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Category:   Application (Instant Messaging/IRC/Chat)  >   AOL Instant Messenger Vendors:   America Online, Inc.
AOL Instant Messenger aim://getfile?screenname Buffer Overflow Lets Remote Users Execute Arbitrary Code
SecurityTracker Alert ID:  1007938
SecurityTracker URL:
CVE Reference:   GENERIC-MAP-NOMATCH   (Links to External Site)
Date:  Oct 16 2003
Impact:   Execution of arbitrary code via network, User access via network
Fix Available:  Yes  Vendor Confirmed:  Yes  
Version(s): 5.2.3292
Description:   A buffer overflow vulnerability was reported in AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). A remote user can create a URL that, when loaded by the target user, will cause arbitrary code to be executed on the target user's system.

DigitalPranksters reported that there is a buffer overflow in the processing of the 'screenname' parameter of the 'getfile' function. A specially crafted "aim://" protocol URL can trigger the buffer overflow and overwrite the EIP register to execute arbitrary code on the target system. According to the report, the target user is first presented with a dialog warning box before loading the URL.

A demonstration exploit URL is provided:

aim://getfile?screenname=[About 1130 chars]

The following notification timeline is provided:

Vendor Contacted: September 16, 2003
Vendor Released Patch: September 25, 2003
DigitalPranksters Public Advisory Released: October 15, 2003

Impact:   A remote user can cause arbitrary code to be executed if the user selects to download a file after a URL is loaded.
Solution:   The vendor has issued a fixed version (5.5.3415 Beta), available at:

According to the report, the standard (non-beta) version has not yet been updated.

Vendor URL: (Links to External Site)
Cause:   Boundary error
Underlying OS:  Windows (Any)

Message History:   None.

 Source Message Contents

Subject:  Buffer Overflow in AOL Instant Messager

DigitalPranksters Security Advisory

AIM POP POP - Buffer Overflow in AOL Instant Messager's screenname
parameter of getfile

Risk: Medium

Product: AIM 5.2.3292 for Windows (Maybe others we only tested the latest

Product URL:

Vendor Contacted: September 16, 2003

Vendor Released Patch: September 25, 2003

DigitalPranksters Public Advisory Released: October 15, 2003

Found By: AngryB -

Exploited By: AngryB -
              KrazySnake -

When AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is installed, it installs the "aim"
protocol handler. This protocol allows AIM to be loaded by arbitrary web
pages by including an "aim:operation?parameter".

One of the operations is named "getfile". This operation takes a parameter
named "screenname". The "getfile" operation is used to retrieve a file
from another user. When the operation is invoked, the user is warned about
retrieving files. If the user clicks "OK" the file is normally sent to the
requesting user. The warning dialog can be disabled by choosing "Don't ask
me again!".

A buffer overflow exists in the "screenname" parameter. The overflow
allows an attacker to take control of EIP. The overflow allows arbitrary
execution on the victim's machine.

The "aim" protocol has a strange security model. Many of the operations
require no user interaction. One of the operations allows a web page to
mark the user viewing the page as away and specify the text of the away

This behavior allows us to further exploit the buffer overflow by setting
the away text to be something like "I'm on vacation. Visit
http://server/vactionpics.html to see my vacation pics". When the victim
visits the web site, he or she is redirected to a URL with a maliciously
crafted aim getfile protocol. The victim is then presented with the option
of downloading the file. The victim will likely accept the warning since
he or she is expecting to download some pictures from someone he or she
trusts. Upon accepting the warning, the victim's machine is compromised.

Proof of Concept:
A link like aim:getfile?screenname=[About 1130 chars] will overwrite EIP.
This bug is exploitable through a web page. We have internally created an

AOL has fixed this issue in AIM 5.5.3415 Beta. This update is available on Please note, AOL has not
fixed the current non-beta version.

SkippyInside, HTMLBCat, Spyder, Harmo, Purple Rain Man, and all people who
responsibly disclose security bugs. It is you who help us learn while
responsibly making systems more secure.
Thanks to AOL for fixing this issue.

Standard disclaimer applies. The opinions expressed in this advisory are
our own and not of any company. The information within this advisory may
change without notice. Use of this information constitutes acceptance for
use in an AS IS condition. There are no warranties with regard to this
information. In no event shall the author be liable for any damages
whatsoever arising out of or in connection with the use or spread of this
information. Any use of this information is at the user's own risk.

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