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Thousands of VMware Centers Exposed to New Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

The CVE-2021-21972 remote code execution vulnerability was reported by Mikhail Klyuchnikov from Positive Technologies. The organization also published a detailed write-up for this vulnerability to share the impact of the flaw.

VMware vCenter and vSphere allow the centralized management of virtual corporate infrastructure. Virtualization can be used to create and manage multiple VMs (Virtual Machines). Due to the vast popularity of VMware, it is widely used, and therefore thousands of vulnerable targets can easily be found.

CVE-2021-21972 Details

The remote code execution flaw exists in the vropspluginui plugin. This plugin was improperly configured to allow any (unauthorized) user to access any URL it handled.

Unauthorized access to plugin

The function uploadOvaFile,responsible for the URI /ui/vropspluginui/rest/services/uploadova which can be used to upload tar files. The code that processes the tar files is not filtering the names of the tar files properly. Instead, they are simply concatenated with the string “/tmp/unicorn_ova_dir” which results in the creation of a file to the specified location.

With the above understanding, an attacker could create an archive entry containing the string “../”, which would allow uploading an arbitrary file to an arbitrary directory on the server. For illustration, a demo file “a.tar” archive containing a file with the name ..\..\testFolder\testUpload.txt is uploaded to the URL /ui/vropspluginui/rest/services/uploadova. Thereafter, uploading, checking server’s file system for the presence of testFolder and its nested file in the C:\ root directory.

The test file was successfully uploaded.

Credits: Positive Technologies

Now, to get the RCE(remote code execution) on Windows. The attacker would need to upload a malicious .jsp file to a location that is writable/accessible in the web-root directory and not requiring authorization. The directory C:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer\data\perfcharts\tc-instance\webapps\statsreport\looks agile for this purpose. An attacker would now just need to create and upload a specially crafted .jsp file to execute commands on the system.

Vulnerability Exploited

Credits: Positive Technologies

The malicious .jsp file is uploaded to the server, and as can be seen above, it can be used to execute arbitrary commands on the system with NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM privileges.

On the other hand, to get the code execution on Linux. The same understanding can be used by the attacker to upload ssh public key to the user’s home directory on the server. That can be later used to log in via ssh using the private key and achieve remote code execution.

Available PoC’s

There are many proof-of-concept(PoC) codes that are now widely available. Some of them are listed below:


Successful exploitation of the vulnerability allows remote code execution, which can be further used to compromise the affected systems completely.

Affected Products

  • VMware vCenter Server (7.x before 7.0 U1c, 6.7 before 6.7 U3l and 6.5 before 6.5 U3n)
  • VMware Cloud Foundation (4.x before 4.2 and 3.x before


VMWare has fixed the flaw stating the details in the advisory. Affected users can upgrade to :

  • VMware vCenter Server 7.0 U1c, 6.7 U3l, 6.5 U3n, or later
  • VMware Cloud Foundation version 4.2,, or later

SanerNow’s software deployment capability can be used to install executables/scripts.