Collaborative efforts between Comparitech and security researchers Bob Diachenko and Sebastien Kaul revealed many web servers publicly exposing sensitive data. On October 17, 2019, Comparitech blogged about how the triad discovered over 700 websites using PHP’s Laravel framework where website admins failed to disable debug mode. Of the 700 websites, they estimate up to 20% of the sites contain sensitive configurations. Most websites belonged to charities and small businesses, but also for political entities.
Debug mode allows web developers and website admins to easily identify errors and misconfigurations. It’s very useful for sites that are not in production yet, but there’s a need to disable this mode prior to going live! Exposed information may include database locations, passwords, secret keys and other sensitive data.
Of course, responsible disclosure efforts were made in all cases. One interesting note is that there was a similar revelation just one year prior. The two security researchers conducted similar research and identified 566 public IP addresses misconfigured in the same manner. Needless to say, double check this configuration prior to publicizing a website.
For starters, it’s important to note that this vulnerability is more human error than software flaw. The software configuration is simply doing what it was programmed to do: to report or not report debug errors. That said, Laravel web developers should consult the documentation about disabling debug mode.
Additionally, we’ve seen similar instances of user error and misconfigured Cloud buckets. Cloud security has changed though – and considerably – but continued vigilance and awareness is required to ensure security and privacy are at the forefront of all involved parties. This includes web developers, website admins, as well as well-intentioned security researchers helping bridge this gap.