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TUCoPS :: Windows Net Apps :: cuteftp.txt

CuteFTP weak encryption for sensitive information including username, password.

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Nick FitzGerald <>

Another case of very weak 'protection' of secrets in Win32 network client

I came across the following while investigating why the Melissa macro virus
variant W97M/Melissa.M was interested in stealing a file called 'tree.dat'
from victim machines.

That file is the CuteFTP v1.x and v2.x 'Site Manager' data file, recording
site names, addresses, site preferences, firewall information and
(optionally) username and password data.  A quick look at a sample tree.dat
after installing CuteFTP suggested the passwords were 'encrypted' in a very
weak manner.  A few moments digging revealed that 'encrypted' is too strong
a term -- the stored value was the original permuted by the simple expedient
of adding 48h to the ASCII value of each character.  The file has a fairly
simple binary structure, which a few more minutes work would easily reverse
but the usernames and 'encrypted' passwords are easily obtained with a hex
file editor.

This means that stealing of tree.dat not only allows the thief access via
CuteFTP to any 'secrets' that may be recorded in that file, but they can
also be easily decoded for other uses.  The v3.x releases of CuteFTP store
this data in smdata.dat (the virus does not look for that file) but it has a
very similar appearing structure to tree.dat and uses the same 'encryption'
of stored passwords.

Briefly looking further, I note the pre-v3.0 release of CuteFTP's INI file
includes the plaintext username and password for the default firewall
configuration (if one is set).  This same data is stored in
HKCU\Software\GlobalSCAPE\CuteFTP 3.0\CuteFTP (also in plain text) in
version 3.56 (tested), and from the key name presumably all other v3.x

NT users of CuteFTP would be advised to update to a v3.x release and apply
adequate security to the DAT file and the registry key mentioned (and maybe
its siblings -- check for yourself as I only found this because I was
testing something unrelated to my normal concerns), particularly in
multiple-user workstation situations. Presumably users of other OSes
supported by CuteFTP don't care too much about security anyway so this is
not an issue for them...

A quick check of the CuteFTP Help files failed to find any mantion of the
inherent insecurity in the chosen mechanisms for storing these user details.


Nick FitzGerald

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