What is the difference between encryption and hashing?

August 29, 2022 by · Comments Off on What is the difference between encryption and hashing?
Filed under: Development, Security 

Encryption is a reversible process, whereas hashing is one-way only. Data that has been encrypted can be decrypted back to the original value. Data that has been hashed cannot be transformed back to its original value.

Encryption is used to protect sensitive information like Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers or other sensitive information that may need to be accessed at some point.

Hashing is used to create data signatures or comparison only features. For example, user passwords used for login should be hashed because the program doesn’t need to store the actual password. When the user attempts to log in, the system will generate a hash of the supplied password using the same technique as the one stored and compare them. If they match, the passwords are the same.

Another example scenario with hashing is with file downloads to verify integrity. The supplier of the file will create a hash of the file on the server so when you download the file you can then generate the hash locally and compare them to make sure the file is correct.

XmlSecureResolver: XXE in .Net

August 22, 2022 by · Comments Off on XmlSecureResolver: XXE in .Net
Filed under: Development, Security, Testing 

tl;dr

  • Microsoft .Net 4.5.2 and above protect against XXE by default.
  • It is possible to become vulnerable by explicitly setting a XmlUrlResolver on an XmlDocument.
  • A secure alternative is to use the XmlSecureResolver object which can limit allowed domains.
  • XmlSecureResolver appeared to work correctly in .Net 4.X, but did not appear to work in .Net 6.

I wrote about XXE in .net a few years ago (https://www.jardinesoftware.net/2016/05/26/xxe-and-net/) and I recently starting doing some more research into how it works with the later versions. At the time, the focus was just on versions prior to 4.5.2 and then those after it. At that time there wasn’t a lot after it. Now we have a few versions that have appeared and I started looking at some examples.

I stumbled across the XmlSecureResolver class. It peaked my curiosity, so I started to figure out how it worked. I started with the following code snippet. Note that this was targeting .Net 6.0.

static void Load()
{
    string xml = "<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8' ?><!DOCTYPE foo [<!ENTITY xxe SYSTEM 'https://labs.developsec.com/test/xxe_test.php'>]><root><doc>&xxe;</doc><foo>Test</foo></root>";

    XmlDocument xmlDoc = new XmlDocument();
    xmlDoc.XmlResolver = new XmlSecureResolver(new XmlUrlResolver(), "https://www.jardinesoftware.com");
    
    xmlDoc.LoadXml(xml);
    Console.WriteLine(xmlDoc.InnerText);
    Console.ReadLine();
}

So what is the expectation?

  • At the top of the code, we are setting some very simple XML
    • The XML contains an Entity that is attempting to pull data from the labs.developsec.com domain.
    • The xxe_test.php file simply returns “test from the web..”
  • Next, we create an XmlDocument to parse the xml variable.
    • By Default (after .net 4.5.1), the XMLDocument does not parse DTDs (or external entities).
  • To Allow this, we are going to set the XmlResolver. In This case, we are using the XmlSecureResolver assuming it will help limit the entities that are allowed to be parsed.
    • I will set the XmlSecureResolver to a new XmlUrlResolver.
    • I will also set the permission set to limit entities to the jardinesoftware.com domain.
  • Finally, we load the xml and print out the result.

My assumption was that I should get an error because the URL passed into the XmlSecureResolver constructor does not match the URL that is referenced in the xml string’s entity definition.

https://www.jardinesoftware.com != https://labs.developsec.com

Can you guess what result I received?

If you guessed that it worked just fine and the entity was parsed, you guessed correct. But why? The whole point of XMLSecureResolver is to be able to limit this to only entities from the allowed domain.

I went back and forth for a few hours trying different configurations. Accessing different files from different locations. It worked every time. What was going on?

I then decided to switch from my Mac over to my Windows system. I loaded up Visual Studio 2022 and pulled up my old project from the old blog post. The difference? This project was targeting the .Net 4.8 framework. I ran the exact same code in the above snippet and sure enough, I received an error. I did not have permission to access that domain.

Finally, success. But I wasn’t satisfied. Why was it not working on my Mac. So I added the .Net 6 SDK to my Windows system and changed the target. Sure enough, no exception was thrown and everything worked fine. The entity was parsed.

Why is this important?

