding.

Adobe PSIRT team was very responsive and updated me regularly on the fixes.

Vendor Response:

I shared a draft post with the Adobe team for review. As per Adobe team, for an AEM environment to be at risk, the following criteria is required:

  • An administrator must enable debug logging
  • This sample code, which is meant for demo purposes only, would be nevertheless used in production environments

I don’t agree with this statement entirely but if you have ever used this workflow utility in your organization or if you are using an older version of AEM, please do check if this utility has logged any password to your debug logs and take the required action.


02/23/2019 – Reported this issue to Adobe
02/24/2019 – Adobe PSIRT responded and assigned it a case id
03/13/2019 – I requested for an update
03/14/2019 – Adobe PSIRT said they are still investing the issue
09/26/2019 – Adobe PSIRT informed me that they are fixing this issue in the next release
10/15/2019 – Adobe released the security bulletin for AEM.
08/25/2020 – Shared a draft post with Adobe for review
10/02/2020 – Published the blog post


Audible, and a curious case of insecure by-default in Adobe SDKs

Insecure Communication” in Mobile apps are placed under OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities and can be exploited in performing MITM attacks on targeted users. In this case, an adversary in the same network would have been able to view or modify user related information transmitted from the Audible mobile application to Adobe’s cloud services. Also, the underlying ISPs and/or Wifi Access point providers would have been able to see these calls and the shared data.

I was looking at Amazon’s Audible app and noticed an HTTP call to a weird looking domain. After digging a little more, I found that it was owned by Adobe and seemed to be used for Adobe’s cloud based services for user behavior analysis.

User behavior analysis is very important to many online and app-based services and provides insights to product managers and marketers about their app/service usage.

An easy way to integrate this feature into mobile applications, is through the use of mobile SDKs. These software development kits/tools are available for different mobile operating systems and mobile developers can utilize these SDKs to implement specific functionalities in their apps, without worrying about the underlying operating system.

While searching for the cause of this behavior in Audible, I discussed it with nightwatchcybersecurity. We noticed that it was happening because Adobe SDK for mobile, was not using a secure connection for transmitting user data between SDK and Adobe Cloud services. Further investigation revealed that SSL setting was disabled by-default in Adobe SDK for mobile app.

Audible seemed to be using these default settings and hence SDK utilized by Audible was missing the SSL/TLS protection while connecting to Adobe Cloud Services. Because of that, user data was being transmitted on an insecure connection. I reported this to Amazon team and they were able to resolve this issue very quickly. They also kept me updated on the status of the fix and were very proactive on the communication front.

Coming back to the SDK, Adobe SDK for mobile comes with a configuration file named as ADBMobileConfig.json. This file comes with some pre-populated attributes and values, and SSL attribute is one of them. By default, this option was set as ‘false’ as mentioned here. Mobile Apps using this SDK and using the default values are missing the very important SSL protection.

NightWatch has written a detailed blog on this ‘insecure-default’ behavior and also has released a utility, to scan for this and some other settings.

Adobe’s Response
Adobe has released new versions of the mobile SDKs, which can be found here:

The SDKs are configurable in Adobe Experience Platform Launch and require SSL for data transmission.

Amazon’s Response
Thank you for your patience on the matter, we have no comments or change requests for the draft you have shared. We would appreciate if you can send us a link of your publication when you publish it.

Fixed version:
Audible version 2.35 onward for Android

Amazon Case ID # PO135515801
CVE from MITRE # CVE-2019-11554


03/11/2019 – Reported this issue to Amazon
03/12/2019 – A case ID was assigned and additional questions were asked
03/14/2019 – Case manager informed that they were going ahead with the fix
04/04/2019 – Case manager informed that they had fixed the issue but were waiting for their users to upgrade the app.
04/23/2019 – Case manager informed that an updated version was made available to most of their users and they were closing this issue on their end.
11/06/2019 – Shared a draft report with nightwatchcyber for review.
11/06/2019 – Shared a draft report with Amazon.
11/07/2019 – Shared a draft report with Adobe.
11/07/2019 – Adobe acknowledged the email.
11/12/2019 – Shared an updated draft with everyone
11/12/2019 – Amazon acknowledged the email.
11/13/2019 – Adobe responded that if I could add their official response in my blogpost.
11/21/2019 – Amazon responded that I could go ahead with the post.
12/05/2019 – Published the blog post.

1) Audible iOS App:
2) Audible Android App:
3) New Versions of Adobe Mobile SDKs:

Arbitrary Command execution in Privacy Disclaimer page of a very popular organization

I found that ‘security and privacy’ section of this company’s website was vulnerable to command execution. I informed them about this issue and their security team was able to confirm it. They added me to their hall of fame and were able to fix the issue quickly. My overall experience of working with them was very pleasant.

One fine evening, while exploring an organization’s ‘Security and Privacy’ page, I don’t remember how I came across a java stack trace. The last paragraph, after the stack trace caught my attention. It said –
“You are seeing this page because development mode is enabled. To disable this mode, set struts.devmode=false”.

I googled the error message but could not find anything relevant. Then, I searched for “struts dev mode” and somehow, landed at Pwntester’s insightful blog on OGNL Injection via struts dev mode, (as well as a few other links on the command execution capability of the dev mode setting).

OGNL is an expression language for Java which allows getting and setting JavaBeans properties, on the fly (using java reflection). It also allows execution of methods of Java classes.

Struts2 comes with an inbuilt OGNL debug console named as dev mode, to help developers with more verbose logs. This can also be used in testing OGNL expressions. Dev mode is disabled by default. If enabled, this setting uses debugging interceptor and supports four types of debug parameters.

  • debug = console
    (non-intrusive way to confirm if devMode setting is enabled. If enabled, a new window with webconsole will open with a black background which can be used for further OGNL expression testing.)
  • debug = browser
    (non-intrusive way to confirm if devMode is enabled. This will show all properties of the specified object value e.g. debug=browser&object=%23parameters)
  • debug = xml
  • debug = command
    (this is used to execute the intended OGNL payload.)

By using parameter debug=command and passing the specially crafted OGNL payload as ‘expression‘ parameter, a command execution can be achieved. e.g. As shown in the below URL, debug and expression parameters are passed to a Struts Action, HelloWorld.action.


Mitigation and Remediation:

Always disable devMode in production. Apache also mentions this in their security tips. Best way is to ensure the following setting is applied to your struts.xml in production:

<constant name ="struts.devMode" value="false" />

While by-default devMode is set to ‘False’, many applications enable this setting in their non-prod environment for verbose logs and forget to disable it when deploying to Prod.

8/26/2018 – Reported the issue to this organization
8/28/2018 – They acknowledged the report and confirmed that it was a valid issue and was not previously reported either internally or externally.
10/08/2018 – They fixed the issue and asked me to validate it.
10/08/2018 – They added me to their security hall of fame list.
05/02/2019 – Draft blog post shared with them
05/03/2019 – Organization said they need time to review it
06/20/2019 – Followed up with the them
06/25/2019 – They wrote that they were still reviewing the post
07/11/2019 – Followed up with the organization, received no response
07/22/2019 – Followed up with the organization, received no response
08/16/2019 – Followed up with the organization, received no response
08/22/2019 – Followed up with the organization, received no response
11/13/2019 – Followed up with the organization, no response from their side
11/16/2019 – Published this post but without any name.