Safely Using File Attachments

Allowing users to upload file attachments to multiple types of transactions within PeopleSoft is a very important PeopleTools feature. Adding files like resumes, expense receipts and other types of documents can be a huge win for organizations looking to move away from paper and fully leverage their ERP system. That being said, giving users the option to upload a file into your system has risks. There are plenty of people out there who would love to abuse this functionality.  You could be leaving your systems vulnerable to nasty viruses and malware.  Also, if not properly secured, these repositories of documents could be a data gold mine for people with malicious intent. Thankfully, PeopleTools does give us a few options to protect ourselves from these dangers. These are just a few considerations for safely setting up file attachments.

File Extension List

When we allow a user to upload a file related to a PeopleSoft transaction, we have a general idea what type of file to expect. Common file types would be images, Word documents or PDFs. Something like a .exe or .zip file is something that we would not expect, and should generally not allow. Well, good news! PeopleTools lets us specify what file types are allowed. By utilizing File Extension Lists, we can specify a list of extension types to accept or reject. These lists can then be associated with a URL by specifying the FILE_EXT_LIST property, using the URL Maintenance Page. When the file attachment architecture uses a URL for storage, it will look for this File Extension List and preform validation before a user is allowed to attach a file.

Virus Scanning

Limiting the file extensions of uploads is a good first step, but it really doesn’t get you very far. To really safe guard yourself from malicious file uploads, you need to be actively scanning all files for viruses. PeopleTools delivers a nice hook in the file attachment architecture to accomplish this. Buried in the PIA_HOME you will find the VirusScan.xml file. This can be used to configure virus scanning. Once this is done, all file attachment uploads will be scanned for viruses. If any are found, it will prevent the file from being saved on your system. Oracle doesn’t give us a lot of details on what exact virus scanning software is supported. However, it was built to work with ICAP supported scanners. So, if you own a virus scanner that works with ICAP then you are most likely in luck. There is also some level of configuration in the xml file to deal with different response codes.

Storage Locations

There are three delivered storage locations for file attachments in PeopleTools. All three options have their own pros and cons, so you will have to decide which to use depending on your needs. There will be a few things to consider with each approach to make sure each protocol is used safely.

Database

This is probably the most secure option. Generally the database is already very locked down, since the majority of other application data is stored there. No extra controls are really needed to make sure your files are safe. To be truly safe though, you really want to make sure this data is encrypted in flight and at rest. So if you do your due diligence with the security of your app as a whole, storing with this method takes care of itself.

FTP

This protocol has been around forever, but really has fallen out of favor in most organizations. You should under no circumstances be using plain old unencrypted FTP. PeopleTools does however support both FTPS and SFTP, a more secure option. To use these protocols you must use URL objects, not URL strings, in your PeopleCode. Take care to secure the attachments on the file system the FTP server is pointed to.

HTTP

The final storage option is HTTP. Similar to a Report Repository, this method leverages a PIA servlet(psfiletransfer) to handle the file storage. This setup is explained very well in

MOS Doc ID 1321581.1.  Similar to FTP, you should be using the secure option – HTTPS. To leverage this secure option you will need to make sure certificates are in place and your URL object is configured correctly. Review the MOS Doc ID 1408853.1 for further details. And again, make sure the attachments are secure in the file system.

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