The risk around parsing XML like this is a vulnerability called XML External Entities (XXE). The short story here is that it allows a malicious user to supply an XML document that references external files and, if parsed, could allow the attacker to read the content of those files. There is more to this vulnerability, but that is the simple overview.

Since .net 4.5.2, the XmlDocument object was protected from this vulnerability by default because it sets the XmlResolver to null. This blocks the parser from parsing any external entities. The concern here is that a user may have decided they needed to allow entities from a specific domain and decided to use the XmlSecureResolver to do it. While that seemed to work in the 4.X versions of .Net, it seems to not work in .Net 6. This can be an issue if you thought you were good and then upgraded and didn’t realize that the functionality changed.

Conclusion

If you are using the XmlSecureResolver within your .Net application, make sure that it is working as you expect. Like many things with Microsoft .Net, everything can change depending on the version you are running. In my test cases, .Net 4.X seemed to work properly with this object. However, .Net 6 didn’t seem to respect the object at all, allowing DTD parsing when it was unexpected.

I did not opt to load every version of .Net to see when this changed. It is just another example where we have to be conscious of the security choices we make. It could very well be this is a bug in the platform or that they are moving away from using this an a way to allow specific domains. In either event, I recommend checking to see if you are using this and verifying if it is working as expected.

Input Validation for Security

August 22, 2022 by · Comments Off on Input Validation for Security
Filed under: Development, Security 

Validating input is an important step for reducing risk to our applications. It might not eliminate the risk, and for that reason we should consider what exactly we are doing with input validation.

Should you be looking for every attack possible?

Should you create a list of every known malicious payload?

When you think about input validation are you focusing on things like Cross-site Scripting, SQL Injection, or XXE, just to name a few? How feasible is it to attempt to block all these different vulnerabilities with input validation? Are each of these even a concern for your application?

I think that input validation is important. I think it can help reduce the ability for many of these vulnerabilities. I also think that our expectation should be aligned with what we can be doing with input validation. We shouldn’t overlook these vulnerabilities, but instead realize appropriate limitations. All of these vulnerabilities have a counterpart, such as escaping, output encoding, parser configurations, etc. that will complete the appropriate mitigation.

If we can’t, or shouldn’t, block all vulnerabilities with input validation, what should we focus on?

Start with focusing on what is acceptable data. It might be counter-intuitive, but malicious data could be acceptable data from a data requirements statement. We define our acceptable data with specific constraints. These typically fall under the following categories:

* Range – What are the bounds of the data? ex. Age can only be between 0 and 150.
* Type – What type of data is it? Integer, Datetime, String.
* Length – How many characters should be allow?
* Format – Is there a specific format? Ie. SSN or Account Number

As noted, these are not specifically targeting any vulnerability. They are narrowing the capabilities. If you verify that a value is an Integer, it is hard to get typical injection exploits. This is similar to custom format requirements. Limiting the length also restricts malicious payloads. A state abbreviation field with a length of 2 is much more difficult to exploit.

The most difficult type is the string. Here you may have more complexity and depending on your purpose, might actually have more specific attacks you might look for. Maybe you allow some HTML or markup in the field. In that case, you may have more advanced input validation to remove malicious HTML or events.

There is nothing wrong with using libraries that will help look for malicious attack payloads during your input validation. However, the point here is to not spend so much time focusing on blocking EVERYTHING when that is not necessary to get the product moving forward. Understand the limitation of that input validation and ensure that the complimenting controls like output encoding are properly engaged where they need to be.

The final point I want to make on input validation is where it should happen. There are two options: on the client, or on the server. Client validation is used for immediate feedback to the user, but it should never be used for security.

It is too easy to bypass client-side validation routines, so all validation should also be checked on the server. The user doesn’t have the ability to bypass controls once the data is on the server. Be careful with how you try to validate things on the client directly.

Like anything we do with security, understand the context and reasoning behind the control. Don’t get so caught up in trying to block every single attack that you never release. There is a good chance something will get through your input validation. That is why it is important to have other controls in place at the point of impact. Input validation limits the amount of bad traffic that can get to the important functions, but the functions still may need to do additional processes to be truly secure.

Chrome is making some changes… Are you Ready?

