Skip to main content

Feature Annotations

Features (sometimes called breadcrumbs) are additional metadata that are associated with taint flows. They can be useful for helping to filter out false positives, or for zeroing in on high-signal subsets of a rule. Some are automatically added during the analysis process, and there is a rich system for manually specifying additional features.

Manually Added Features#

via Feature Using Via[]#

The via feature indicates that a flow passed through a point in the code, such as a function parameter, that was annotated with the specified feature name. For example, via:getattr might indicate that the flow passed through a call to getattr

Feature names are declared in your taint.config file (the same file as sources/sinks/rules) like this:

features: [
name: "getattr",
comment: "via getattr first parameter"
name: "request_files",
comment: "via django request.FILES"

The via feature can be appended to TaintSource, TaintSink and TaintInTaintOut annotations, to add extra metadata to any flow that goes through that annotated function/parameter/attribute. This is done by adding Via[FEATURE_NAME] within square brackets after the TaintXXXX annotation in a model file:

# Augmenting TaintSource
django.http.request.HttpRequest.FILES: TaintSource[UserControlled, Via[request_files]] = ...
# Augmenting TaintInTaintOut
def getattr(
o: TaintInTaintOut[Via[getattr]],
name: TaintSink[GetAttr],
default: TaintInTaintOut[LocalReturn],
): ...

Pysa also supports attaching features to inferred flows, which allows you to filter flows passing through a function without having to annotate the taint yourself explicitly, and having the feature attached to all taint flowing through the function. This is done by adding the AttachToSource, AttachToSink, and AttachToTito annotations in a model file:

# Attaching taint to sources.
def get_signed_cookie() -> AttachToSource[Via[signed]]: ...
# Attaching taint to sinks.
def HttpResponseRedirect.__init__(self, redirect_to: AttachToSink[Via[redirect]], *args, **kwargs): ...
# Attaching taint to taint-in-taint-out models.
def attach_features.tito_and_sink(arg: AttachToTito[Via[some_feature_name]]): ...

Pysa additionally supports attaching features to flows irrespective of sources, sinks, and TITO, using the AddFeatureToArgument annotation:

def add_feature_to_argument.add_feature_to_first(
first: AddFeatureToArgument[Via[string_concat_lhs]],
): ...

Note that Pysa automatically adds some via features with special meaning. See the Automatic Features section for details.

via-value Feature Using ViaValueOf[]#

The via-value feature is similar to the via feature, however, it captures the value of the specified argument, rather than a feature name. Note that this only works for string literals, boolean literals, numeric literals, and enums. For example, via-value:Access-Control-Allow-Origin might indicate that the string literal Access-Control-Allow-Origin was used to set a header in a Django response.

The via-value feature can be added anywhere that the via feature can be added. It is added by specifying ViaValueOf[PARAMETER_NAME], where PARAMETER_NAME is the name of the function parameter for which you would like to capture the argument value. To continue the above example, this is how you would capture the name of a header being set on a Django HttpResponse:

def django.http.response.HttpResponse.__setitem__(
header: TaintSink[ResponseHeaderName],
value: TaintSink[ResponseHeaderValue, ViaValueOf[header]]
): ...

In cases where the argument is not a constant, the feature will appear as via-value:<unknown>. If the argument is not provided at the call site (e.g, using the default value), the feature will appear as via-value:<missing>.

You can also associate a tag with a via-value feature to ensure that different via-value annotations don't interfere with each other. Here's how you can retain the information that the name of the header was being set:

def django.http.response.HttpResponse.__setitem__(
header: TaintSink[ResponseHeaderName],
value: TaintSink[ResponseHeaderValue, ViaValueOf[header, WithTag["set-header"]]
): ...

The feature would now appear as via-set-header-value:Access-Control-Allow-Origin.

via-type Feature Using ViaTypeOf[]#

The via-type feature is nearly identical to the via-value feature, however, it captures the type of the specified argument, rather than it's value. Pysa will retrieve the type information for the argument from Pyre, and add a feature such as "via-type": "str", "via-type": "typing.List[str]", or "via-type": "typing.Any" (in the case Pyre doesn't have type information).

ViaTypeOf is useful for sinks such as, which accepts Union[bytes, str, Sequence] for it's arg parameter. The via-type feature can help identify which type the argument to arg actaully had. Knowning the type of the arugument can help asses the severity of a given issue (user controlled input in a str passed to arg is much easier to exploit for RCE than user controlled input in one element of a Sequence passed to arg).

The via-value feature can be added anywhere that the via feature can be added. It is added by specifying ViaTypeOf[PARAMETER_NAME], where PARAMETER_NAME is the name of the function parameter for which you would like to capture the argument value:

args: TaintSink[RemoteCodeExecution, ViaTypeOf[args]],
): ...

