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From bob racko <bobr.apa...@dprc.net>
Subject general/5000: htpasswd write locks // megasite partial pages
Date Sat, 11 Sep 1999 19:57:18 GMT

>Number:         5000
>Category:       general
>Synopsis:       htpasswd write locks // megasite partial pages
>Confidential:   no
>Severity:       serious
>Priority:       medium
>Responsible:    apache
>State:          open
>Class:          sw-bug
>Submitter-Id:   apache
>Arrival-Date:   Sat Sep 11 15:10:01 PDT 1999
>Originator:     bobr.apache@dprc.net
>Release:        1.3.9
unix/linux, apache 1.3.9, actually replicated on sun solaris
megasites or ones with lots of virtual hosting (ISPs)
where htpasswd files are being changed by users
alternatively frequently-updated pages on same
There are problems that stem from the lack of interlocks between the server
and potentially multiple instances of htpasswd running at once.
Additionally, updates to the document tree are not interlocked in a way that
cooperates between the server and the updating program and thus
the server presents a partial page to the user (or to the proxy server
which is even tougher to erradicate).

The system (daemon and support programs together) have event-windows
in which httpd winds up reading a truncated htpasswd file or a
partial html file.  In addition, there are situations where
the password file could become permanantly truncated if multiple
instances of htpasswd are running at once on the same output file.

This was less common when there was no -b flag but now that there is one,
and autoregistration via CGI is possible, it it also now possible to have
clashes that wind up clobbering the password file.

While I was observing the problem, I was also able to
come up with a method for updating web pages that also
corrected for 'partial-page' issues.  

The write-locks I have tested are atomic, do not leave the server prone
to denial of service attacks, do not leave lock or tmp
files lying about and only come into play when the
cannot-open/file-not-found exception is about to be triggered.
No performance penalty on normal cases.

While I was at it, I also implemented backups to the htpasswd file
that do not require an extra switch to enable/disable.
[if the backup file is there it is used]

(of course if the passwd file isnt clobbered anymore why save a backup...)

summary also posted to comp.infosystems.www.servers.unix
last week but I guess you folks missed it in the noise.
You probably have difficulty replicating this one
on anything but a megasite, but since I have been involved
in several now, I am quite familiar.

1) have a heavily loaded server (so that CGI programs run slow enough)
2) have 2 people run htpasswd[.c] at once on a passwd file
that takes some time to copy-back 
(insert sleep() calls if you need to)
3) observe that some users later on in the password file fail to authenticate
because httpd gets EOF before htpasswd is finished writing passwd file back

use a faster server and set up autoregistration (using a cgiscript that calls htpasswd)
and then add a whole bunch of people (or change the password to a whole bunch of users)
at once using multiple instances of htpasswd [as would be the case in a cgi
on a website with 88 pageviews a second].
I have implemented a series of fixes that corrects for these problems.
I have fixed the problem in alloc.c (where the servers file-open is)
and in htpasswd.c .

The full solution is not a one-liner so a difflist would be unrealistic.

I have constrained the fixes to 2 files. I have tested the fix
to alloc.c on apache 1.3.6 and 1.3.9.  I have also applied the changes
successfully to htpasswd.c (both versions).

contact me for the source changes. I will work with the
current maintainer or, if you like, become the current maintainer of
 htpasswd.c as I have spent much time analyzing its foibles.
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