February 10, 2020 by · Comments Off on Chrome is making some changes… Are you Ready?
Filed under: Development, Security 

Last year, Chrome announced that it was making a change to default cookies to SameSite:Lax if there is no SameSite setting explicitly set. I wrote about this change last year (https://www.jardinesoftware.net/2019/10/28/samesite-by-default-in-2020/). This change could have an impact on some sites, so it is important that you test this out. The changes are supposed to start rolling out in February (this month). The linked post shows how to force these defaults in both FireFox and Chrome.

In addition to this, Chrome has announced that it is going to start blocking mixed-content downloads (https://blog.chromium.org/2020/02/protecting-users-from-insecure.html). In this case, they are starting in Chrome 83 (June 2020) with blocking executable file downloads (.exe, .apk) that are over HTTP but requested from an HTTPS site.

The issue at hand is that users are mislead into thinking the download is secure due to the requesting page indicating it is over HTTPS. There isn’t a way for them to clearly see that the request is insecure. The linked Chrome blog describes a timeline of how they will slowly block all mixed-content types.

For many sites this might not be a huge concern, but this is a good time to check your sites to determine if you have any type of mixed content and ways to mitigate this.

You can identify mixed content on your site by using the Javascript Console. It can be found under the Developer Tools in your browser. This will prompt a warning when it identifies mixed content. There may also be some scanners you can use that will crawl your site looking for mixed content.

To help mitigate this from a high level, you could implement CSP to upgrade insecure requests:

Content-Security-Policy: upgrade-insecure-requests

This can help by upgrading insecure requests, but it is not supported in all browsers. The following post goes into a lot of detail on mixed content and some ways to resolve it: https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/security/prevent-mixed-content/fixing-mixed-content

The increase in protections of the browsers can help reduce the overall threats, but always remember that it is the developer’s responsibility to implement the proper design and protections. Not all browsers are the same and you can’t rely on the browser to provide all the protections.

SameSite By Default in 2020?

October 28, 2019 by · Comments Off on SameSite By Default in 2020?
Filed under: Development, Security, Testing 

If you haven’t seen, Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is getting a big protection by default in 2020. Currently, most protections need to be implemented explicitly. While we are seeing some nonces included and checked by default (Razor Pages), you typically still need to explicitly check the nonce. This requires that the developers understand that CSRF is a risk and how to prevent it. They then need to implement a mitigating solution.

Background

CSRF has been around for a long time. For those that don’t know, it is a vulnerability that allows an attacker to forge requests to your application that the user doesn’t initiate. Imagine being able to get a user to transfer money using a request like https://yourbank.com/transfer/300. They place this request on another site in an image tag. When the image attempts to load, it sends the request to the other bank site. Assuming the bank site uses cookies for authentication and session management, these cookies are sent with the request and the transfer is made (if the user was logged into their bank account).

The most common mitigation was to include a nonce with each request. This made the request to transfer money unique for every user. This is effective, but does require that the developer add the nonce and validate it on the request. A few years back, the browsers started adding support for the samesite attribute. This has the advantage of being set on the cookies instead of every request. The idea behind samesite is that a cookie will not be sent if the requesting domain is different than the destination domain. In our example above, if mybank.com has an image tag set to yourbank.com, the browser will not send the cookies for yourbank.com with the request.

Today

Fortunately, we are at a time when most browsers have support for samesite, but it does require that the developer set the appropriate setting. Like implementing a nonce, this is put on the developer to take an explicit action. The adoption of samesite is gaining. Frameworks like .Net Core set this for identity cookies to lax by default.

2020

Chrome has announced that in 2020, Chrome 80 will set the samesite flag to lax for all cookies by default. (https://blog.chromium.org/2019/10/developers-get-ready-for-new.html) This is good news, as it will help take a huge dent out of cross-site request forgery. Of course, that only means if you are using Chrome as a browser. I am sure that Mozilla and Microsoft will follow suit, but there is no mention of a timeline to when that will happen. So is CSRF dead, no. It has taken a strong blow though.

But wait, it is just set to lax.. what does that mean? There are two settings for samesite: strict and lax. Lax, as its name implies is a little more forgiving. For the most part, it is good enough coverage if you follow your basic guidelines (Don’t use GET for making changes to your system). However, if you do use GET requests, you still have a risk. Remember that example earlier https://yourbank.com/transfer/300? This is using a GET request. with Lax, an attacker can put that link in a link tag on their site, rather than an image tag. Now, if the user clicks the link, it will open it as the top level request and will still send the cookies. This is that difference between strict and lax. Strict would not allow the cookies to be sent in this scenario.

