An update released just before the holidays by the developers of phpMyAdmin patches a serious vulnerability that can be exploited to perform harmful database operations by getting targeted administrators to click on specially crafted links.
phpMyAdmin is a free and open source tool designed for managing MySQL databases over the Internet. With more than 200,000 downloads every month, phpMyAdmin is one of the top MySQL database administration tools.
India-based researcher Ashutosh Barot discovered that phpMyAdmin is affected by a cross-site request forgery (CSRF) flaw that can be exploited by an attacker to drop tables, delete records, and perform other database operations.
For the attack to work, an authenticated admin needs to click on a specially crafted URL. However, Barot noted that the attack works as long as the user is logged in to the cPanel web hosting administration interface, even if phpMyAdmin has been closed after use.
These types of attacks are possible due to the fact that vulnerable versions of phpMyAdmin use GET requests for database operations, but fail to provide CSRF protection.
The researcher also discovered that the URLs associated with database operations performed via phpMyAdmin are stored in the web browser history, which can pose security risks.
“The URL will contain database name and table name as a GET request was used to perform DB operations,” Barot said in a blog post published on Friday. “URLs are stored at various places such as browser history, SIEM logs, firewall logs, ISP logs, etc. This URL is always visible at client side, it can be a serious issue if you are not using SSL (some information about your previous queries were stored in someone’s logs!). Wherever the URL is being saved, an adversary can gain some information about your database.”
phpMyAdmin developers fixed the CSRF vulnerability found by Barot with the release of version 4.7.7. All prior 4.7.x versions are impacted by the security hole, which phpMyAdmin has classified as “critical.” Users have been advised to update their installations or apply the available patch.