RE: ownCloud Unencrypted Private Key Exposure

From: Mikhail A. Utin <>
To: Jack Brennan <>, <>
Subject: RE: ownCloud Unencrypted Private Key Exposure

Cloud providers are always assuring about unbeatable security, but try to get any clause in SLA that they will pay for data losses. That shows how they trust their services.
Concerning encryption, what is in the manual is ridiculous. The only one way to keep your data secure is to encrypt and decrypt locally, and keep your key local. Only that guarantee integrity of your own data on external/cloud storage. I think it is security ABC. Of course, as I said, it does not guarantee availability.
Do not trust external encryption as in this case they keep your key, and we see how this vendor is good in that.

Mikhail Utin, CISSP

-----Original Message-----
From: Jack Brennan [] 
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2014 2:10 PM
Subject: Re: ownCloud Unencrypted Private Key Exposure

Hash: SHA1


A valid concern.

HTTPS should be used to secure traffic from a client to the server, solving any problems related to eavesdropping.

Encrypting the content of the account data should solve two problems.

1. Secure data from curious system administrators.

2. Secure data in case of an account breach, Lost password or phishing

3. Secure data that is copied off the server and taken offsite.

The current solution doesn't solve any of those problems. Firstly the users password is the encryption key. Secondly, in the case of number 3, an attacker that can get your raw data will either have your account password or server side access.

- From the OwnCloud Manual:

"Server-Side encryption is especially useful if you use external storages. This way you can make sure that the storage provider is not able to read your data."

I'm not quite sure what they are suggesting, because if we read a little further:

"Encryption and decryption always happens server-side. This enables the user to continue to use all the other apps to view and edit their data. But this also means that the server administrator could intercept your data."

With that in mind it would be nice to get some clarification as to what threat the encryption solution is designed to mitigate.


Den 04.08.2014 16:00, skrev Frank Stanek:
> Hi,
> thank you for this announcement. I have a (very naive) question about 
> this. As a consequence of this vulnerability an attacker with access 
> to the ownCloud server's file system can compromise the encrypted data 
> stored on the server. There does not seem to be a workaround for that 
> and there will be no fix. Thus, data on an ownCloud server is always 
> accessible to an attacker with access to the file system, regardless 
> of whether ownCloud's encryption feature is enabled or not. Is that 
> correct so far?
> It seems to me that one of the encryption feature's main purposes is 
> to prevent an attacker with access to the server's file system from 
> immediate access to the user data. If my understanding above is true, 
> then this purpose is void since the encryption is useless in that 
> scenario. If this is somehow not part of the vendor's threat model, 
> isn't it at least an important restriction? Or did I completely 
> misunderstand something?
> Regards Frank
> Am 04.08.2014 08:38, schrieb Senderek Web Security:
> Senderek Web Security - Security Advisory
> ownCloud Unencrypted Private Key Exposure 
> =========================================
> sure.php
> Revision:         1.00 Last Updated:     3 Aug 2014
> Summary:
> In consequence of an insufficient threat model, ownCloud is storing 
> all user's private RSA keys in clear text in PHP session files.
> These unencrypted private keys can be accessed by every web 
> application that has the privilege of the web server user. The 
> affected files exposing cryptographic keys will be stored in the PHP 
> session directory for a number of hours until they are removed.
> This issue was reported to ownCloud via encrypted email on Tue, 11 Mar 
> 2014. I received a reply to this report from the vendor on Wed,
> 12 Mar 2014.
> On Tue, 22 July 2014 the vendor confirmed, that they will not address 
> this problem, because the protection of user encrypted files from 
> remote attackers that have read access to the file system with web 
> server privilege is not - and will not be - part of their threat 
> model. Consequently, the vendor does not consider this to be a 
> vulnerability or security issue.
> Severity: High
> Affected Software Versions:
> All versions of ownCloud since the introduction of the encryption 
> module in version 5.0.7 including version 7.0.0.
> Impact:
> An attacker, who is able to read the PHP session files by exploiting 
> another web application that is running on the ownCloud server, will 
> be able to gather the unencrypted private key of every ownCloud user. 
> All encrypted files that are stored in a user's home directory can be 
> decrypted with this RSA private key, stored in the PHP session files 
> in plain text. If the user's encrypted files are synced to other 
> devices or shared with other servers - for hosting or backup - an 
> attacker will be able to decrypt all user data that is being 
> intercepted, even if the attacker has no longer access to the server's 
> file system.
> Fixes:
> In addition to the ownCloud encryption module users are advised to 
> encrypt their sensitive files separately with a standard server-side 
> encryption mechanism like GnuPG using a passphrase, that is not stored 
> on the server except while being used in memory.
> One software solution that extends ownCloud with GnuPG-based 
> server-side encryption can be downloaded here:
> A detailed installation tutorial is available at:
> This general web application extension addresses a more comprehensive 
> threat model, that includes the possibility of read-access to web 
> server accessible files on the server. However, it does not protect 
> against malicious actions of server admins, as this cannot be 
> prevented by web applications.
> Security Advice Policy:
> Complete information about reporting security vulnerabilities can be 
> found here:
> All information in this security advisory is copyrighted because of 
> the time and effort in analysing and documenting the vulnerability 
> described here.
Version: GnuPG v2.0.22 (MingW32)


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