Critical Vulnerability in Harbor (container security!) Enables Privilege Escalation from Zero to Admin (CVE-2019-16097)

Aviv Sasson, a security researcher from the cloud division of Unit 42, has identified a critical vulnerability in a widespread cloud native registry called Harbor. The vulnerability allows attackers to take over Harbor registries by sending them a malicious request.

The maintainers of Harbor released a patch that closes this critical security hole. Versions 1.7.6 and 1.8.3 include this fix.

Unit 42 has found 1,300 Harbor registries open to the internet with vulnerable default settings, which are currently at risk until they’re updated.


Harbor is an open source cloud native registry that stores, signs and scan images for vulnerabilities. Harbor integrates with Docker Hub, Docker Registry, Google Container Registry and other registries. It provides a simple GUI that allows users to download, upload and scan images according to their permissions.


The vulnerability is in user.go:317.

if err := ua.DecodeJSONReq(&user); err != nil

In this line of code, we take the data from the post request and decode it into a user object.

A normal request payload will look like this:

{“username”:”test”,”email”:””,”realname”:”no name”,”password”:”Password1\u0021″,”comment”:null}

The problem is that we can send a request and add the parameter “has_admin_role”.

If we send the same request with “has_admin_role” = True, then the user that will be created will be an admin. It’s as simple as that.


I wrote a simple Python script that sends a post request to /api/users in order to create a new user with admin privileges, by setting the “has_admin_role” parameter in the request body to True. After running this script, all we need to do is to open Harbor in the browser and just sign in to the user we created.

Source: Critical Vulnerability in Harbor Enables Privilege Escalation from Zero to Admin (CVE-2019-16097)

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