What does this mean?

At this point, this change means you should be checking your current applications to see if you have any type of cross-site requests that need to send cookies to work. If these exist, you will need to take action to turn samesite off or make other accommodations. If you find that samesite will be a problem for your setup, you can turn it off by setting samesite: none. This does require that the cookie is set to secure.

If your application doesn’t use cross-site requests, you still should take action. Remember, this only defaults in Chrome. So if your users are using anything else, this change doesn’t effect them yet. They will still be vulnerable if you are not implementing other CSRF mitigations.

Making the Change in FireFox Now

FireFox does have the ability to enable this behavior in the about:config. Starting in FireFox 69, you can modify the following preferences:

  • network.cookie.sameSite.laxByDefault
  • network.cookie.sameSite.noneRequiresSecure

These are both set to false by default, but a user can change them to true. Note that this is a user setting and not one that you can force your users to set. It is still recommended to set the samesite attribute through your application.

Making the Change in Chrome Now

Chrome has the ability to enable this behavior in chrome://flags. There are two settings:

  • SameSite by default cookies
  • Cookies without SameSite must be secure

These are currently both set false by default, but you can change them too true.

Be Careful

As a user, making these changes can add a layer of protection, but it can also break some sites you may use. Be careful when enabling these since it may render some sites unreliable.

Overview of Web Security Policies

June 27, 2018 by · Comments Off on Overview of Web Security Policies
Filed under: Development, Security, Testing 

A vulnerability was just identified in your website. How would you know?

The process of vulnerability disclosure to an organization is often very difficult to identify. Whether you are offering any type of bounty for security bugs or not, it is important that there is a clear path for someone to notify you of a potential concern.

Unfortunately, the process is different on every application and it can be very difficult to find it. For someone that is just trying to help out, it can be very frustrating as well. Some websites may have a separate security page with contact information. Other sites may just have a security email address on the contact us page. Many sites don’t have any clear indication of how to report such a finding. Maybe we could just use the security@ email address for the organization, but do they have it configured?

In an effort to help standardize how to find this information, there is a draft definition for a method for web security policies. You can read the draft at https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-foudil-securitytxt-03. The goal of this is to specify a text file in a known path to provide contact information for users to submit potential security concerns.

How it works

The first step is to create a security.txt file to describe your web security policy. This file should be found in the .well-known directory (according to the specifications). This would make your text file found at /.well-known/security.txt. In some circumstances, it may also be found at just /security.txt.

The purpose of pinning down the name of the file and where it should be located is to limit the searching process. If someone finds an issue, they know where to go to find the right contact information or process.

The next step is to put the relevant information into the security.txt file. The draft documentation covers this in depth, but I want to give a quick example of what this may look like:

Security.txt

— Start of File —

# This is a sample security.txt file
contact: mailto:james@developsec.com
contact: tel:+1-904-638-5431

# Encryption - This links to my public PGP Key
Encryption: https://www.jardinesoftware.com/jamesjardine-public.txt

# Policy - Links to a policy page outlining what you are looking for
Policy: https://www.jardinesoftware.com/security-policy

# Acknowledgments - If you have a page that acknowledges users that have submitted a valid bug
Acknowledgments: https://www.jardinesoftware.com/acknowledgments

# Hiring - if you offer security related jobs, put the link to that page here
Hiring: https://www.jardinesoftwarre.com/jobs

# Signature - To help secure your file, create a signature file and reference it here.
Signature: https://www.jardinesoftware.com/.well-known/security.txt.sig

—- End of File —

I included some comments in that sample above to show what each item is for. A key point is that very little policy information is actually included in the file, rather it is linked as a reference. For example, the PGP key is not actually embedded in the file, but instead the link to the key is referenced.

The goal of the file is to be in a well defined location and provide references to your different security policies and procedures.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

So I am curious, what do you think about this technique? While it is still in draft status, it is an interesting concept. It allows providing a known path for organizations to follow to provide this type of information.

I don’t believe it is a requirement to create bug bounty programs, or even promote the security testing of your site without permission. However, it does at least provide a means to share your requests and provide information to someone that does find a flaw and wants to share that information with you.

Will we see this move forward, or do you think it will not catch on? If it is a good idea, what is the best way to raise the awareness of it?

