Security releases issued

Posted by James Bennett on July 30, 2012

Today the Django team is issuing multiple releases -- Django 1.3.2 and Django 1.4.1 -- to remedy security issues reported to us.

All users are encouraged to upgrade Django immediately.

Cross-site scripting in authentication views

The login() and logout() views provided in Django's authentication framework make use of the common "POST-redirect-GET" pattern; a configurable querystring parameter can be used to specify the location to redirect to on successful submission. Currently, those views perform basic validation to ensure that the redirect location does not specify a different domain.

However, this validation does not check the scheme of the target URL; armed with this knowledge, an attacker can craft, for example, a data: scheme URL which will execute JavaScript.

Some browsers are known to currently provide protection against this issue: Google Chrome in particular explicitly disallows redirects to data: scheme URLs. However, several other major browsers do permit such redirects.

After careful consideration of this issue, we have decided that the safest course of action involves a slight break to backwards compatibility. Although temporary mitigation could be achieved through more stringent validation in the relevant views, the root issue lies in Django's HTTP response classes, which currently do not perform any validation of redirect targets. The fact that some major browsers already disallow certain URL schemes in redirects indicates that the impact of this change is likely to be minimal.

As such, the following change is being made despite breaking API compatibility:

End-user code which issues redirects is unlikely to be affected unless it either explicitly requires redirecting to an unsupported scheme, or accepts the target URL from a user-supplied parameter.

In the former case, subclassing the appropriate redirect class (HttpResponseRedirect for status code 302, HttpResponsePermanentRedirect for status code 301) and overriding the allowed_schemes list will be sufficient. The default value of allowed_schemes is ['http', 'https', 'ftp'].

In the latter case, code which accepts user-supplied parameters can attempt to instantiate the redirect, catch the SuspiciousOperation exception, and fall back to an alternate location as needed.

At present, Django's authentication views will leave this exception uncaught. This means site administrators will receive error reports if/when that exception is raised. It is likely that future Django releases will begin catching this exception, after allowing some time for users of Django to observe behavior and judge their exposure to potential issues.

Denial-of-service in image validation

Django's form system includes field types for handling file uploads, including a field class -- django.forms.ImageField -- for uploading images, which can perform some validation of image formats.

Part of that validation involves detecting corrupted image files, using routines provided by the Python Imaging Library (PIL).

The check as it currently exists in Django is vulnerable, however, because it will read the entire image file, including decompressing compressed formats as needed. It is trivially possible to craft a reasonably-sized file which, when decompressed in this fashion, grows to enormous size, consuming available memory and offering the ability to perform a denial-of-service attack.

To mitigate this, image validation will now make use of PIL's Image.verify() method, which performs some validation checks but does not decompress or read the entire image file.

Denial-of-service via get_image_dimensions()

Django's image-handling facilities also include helper methods to determine the dimensions of an image. Currently, the process for this involves reading a 1024-byte chunk from the start of the file, and passing to PIL to determine the dimensions; if insufficient data is provided, further 1024-byte chunks are read until PIL is able to return a definite answer.

While this works well for image formats which store enough information in their headers to determine dimensions, it can result in large quantities of read/process cycles for formats which do not. In particular, larger TIFF images can require tens of thousands of such cycles, tying up or timing out worker processes/threads and consuming enough server resources to result in an effective denial-of-service.

To mitigate this, the algorithm for determining image dimensions is being changed; the initial attempt will still use a 1024-byte chunk, but the chunk size will be doubled on each successive read. Testing has demonstrated that this reduces time to process TIFF files by multiple orders of magnitude.

Affected versions

The issues described above are present in the following versions of Django:


Patches have been applied to Django's development master branch, and to the 1.4 and 1.3 release branches, which resolve the three security issues described above. The patches may be obtained directly from the following changesets:

The following new releases have been issued:

As Django's development branch is currently in a pre-alpha state, users are strongly advised not to be running production deployments from it; if you are currently doing so, however, you are urged to upgrade imediately to the latest HEAD, which contains the above patches.


The issue with determining image dimensions was reported to us Jeroen Dekkers. The image-validation issue was reported as a regular bug by a user in Django's Trac. The redirect issue was reported by a source who has chosen to remain anonymous.

Known status of these issues

The Django team has been provided with information which indicates that knowledge of the redirect issue extends beyond the original reporter, and may either currently be or soon be exploited by persons in possession of that knowledge. And as noted above, the image-validation issue was originally reported to Django's public bug tracker.

As such, we again urge all users of affected versions of Django to upgrade immediately.

General notes regarding security

As always, we ask that potential security issues be reported via private email to, and not via Django's Trac instance or the django-developers list.

If you are or represent a third-party distributor of Django and did not receive a notification email regarding this announcement from the Django release manager, please contact

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