A researcher responsibly disclosed multiple vulnerabilities to Slack that allowed an attacker to hijack a user’s computer, and they were only rewarded a measly $1,750.
Using these vulnerabilities, an attacker could simply upload a file and share with another Slack user or channel to trigger the exploit on a victim’s Slack app.
In his detailed writeup shared privately with Slack in January 2020, security engineer Oskars Vegeris of Evolution Gaming shared extensive details on the vulnerability.
A 5-second video demo Vegeris provided with the HackerOne writeup showed how he used a JSON file to trigger launching a native calculator application via Slack desktop app:[embedded content]
Multiple critical vulnerabilities
The HackerOne report made public by the company this week shows the engineer listing multiple ways in which Slack apps can be exploited.
The end result of the exploit would be arbitrary code execution on the client’s side i.e. user’s computer, not Slack’s backend.
An attacker could achieve HTML injection, arbitrary code execution, and also Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) due to inherent weakness in the files.slack.com code.
URL to this HTML file when injected in the area tag of a Slack JSON post representation would enable a “one-click-RCE” on the user’s machine.
“The URL link within the area tag would contain this HTML / JS exploit for Slack Desktop apps which executes any attacker provided command,” stated the engineer.
That’s a bounty?
The fact that Vegeris walked away with a mere $1,750 bug bounty after putting in a lot of time towards the responsible disclosure did not sit well with the infosec. community.
The general consensus on Twitter is, a $20 billion company Slack building messaging app used by major corporations, would’ve faced severe consequences had an exploit of this kind be sold on illicit dark web markets (which would’ve earned the engineer well more than $1,750).
Mashable reported further such instances of users lashing out at Slack, such as this one:
Daniel Cuthbert, hacker and co-author of the OWASP ASVS standard said in a Twitter thread, “Slack, used by millions and millions for mission-critical design chats, DevOps, security, mergers, and acquisitions, hell the list is endless. The flaws found by this researcher result in the execution of arbitrary commands on user’s computer. The TL;DR is wow.”
Cuthbert pleaded Slack to “pay properly” for reports like these, as such exploits would sell for much more on black markets.
“For all that effort, they got awarded $1750. Seventeen Hundred and FIFTY bucks. @SlackHQ firstly the flaws are a rather large concern, I mean validation is hard but come on, then pay properly, please. Because this would be worth much more on exploit.in.”
In a promotional blog post released by Slack two months ago which celebrated its “app sandbox” feature, rather than disclosing the vulnerability details that led to its development, the company had also forgotten to credit Vegeris (this is now corrected).
That is when Vegeris requested a public disclosure on HackerOne this week, which invited a sincere apology from Slack.
“My name is Larkin Ryder and I am currently serving as the interim Chief Security Officer here at Slack. @brandenjordan made me aware of this misstep and I am writing to convey very sincere apologies for any oversight in crediting your work. We very much appreciate the time and effort you’ve invested in making Slack safer,” stated Ryder in the report.
“While the security team didn’t author this blog post and the author has no visibility to your work in H1, we should make the extra steps to ensure all who contributed to improvement efforts in this area are recognized. I will investigate making appropriate updates to our blog post … Again, I am very sorry for any misstep on our part,” Ryder continued, thanking the engineer.
The proprietary business communication platform, Slack brags about having over 10,000,000 daily active users and is a recognizable brand among many workplaces.
While Slack may have patched the vulnerabilities in a little over five weeks of the report, cases like these underscore the potential damage that can arise from messaging apps as they keep growing their feature list (e.g. file uploads) and customer numbers, should there be a security weakness.