An attacker exploits weaknesses in input validation on IMAP/SMTP servers to execute commands on the server. Web-mail servers often sit between the Internet and the IMAP or SMTP mail server. User requests are received by the web-mail servers which then query the back-end mail server for the requested information and return this response to the user. In an IMAP/SMTP command injection attack, mail-server commands are embedded in parts of the request sent to the web-mail server. If the web-mail server fails to adequately sanitize these requests, these commands are then sent to the back-end mail server when it is queried by the web-mail server, where the commands are then executed. This attack can be especially dangerous since administrators may assume that the back-end server is protected against direct Internet access and therefore may not secure it adequately against the execution of malicious commands.
The table below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Meta Attack Pattern - A meta level attack pattern in CAPEC is a decidedly abstract characterization of a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. A meta attack pattern is often void of a specific technology or implementation and is meant to provide an understanding of a high level approach. A meta level attack pattern is a generalization of related group of standard level attack patterns. Meta level attack patterns are particularly useful for architecture and design level threat modeling exercises.
The target environment must consist of a web-mail server that the attacker can query and a back-end mail server. The back-end mail server need not be directly accessible to the attacker.
The web-mail server must fail to adequately sanitize fields received from users and passed on to the back-end mail server.
The back-end mail server must not be adequately secured against receiving malicious commands from the web-mail server.
None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack. However, in most cases, the attacker will need to be a recognized user of the web-mail server.
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed:
September 30, 2019