Intro to npm-audit

June 27, 2018 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Development, Security, Testing 

Our applications rely more and more on external packages to enable quick deployment and ease of development. While these packages help reduce the code we have to write ourselves, it still may present risk to our application.

If you are building Nodejs applications, you are probably using npm to manage your packages. For those that don’t know, npm is the node package manager. It is a direct source to quickly include functionality within your application. For example, say you want to hash your user passwords using bcrypt. To do that, you would grab a bcrypt package from npm. The following is just one of the bcrypt packages available:

https://www.npmjs.com/package/bcrypt

Each package we may use may also rely on other packages. This creates a fairly complex dependency graph of code used within your application you have no part in writing.

Tracking vulnerable components

It can be fairly difficult to identify issues related to these packages, never mind their sub packages. We all can’t run our own static analysis on each package we use, so identifying new vulnerabilities is not very easy. However, there are many tools that work to help identify known vulnerabilities in these packages.

When a vulnerability is publicly disclosed it receives an identifier (CVE). The vulnerability is tracked at https://cve.mitre.org/ and you can search these to identify what packages have known vulnerabilities. Manually searching all of your components doesn’t seem like the best approach.

Fortunately, npm actually has a module for doing just this. It is npm-audit. The package was included starting with npm 6.0. If you are using an earlier version of npm, you will not find it.

To use this module, you just need to be in your application directory (the same place you would do npm start) and just run:

npm audit.

On the surface, it is that simple. You can see the output of me running this on a small project I did below:

Npm audit

As you can see, it produces a report of any packages that may have known vulnerabilities. It also includes a few details about what that issue is.

To make this even better, some of the vulnerabilities found may actually be fixed automatically. If that is available, you can just run:

npm audit fix.

The full details of the different parameters can be found on the npm-audit page at https://docs.npmjs.com/cli/audit.

If you are doing node development or looking to automate identifying these types of issues, npm-audit may be worth a look. The more we can automate the better. Having something simple like this to quickly identify issues is invaluable. Remember, just because a component may be flagged as having a vulnerability, it doesn’t mean you are using that code or that your app is guaranteed vulnerable. Take the effort to determine the risk level for your application and organization. Of course, we should strive to be on the latest versions to avoid vulnerabilities, but we know reality diverts from what we wish for.

Have you been using npm-audit? Let me know. I am interested in your stories of success or failure to learn how others implement these things.

XSS in Script Tag

June 27, 2018 by · Comments Off on XSS in Script Tag
Filed under: Development, Security, Testing 

Cross-site scripting is a pretty common vulnerability, even with many of the new advances in UI frameworks. One of the first things we mention when discussing the vulnerability is to understand the context. Is it HTML, Attribute, JavaScript, etc.? This understanding helps us better understand the types of characters that can be used to expose the vulnerability.

In this post, I want to take a quick look at placing data within a <script> tag. In particular, I want to look at how embedded <script> tags are processed. Let’s use a simple web page as our example.

<html>
	<head>
	</head>
	<body>
	<script>
		var x = "<a href=test.html>test</a>";
	</script>
	</body>
</html>

The above example works as we expect. When you load the page, nothing is displayed. The link tag embedded in the variable is rated as a string, not parsed as a link tag. What happens, though, when we embed a <script> tag?

<html>
	<head>
	</head>
	<body>
	<script>
		var x = "<script>alert(9)</script>";
	</script>
	</body>
</html>

In the above snippet, actually nothing happens on the screen. Meaning that the alert box does not actually trigger. This often misleads people into thinking the code is not vulnerable to cross-site scripting. if the link tag is not processed, why would the script tag be. In many situations, the understanding is that we need to break out of the (“) delimiter to start writing our own JavaScript commands. For example, if I submitted a payload of (test”;alert(9);t = “). This type of payload would break out of the x variable and add new JavaScript commands. Of course, this doesn’t work if the (“) character is properly encoded to not allow breaking out.

Going back to our previous example, we may have overlooked something very simple. It wasn’t that the script wasn’t executing because it wasn’t being parsed. Instead, it wasn’t executing because our JavaScript was bad. Our issue was that we were attempting to open a <script> within a <script>. What if we modify our value to the following:

<html>
	<head>
	</head>
	<body>
	<script>
		var x = "</script><script>alert(9)</script>";
	</script>
	</body>
</html>

In the above code, we are first closing out the original <script> tag and then we are starting a new one. This removes the embedded nuance and when the page is loaded, the alert box will appear.

