rails Moderate
Attribute Restriction
Discovered almost 5 years ago
Published over 4 years ago
Category: Attribute Restriction
Source: NIST NVD
Severity: Moderate

There is a timing attack vulnerability in the basic authentication support in Action Controller. This vulnerability has been assigned the CVE identifier CVE-2015-7576.

Versions Affected: All. Not affected: None. Fixed Versions: 5.0.0.beta1.1,,,


Due to the way that Action Controller compares user names and passwords in basic authentication authorization code, it is possible for an attacker to analyze the time taken by a response and intuit the password.

For example, this string comparison:

“foo” == “bar”

is possibly faster than this comparison:

“foo” == “fo1”

Attackers can use this information to attempt to guess the username and password used in the basic authentication system.

You can tell you application is vulnerable to this attack by looking for http_basic_authenticate_with method calls in your application.

All users running an affected release should either upgrade or use one of the workarounds immediately.


The FIXED releases are available at the normal locations.


If you can’t upgrade, please use the following monkey patch in an initializer that is loaded before your application:

$ cat config/initializers/basic_auth_fix.rb 
module ActiveSupport 
  module SecurityUtils 
    def secure_compare(a, b) 
      return false unless a.bytesize == b.bytesize 

      l = a.unpack "C#{a.bytesize}" 

      res = 0 
      b.each_byte { |byte| res |= byte ^ l.shift } 
      res == 0 
    module_function :secure_compare 

    def variable_size_secure_compare(a, b) 
      secure_compare(::Digest::SHA256.hexdigest(a), ::Digest::SHA256.hexdigest(b)) 
    module_function :variable_size_secure_compare 

module ActionController 
  class Base 
    def self.http_basic_authenticate_with(options = {}) 
      before_action(options.except(:name, :password, :realm)) do 
        authenticate_or_request_with_http_basic(options[:realm] || "Application") do |name, password| 
          # This comparison uses & so that it doesn't short circuit and 
          # uses `variable_size_secure_compare` so that length information 
          # isn't leaked. 
          ActiveSupport::SecurityUtils.variable_size_secure_compare(name, options[:name]) & 
            ActiveSupport::SecurityUtils.variable_size_secure_compare(password, options[:password]) 


To aid users who aren’t able to upgrade immediately we have provided patches for the two supported release series. They are in git-am format and consist of a single changeset.

  • 4-1-basic_auth.patch - Patch for 4.1 series
  • 4-2-basic_auth.patch - Patch for 4.2 series
  • 5-0-basic_auth.patch - Patch for 5.0 series

Please note that only the 4.1.x and 4.2.x series are supported at present. Users of earlier unsupported releases are advised to upgrade as soon as possible as we cannot guarantee the continued availability of security fixes for unsupported releases.


Thank you to Daniel Waterworth for reporting the problem and working with us to fix it.

CVSS Metrics
Access Vector Access Complexity Authentication Confidentiality Impact Integrity Impact Availability Impact
Network Network None Partial None None
Patched Versions

>= 5.0.0.beta1.1 ~> 4.2.5 >= ~> 4.1.14 >= ~>

Unaffected Versions