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Author tehybel
Recipients tehybel
Date 2016-08-25.16:17:08
SpamBayes Score -1.0
Marked as misclassified Yes
Message-id <>
I'll describe 7 issues in the /Modules/_elementtree.c module here. They
include multiple use-after-frees, type confusions and instances of
out-of-bounds array indexing.

Issue 1: use-after-free in element_get_text

The problematic code looks like this:
    element_get_text(ElementObject* self)
        /* return borrowed reference to text attribute */

        PyObject* res = self->text;

        if (JOIN_GET(res)) { 
            res = JOIN_OBJ(res);
            if (PyList_CheckExact(res)) {
                res = list_join(res);
                if (!res)
                    return NULL;
                self->text = res;

        return res;

As we can see, if res is a list, we call list_join with res, which is
self->text. list_join will decrease self->text's reference count. When that
happens, arbitrary python code can run. If that code uses self->text, a
use-after-free occurs.

PoC (Proof-of-Concept segfaulting script):


import _elementtree as et

class X(str):
    def __del__(self):

b = et.TreeBuilder()
b.start("test")["AAAA", X("BBBB")])

elem = b.close()


Issue 2: use-after-free in element_get_tail

The same type of issue also exists in element_get_tail and should be fixed
there, too.

Issue 3: type confusion in elementiter_next

The function elementiter_next iterates over a tree consisting of elements.
Each element has an array of children. 
Before doing any casts, most of the elementtree code is careful to check that
these children are, indeed, elements; that is, that their type is correct. The
problem is that elementiter_next does not validate these child objects before
performing a cast. Here is the relevant line:
    elem = (ElementObject *)cur_parent->extra->children[child_index];
If the child is not an element, a type confusion occurs. Here's a PoC:


import _elementtree as et

state = {
    "tag": "tag",
    "_children": [1,2,3],
    "attrib": "attr",
    "tail": "tail",
    "text": "text",

e = et.Element("ttt")

for x in e.iter():


Issue 4: array-out-of-bounds indexing in element_subscr

This issue occurs when taking the subscript of an element. This is done using
the element_subscr function. The function calls PySlice_GetIndicesEx:

    if (PySlice_GetIndicesEx(item,
            &start, &stop, &step, &slicelen) < 0) {
        return NULL; 

The problem is that to evaluate the indices, PySlice_GetIndicesEx might call
back into python code. That code might cause the element's self->extra->length
to change. If this happens, the variables "start", "stop" and "step" might no
longer be appropriate.

The code then uses these variables for array indexing:

    for (cur = start, i = 0; i < slicelen;
         cur += step, i++) {
        PyObject* item = self->extra->children[cur]; 

But this could go out of bounds and interpret arbitrary memory as a PyObject.
Here's a PoC that reproduces this:


import _elementtree as et

class X:
    def __index__(self):
        e[:] = []
        return 1

e = et.Element("elem")
for _ in range(10):
    e.insert(0, et.Element("child"))



Running it results in a segfault:

(gdb) r ./
Starting program: /home/xx/Python-3.5.2/python ./

Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
0x000000000049f933 in PyObject_Repr (v=0x7ffff68af058) at Objects/object.c:471
471     if (Py_TYPE(v)->tp_repr == NULL)
(gdb) print *v
$37 = {_ob_next = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb, _ob_prev = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb, ob_refcnt = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdc,
  ob_type = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb}

As we can see, "v" is freed memory with arbitrary contents.

Issue 5: array-out-of-bounds indexing in element_ass_subscr

A separate issue of the same type, also due to a call to PySlice_GetIndicesEx,
exists in element_ass_subscr. Here's a proof-of-concept script for that:


import _elementtree as et

class X:
    def __index__(self):
        e[:] = []
        return 1

e = et.Element("elem")
for _ in range(10):
    e.insert(0, et.Element("child"))

e[0:10:X()] = []


To fix these, I believe we could check whether self->extra->length changed
after calling PySlice_GetIndicesEx, and bail out if so. (You can grep the
codebase for "changed size during iteration" for examples of some similarish

Issue 6: use-after-free in treebuilder_handle_start

In the function treebuilder_handle_start we see these lines:

    if (treebuilder_set_element_text(self->last, self->data))
        return NULL;

Here self->last is the most recent element, and we are setting its text to
self->data. This assignment happens via the function
treebuilder_set_element_text which in turn calls
treebuilder_set_element_text_or_tail. There, if the element self->last is not
an exact instance of Element_Type, we run these lines:

    PyObject *joined = list_join(data);
    int r;
    if (joined == NULL)
        return -1;
    r = _PyObject_SetAttrId(element, name, joined);
    return r;

The comment for list_join says this:

    /* join list elements (destroying the list in the process) */

So note that we destroy the given list. If we go back to the initial function,
treebuilder_handle_start, then we recall that "element" is really self->last and
"data" is actually self->data. When list_join(data) is called, self->data will
therefore be destroyed. So we have to be careful and ensure that self->data is
overwritten; otherwise it could get used after being freed.

Unfortunately the call to _PyObject_SetAttrId could fail -- for example if
"element" is an integer. Then treebuilder_handle_start just bails out without
clearing self->data. This results in a use-after-free.

Here's a PoC:


import _elementtree as et

b = et.TreeBuilder(element_factory=lambda x, y: 123)

b.start("tag", {})"ABCD")
b.start("tag2", {})


It sets self->last to be an integer, 123. When we try to set the attribute
"text" on this integer, it fails. At that point, self->data has been freed but
the reference isn't cleared. When treebuilder_dealloc is called by the garbage
collector, self->data is excessively decref'd and we get a segfault:

(gdb) run ./
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "./", line 7, in <module>
    b.start("tag2", {})
AttributeError: 'int' object has no attribute 'text'

Program received signal SIGSEGV, Segmentation fault.
0x0000000000435122 in visit_decref (op=0x7ffff6d52380, data=0x0) at Modules/gcmodule.c:373
373     if (PyObject_IS_GC(op)) {
(gdb) print *op
$52 = {_ob_next = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb, _ob_prev = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb, ob_refcnt = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb,
  ob_type = 0xdbdbdbdbdbdbdbdb}

Note that this issue exists in two places inside treebuilder_handle_start -- the
call to treebuilder_set_element_tail has the same problem and both should be

Issue 7: use-after-free in treebuilder_handle_end

The same sort of issue also exists in treebuilder_handle_end and should be
fixed there as well.

All these issues were found in Python-3.5.2 and tested with --with-pydebug
enabled. I did not check the 2.7 branch, but some (though not all) of the
issues likely exist there as well.
Date User Action Args
2016-08-25 16:17:10tehybelsetrecipients: + tehybel
2016-08-25 16:17:10tehybelsetmessageid: <>
2016-08-25 16:17:10tehybellinkissue27863 messages
2016-08-25 16:17:08tehybelcreate