This technique works in many places where a user can control the text returned within the <script> element. Of course, the important remediation step is to make sure that data is properly encoded when returned to the browser. By default, Content Security Policy may not be an immediate solution since this situation would indicate that inline scripts are allowed. However, if you are limiting the use of inline scripts to ones with a registered nonce would help prevent this technique. This reference shows setting the nonce (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTTP/Headers/Content-Security-Policy/script-src).

When testing our applications, it is important to focus on the lack of output encoding and less on the ability to fully exploit a situation. Our secure coding standards should identify the types of encoding that should be applied to outputs. If the encodings are not properly implemented then we are citing a violation of our standards.

JavaScript in an HREF or SRC Attribute

November 30, 2017 by · Comments Off on JavaScript in an HREF or SRC Attribute
Filed under: Development, Security, Testing 

The anchor (<a>) HTML tag is commonly used to provide a clickable link for a user to navigate to another page. Did you know it is also possible to set the HREF attribute to execute JavaScript. A common technique is to use the onclick event of the anchor tab to execute a JavaScript method when the user clicks the link. However, to stop the browser from actually redirecting the HREF can be set to javascript:void(0);. This cancels the HREF functionality and allows the JavaScript from the onclick to execute as expected.

In the above example, notice that the HREF is set with a value starting with “javascript:”. This identifier tells the browser to execute the code following that prefix. For those that are security savvy, you might be thinking about cross-site scripting when you hear about executing JavaScript within the browser. For those of you that are new to security, cross-site scripting refers to the ability for an attacker to execute unintended JavaScript in the context of your application (https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Cross-site_Scripting_(XSS)).

I want to walk through a simple scenario of where this could be abused. In this scenario, the application will attempt to track the page the user came from to set up where the Cancel button will redirect to. Imagine you have a list page that allows you to view details of a specific item. When you click the item it takes you to that item page and passes a BackUrl in the query string. So the link may look like:

https://jardinesoftware.com/item.php?backUrl=/items.php

On the page, there is a hyperlink created that sets the HREF to the backUrl property, like below:

<a href=”<?php echo $_GET[“backUrl”];?>”>Back</a>

When the page executes as expected you should get an output like this:

<a href=”/items.php”>Back</a>

There is a big problem though. The application is not performing any type of output encoding to protect against cross-site scripting. If we instead pass in backUrl=”%20onclick=”alert(10); we will get the following output:

<a href=”” onclick=”alert(10);“>Back</a>

In the instance above, we have successfully inserted the onclick event by breaking out of the HREF attribute. The bold section identifies the malicious string we added. When this link is clicked it will prompt an alert box with the number 10.

To remedy this, we could (or typically) use output encoding to block the escape from the HREF attribute. For example, if we can escape the double quotes (” -> &quot; then we cannot get out of the HREF attribute. We can do this (in PHP as an example) using htmlentities() like this:

<a href=”<?php echo htmlentities($_GET[“backUrl”],ENT_QUOTES);?>”>Back</a>

When the value is rendered the quotes will be escapes like the following:

<a href=”&quot; onclick=&"alert(10);“>Back</a>

Notice in this example, the HREF actually has the entire input (in bold), rather than an onclick event actually being added. When the user clicks the link it will try to go to https://www.developsec.com/” onclick=”alert(10); rather than execute the JavaScript.

But Wait… JavaScript

It looks like we have solved the XSS problem, but there is a piece still missing. Remember at the beginning of the post how we mentioned the HREF supports the javascript: prefix? That will allow us to bypass the current encodings we have performed. This is because with using the javascript: prefix, we are not trying to break out of the HREF attribute. We don’t need to break out of the double quotes to create another attribute. This time we will set backUrl=javascript:alert(11); and we can see how it looks in the response:

<a href=”javascript:alert(11);“>Back</a>

When the user clicks on the link, the alert will trigger and display on the page. We have successfully bypassed the XSS protection initially put in place.

Mitigating the Issue

There are a few steps we can take to mitigate this issue. Each has its pros and many can be used in conjunction with each other. Pick the options that work best for your environment.