The via-type feature also supports adding tags, using the same syntax as the via-value feature:

args: TaintSink[RemoteCodeExecution, ViaTypeOf[args, WithTag["subprocess-arg"]]]
): ...

Supporting Features Dynamically Using ViaDynamicFeature[]#

In general, Pysa requires you to specify the list of features that are allowed. This encourages features to be documented, and help avoid typos when writing features so that the features propagating in the analysis are consistent with filters you might have on issues.

However, there might be very specific cases where you want to dynamically generate features, depending on artifacts of the code. Most cases here can be handled by via-type and via-value features, however, you might be dealing with dynamic code or metadata that the system can't detect. In these cases, Pysa allows skipping validation on features by the use of ViaDynamicFeature. This syntax has identical behavior to Via[] except the lack of validation. Here's an example:

args: TaintSink[RemoteCodeExecution, ViaDynamicFeature[subprocess_run_execution]]
): ...

Automatic Features#

via Feature#

In addition to the manually specified via features, Pysa automatically adds some via features with special meaning such as via:obscure, via:format-string, and via:tito. via:obscure means that the flow passed through code that Pysa does not have access to analyze, and thus some taint flow assumptions were made. This can be a useful to filter out flows that may be more noisy. via:format-string means that a flow passed through a python f-string (f"Variable: {variable_name}") or a str.format. Tito stands for taint-in-taint-out which refers to taint flows that enter a function via a parameter and then exit it in some form via the return value. The via:tito feature is attached automatically to all such flows.

type Feature#

The type feature is an automatically added feature which indicates that the flow passes through a conversion to the specified type. This feature currently only tracks conversion to numeric values (ie. type:scalar). This can be useful for filtering out flows when numeric values are highly unlikely to result in an exploitable flow, such as SQL injection or RCE.

first-field Feature#

The first-field feature is automatically added to flows for the first field access on the flow. E.g., if request is a source, and the flow starts with request.f, then first-field:f should be attached to the flow.

first-index Feature#

The first-index feature is an automatically added feature which indicates that a flow starts with a dictionary access using the specified constant as the key. This is useful in cases such as Django's GET/POST/META dictionaries on the HttpRequest object. A flow that started with as access of the HTTP_REFERER header from the META object would result in the first-index:HTTP_REFERER feature being added.

has Feature#

The has features is a summary feature for first-field and first-index. Thus, has:first-index simply indicates that there is at least one first-index:<name> feature present, and similarly for has:first-field.

always- Modifier on Features#

The always- modifier will automatically be added to any of the above features, when every single flow within an issue has the feature. For example, if an issue captures flows from three different sources of user input into a SQL sink, the always-type:scalar modifier would be added if all three of those flows pass through a conversion to int before reaching the sink. Note that the always- version of a feature is exclusive with the non-always- version; if always-type:scalar is present, type:scalar will not be present.

broadening Feature#

The broadening feature is automatically added whenever Pysa makes an approximation about a taint flow. This is also referred as "taint collapsing" because the taint is internally represented as a tree structure where edges are attributes or indexes. Collapsing usually leads to tainting a whole object instead of a single attribute of that object.

Pysa also provides more fine grained features for all scenario where we make approximations.

widen-broadening Feature#

The widen-broadening feature is added when number of tainted attributes of an object reaches a certain threshold. For scalability reasons, Pysa cannot track an infinite amount of attributes or indexes, and thus makes the approximation that the whole object is tainted.

d = {}
if condition:
d["a"] = source()
d["b"] = source()
# c, d, e, etc.
d["1"] = source()
d["2"] = source()
# etc.
sink(d) # too many indexes, the whole `d` variable becomes tainted.

tito-broadening Feature#

The tito-broadening feature is added when an object with tainted attributes is propagated through a function to its return value. For correctness reasons, Pysa makes the approximation that the whole returned object is tainted. This is referred as "Taint-In-Taint-Out collapsing".

def identity(x):
return x
def foo():
x = {"a": source(), "b": "foo"} # only `x["a"]` is tainted.
y = identity(x)
sink(y) # the whole `y` variable is tainted because of tito collapsing.
sink(y['b']) # since `y` is tainted, any access to `y` is also tainted.

issue-broadening Feature#

The issue-broadening feature is added when an object with a tainted attribute reaches a taint sink. Pysa will consider the flow as valid even if the whole object is not tainted.

d = {"a": source(), "b": "foo"}
sink(d) # `d` itself is not tainted, but `d["a"]` is, thus we emit an issue.