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Websockify: Remote Code Execution via Buffer Overflow

RedTeam Pentesting discovered a buffer overflow vulnerability in the C implementation of Websockify, which allows attackers to execute arbitrary code.


  • Product: Websockify C implementation
  • Affected Versions: all versions <= 0.8.0
  • Fixed Versions: versions since commit 192ec6f (2016-04-22) (
  • Vulnerability Type: Buffer Overflow
  • Security Risk: high
  • Vendor URL:
  • Vendor Status: fixed
  • Advisory URL:
  • Advisory Status: published
  • CVE URL:


“websockify was formerly named wsproxy and was part of the noVNC project.

At the most basic level, websockify just translates WebSockets traffic to normal TCP socket traffic. Websockify accepts the WebSockets handshake, parses it, and then begins forwarding traffic between the client and the target in both directions.”

(from the project’s readme)

More Details

For each new connection, websockify forks and calls the function do_handshake() to receive a client’s WebSocket handshake. The following excerpt shows some of the source code responsible for receiving the client’s data from the socket file descriptor:

ws_ctx_t *do_handshake(int sock) {
    char handshake[4096], response[4096], sha1[29], trailer[17];
    offset = 0;
    for (i = 0; i < 10; i++) {
        len = ws_recv(ws_ctx, handshake+offset, 4096);
        if (len == 0) {
            handler_emsg("Client closed during handshake\n");
            return NULL;
        offset += len;
        handshake[offset] = 0;
        if (strstr(handshake, "\r\n\r\n")) {

As can be seen in the listing, the function ws_recv() is called in a loop to read data from the client’s socket into the stack-allocated buffer ‘handshake’. Each time ws_recv() is called, a maximum of 4096 bytes are read from the socket and stored in the handshake buffer. The variable ‘offset’ determines the position in the buffer at which the received data is written. In each iteration, the value of ‘offset’ is increased by the amount of bytes received. If the received data contains the string “rnrn”, which marks the end of the WebSocket handshake data, the loop is terminated. Otherwise, the loop is terminated after a maximum of 10 iterations. The do_handshake() function returns early if no more data can be received from the socket.

By forcing websockify to iterate multiple times, attackers can exploit this behaviour to write data past the space allocated for the handshake buffer, thereby corrupting adjacent memory.

Proof of Concept

The following curl command can be used to trigger the buffer overflow:

$ curl$(python -c ‘print “A”*5000’)

Providing a generic exploit for this vulnerability is not feasible, as it depends on the server side environment websockify is used in as well as the used compiler and its flags. However, during a penetration test it was possible to successfully exploit this buffer overflow vulnerability and to execute arbitrary commands on the server.


Use the Python implementation of websockify.


The vulnerability has been fixed in commit 192ec6f (

Security Risk

Successful exploitation of the vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on the affected system. It is therefore rated as a high risk.


  • 2016-04-14 Vulnerability identified
  • 2016-05-03 Advisory provided to customer
  • 2016-05-06 Customer provided updated firmware, notified users
  • 2016-05-23 Customer notified users again
  • 2016-05-31 Advisory published

RedTeam Pentesting GmbH

RedTeam Pentesting offers individual penetration tests performed by a team of specialised IT-security experts. Hereby, security weaknesses in company networks or products are uncovered and can be fixed immediately.

As there are only few experts in this field, RedTeam Pentesting wants to share its knowledge and enhance the public knowledge with research in security-related areas. The results are made available as public security advisories.

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