Security Experts:

Code Execution Flaw in Electron Framework Could Affect Many Apps

GitHub’s open source development framework Electron is affected by a vulnerability that can allow remote code execution. Technical details and proof-of-concept (PoC) code were made public last week by the researcher who discovered the issue.

Electron allows developers to create cross-platform desktop applications using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The framework has been used in the development of hundreds of applications, including Skype, GitHub Desktop, Slack, WhatsApp, Signal, Discord and WordPress.com.

Trustwave researcher Brendan Scarvell discovered earlier this year that certain applications created with Electron may allow remote code execution if they are affected by cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities and configured in a specific way.

“Electron applications are essentially web apps, which means they're susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks through failure to correctly sanitize user-supplied input. A default Electron application includes access to not only its own APIs, but also includes access to all of Node.js' built in modules. This makes XSS particularly dangerous, as an attacker's payload can allow do some nasty things such as require in the child_process module and execute system commands on the client-side,” the researcher explained in a blog post. “You can remove access to Node.js by passing nodeIntegration: false into your application's webPreferences.”

Scarvell found that if an application is affected by an XSS flaw and certain options have not been manually set in the app’s webPreferences, an attacker can re-enable nodeIntegration during runtime and execute system commands.

The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2018-1000136, was patched by Electron developers in March with the release of versions 1.7.13, 1.8.4, and 2.0.0-beta.4. The security hole can also be mitigated by adding a piece of code provided by Electron.

The Signal messaging app and the Brave web browser are reportedly not impacted by this flaw.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.