Remote-exploiting curl

In a Blackhat 2019 presentation, three gentlemen from the Tencent Blade Team explained how they found and managed to exploit two curl flaws. Both related to NTLM over HTTP. The “client version Heartbleed” as they call it.

Reported responsibly

The Tencent team already reported the bugs responsibly to us and we already fixed them back in February 2019, but the talk is still very interesting I think.

From my point of view, as I have already discussed these bugs with the team when they were reported us and when I worked on fixing them, I find it very interesting and educational to learn more about how exactly they envision an attacker would go about and exploit them in practice. I have much too bad imagination sometimes to really think of how bad exactly the problems can end up when a creative attacker gets to play with them.

The security issues

The two specific issues these stellar gents found are already fixed since curl 7.64.0 and you can read all the gory details about them here: CVE-2018-16890 and CVE-2019-3822. The latter is clearly the worse issue.

For all I know, these exploits have never been seen or reported to happen in real life.


Luckily, most distros that ship older curl versions still back-port and apply later security patches so even if you may see that you have an older curl version installed on your system, chances are it has already been patched. Of course there’s also a risk that it hasn’t, so you should probably make sure rather than presume…

The video

The slides from their presentation. (The talk also details SQLite issues but they’re completely separate from the curl ones.)

Bug Bounty?

Unfortunately, I’m sorry to admit that these excellent friends of ours did not get a bug bounty from us! 🙁

We got their reports before our bug bounty was setup and we didn’t have neither the means nor the methods to reward them back then. If someone would report such serious bugs now, only a year later, we would probably reward new such findings with several thousand dollars.


NTLM was always wrong, bad and a hack. It’s not an excuse for having bugs in our code but man if someone could just please make that thing go away…