  • URL Encoding – Since the HREF is meant to be a URL, you could perform URL encoding. URL encoding will render the javascript benign in the above instances because the colon (:) will get encoded. You should be using URL encoding for URLs anyway, right?
  • Implement Content Security Policy (CSP) – CSP can help limit the ability for inline scripts to be executed. In this case, it is an inline script so something as simple as ‘Content-Security-Policy:default-src ‘self’ could be sufficient. Of course, implementing CSP requires research and great care to get it right for your application.
  • Validate the URL – It is a good idea to validate that the URL used is well formed and pointing to a relative path. If the system is unable to parse the URL then it should not be used and a default back URL can be substituted.
  • URL White Listing – Creating a white list of valid URLs for the back link can be effective at limiting what input is used by the end user. This can cut down on the values that are actually returned blocking any malicious scripts.
  • Remove javascript: – This really isn’t recommended as different encodings can make it difficult to effectively remove the string. The other techniques listed above are much more effective.

The above list is not exhaustive, but does give an idea of ways to help reduce the risk of JavaScript within the HREF attribute of a hyper link.

Iframe SRC

It is important to note that this situation also applies to the IFRAME SRC attribute. it is possible to set the SRC of an IFRAME using the javascript: notation. In doing so, the javascript executes when the page is loaded.

Wrap Up

When developing applications, make sure you take this use case into consideration if you are taking URLs from user supplied input and setting that in an anchor tag or IFrame SRC.

If you are responsible for testing applications, take note when you identify URLs in the parameters. Investigate where that data is used. If you see it is used in an anchor tag, look to see if it is possible to insert JavaScript in this manner.

For those performing static analysis or code review, look for areas where the HREF or SRC attributes are set with untrusted data and make sure proper encoding has been applied. This is less of a concern if the base path of the URL has been hard-coded and the untrusted input only makes up parameters of the URL. These should still be properly encoded.

The end of Request Validation

June 1, 2017 by · Comments Off on The end of Request Validation
Filed under: Development, Security 

One of the often overlooked features of ASP.Net applications was request validation. If you are a .Net web developer, you have probably seen this before. I have certainly covered it on multiple occasions on this site. The main goal: help reduce XSS type input from being supplied by the user. .Net Core has opted to not bring this feature along and has dropped it with no hope in sight.

Request Validation Limitations

Request validation was a nice to have.. a small extra layer of protection. It wasn’t fool proof and certainly had more limitations than originally expected. The biggest one was that it only supported the HTML context for cross-site scripting. Basically, it was trying to deter the submission of HTML tags or elements from end users. Cross-site scripting is context sensitive meaning that attribute, URL, Javascript, and CSS based contexts were not considered.

In addition, there have been identified bypasses for request validation over the years. For example, using unicode-wide characters and then storing the data ASCII format could allow bypassing the validation.

Input validation is only a part of the solution for cross-site scripting. The ultimate end-state is the use of output encoding of the data sent back to the browser. Why? Not all data is guaranteed to go through our expected inputs. Remember, we don’t trust the database.

False Sense of Security?

Some have argued that the feature did more harm than good. It created a false sense of security compared to what it could do. While I don’t completely agree with that, I have seen those examples. I have seen developers assume they were protected just because request validation was enabled. Unfortunately, this is a bad assumption based on a mis-understanding of the feature. The truth is that it is not a feature meant to stop all cross-site scripting. The goal was to create a way to provide some default input validation for a specific vulnerability. Maybe it was mis-understood. Maybe it was a great idea with impossible implementation. In either case, it was a small piece of the puzzle.

So What Now?

So moving forward with Core, request validation is out of the picture. There is nothing we can do about that from a framework perspective. Maybe we don’t have to. There may be people that create this same functionality in 3rd party packages. That may work, it may not. Now is our opportunity to make sure we understand the flaws and proper protection mechanisms. When it comes to Cross-site scripting, there are a lot of techniques we can use to reduce the risk. Obviously I rely on output encoding as the biggest and first step. There are also things like content security policy or other response headers that can help add layers of protection. I talk about a few of these options in my new course “Security Fundamentals for Application Teams“.

Remember that understanding your framework is critical in helping reduce security risks in your application. If you are making the switch to .Net core, keep in mind that not all the features you may be used to exist. Understand these changes so you don’t get bit.

Next Page »