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Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2012 15:59:13 +0100
From: Timo Warns <Warns@...-Sense.DE>
Subject: Remote file inclusion by office applications

I would like to hear some opinions on whether remote file inclusion by
office applications should be considered as security-relevant.

Different office applications automatically include remote files on
opening local files. Examples include MS Word [1] and
LibreOffice/OpenOffice [2].

I can imagine different impacts:

- The origin of a document can track when a document has been opened and
  possibly by whom.

- The origin of a document can arbitrarily change the displayed content
  of the document whenever the document is opened (without affecting hash
  sums of the document). For example, the origin may change the content
  of a remote image depending on from which IP or when the image is
  accessed. For example, a sent tender may be changed after the tender

- Under certain conditions, remote content is directly embedded into
  a document. This may allow to extract confidential data. For example,
  LibreOffice/OpenOffice directly embed remote content when converting
  a document into the PDF format. An attacker may send a document
  referencing confidential data to a victim asking the victim to convert
  the file. If the victim converts and sends the document back, the
  attacker receives the confidential data.

In my opinion, these issues are a question of user expectation. Users
are aware that web browsers may access remote content even when opening
local files. I don't think users are aware that office application may
do the same. An 'offline mode' for office applications that is enabled
by default could meet user expectations.


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