Path Traversal on Retrofit

Update: CVE created CVE-2018-1000850. For some reason, the wording on the CVE is quite confusing. That is not what I submitted. Hope they fix it soon.

Retrofit is a type-safe HTTP client for Android and Java developed by Square, Inc. It is a very popular library with over 30k starts in Github and more than 120 contributors.

I found a path traversal vulnerability when using encoded=true on @Path parameters. Below is an unit test reproducing the issue. This test was added on RequestFactoryTest class (it is not upstream though).

@Test public void getWithEncodedPathSegmentsSecurity() {

    class Example {
        @GET("/foo/bar/{ping}/") //
            Call<ResponseBody> method(@Path(value = "ping", encoded = true) String ping) {
            return null;

    Request request = buildRequest(Example.class, "../baz/pong/more");

Given the type safety provided by the library, the issue does not affect GET requests that much. If the results returned by the path traversal are different from what was the original code was designed to parse, it will occur a deserialisation issue. For example, if the original URL was /repository/{id} and an attacker sends an id like ../user/1 the URL requested by retrofit will be /user/1. When parsing the response, Retrofit will be expecting a data structure mapping a repository not a user. Therefore, causing a deserialisation issue.

However, POST, PUT, DELETEs and any requests that change the server will be affected. The deserialisation happens only after getting the response. The HTTP request at this point would have been completed and would have applied the intending effect caused by the path traversal. In the example above, if the request was a DELETE rather than a GET the attacker would have been successful in send a DELETE request on a user rather than a repository.

POST and PUT are not so easily exploitable, they are more dependable on the context of how they were designed. If there are two similar REST resources in the same API, it is perfectly possible to use one of the endpoints to request to POST or PUT on a different (but similar) resource.

Square has fixed the issue here. Square also has released the fix on version 2.5.0. The vulnerability was introduce in a very early commit. Which means all versions bellow 2.5.0 are vulnerable.