Archive for the SQL Category

Classic ASP is the old server-side web scripting technology based on VBScript, now superseded by ASP.NET, which lots of developers, including myself, learned to hate in the nineties when, for mysterious reasons, a certain customer decided he needed the whole “Enterprise” Microsoft 3-tiers stack (IIS/COM+/SQL Server). Luckily enough, nobody asks you to build anything new using ASP these days (even though there’s always some insanely unmaintainable VBScript code out there which badly needs maintenance), but this technology, albeit agonizing, yet found a way to come back and make me sad again.

Some days ago this blog post, talking about a bypass method for NoScript’s Anti-XSS filter, called for my attention (not thanks to its author).

Even though it’s not very clear from that piece of writing, the issue at hand is quite simple but, in my opinion, outrageously stupid and annoying. I’m gonna call it “HomoXSSuality” (even though most LGBT people I know is neither simple, nor stupid nor annoying), because homoglyps and homophones conspire to make XSS (and SQL injection) attacks easier to pull.

Like any other server-side web programming framework, ASP gives developers some means to extract “parameters” (name/value pairs) from the HTTP requests, stored either in the query string or in the POST data. For instance, if an ASP script is invoked using the URL, parameters can be extracted by code like this:

Dim Name, Hero
Name = Request("name")
Hero = Request("hero")

At runtime, the Name variable will contain “Giorgio Maone”, while Hero will be set to “Ὑπατία“. This contrived example show also how “special” characters, such as space or Greek alphabet letters, are escaped by standard percent encoding, i.e. by taking the UTF-8 hexadecimal representation of the string and prefixing each byte with a “%” character: specifically, “ ” translates to “%20”, and “Ὑπατία” to “%E1%BD%99%CF%80%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%B1″. This is the translation you can obtain from the encodeURIComponent() ECMAScript function, and the recommended way of escaping URLs.
An older and never standardized method, implemented by the now deprecated JavaScript escape() function, produces more or less the same output for ASCII strings, but uses the UTF-16 representation prefixed with “%u” for higher (beyond ASCII) Unicode strings: for instance, “ ” still stays “%20”, but “Ὑπατία” becomes “%u1F59%u03C0%u03B1%u03C4%u03AF%u03B1″.

NoScript’s Anti-XSS filter, while processing HTTP requests, does recognizes and properly handle both these encoding styles, and many more. Any web security filter should be able to do it, because web applications usually consume data that has been automatically decoded by their runtime environment.

But Classic ASP adds a perverse twist to its parameter decoding routines. The Request() API apparently assumes that developers and/or browsers and/or users are too stupid to handle non-ASCII Unicode characters (e.g. greek alphabet letters) by themselves, thus it tries to protect them from such execrable things by automatically translating any non-ASCII character into the ASCII counterpart which resembles it the most; when no suitable replacement can be picked, with either “?” or “�” (arbitrarily, it seems). So “%u1F59%u03C0%u03B1%u03C4%u03AF%u03B1″, rather than “Ὑπατία”, becomes a quite ugly “?pat?a”. As you can see, while the replacement choice is mainly homoglyphic (α→a, τ→t), it may also follow homophonic criteria (π→p).

To figure out the whole range of Unicode-ASCII transliterations performed by ASP, I needed to write an ad hoc program mixing VBScript and JavaScript, and I also used it to automatically generate the ASPIdiocy.js mappings file that can be found in recent NoScript packages.

A short essay here, to give you just a taste of this madness:

(0x100) ~= A(0x41)
ā(0x101) ~= a(0x61)
Ă(0x102) ~= A(0x41)
ă(0x103) ~= a(0x61)
Ą(0x104) ~= A(0x41)
ą(0x105) ~= a(0x61)
Ć(0x106) ~= C(0x43)
ć(0x107) ~= c(0x63)
Ĉ(0x108) ~= C(0x43)
ĉ(0x109) ~= c(0x63)
Ċ(0x10a) ~= C(0x43)
ċ(0x10b) ~= c(0x63)
Č(0x10c) ~= C(0x43)
č(0x10d) ~= c(0x63)
Ď(0x10e) ~= D(0x44)
ď(0x10f) ~= d(0x64)
Đ(0x110) ~= �(0xfffd)
đ(0x111) ~= d(0x64)
Ē(0x112) ~= E(0x45)
ē(0x113) ~= e(0x65)
Ĕ(0x114) ~= E(0x45)
ĕ(0x115) ~= e(0x65)
Ė(0x116) ~= E(0x45)
ė(0x117) ~= e(0x65)
Ę(0x118) ~= E(0x45)
ę(0x119) ~= e(0x65)
Ě(0x11a) ~= E(0x45)
ě(0x11b) ~= e(0x65)
Ĝ(0x11c) ~= G(0x47)
ĝ(0x11d) ~= g(0x67)
Ğ(0x11e) ~= G(0x47)
ğ(0x11f) ~= g(0x67)
Ġ(0x120) ~= G(0x47)
ġ(0x121) ~= g(0x67)
Ģ(0x122) ~= G(0x47)
ģ(0x123) ~= g(0x67)
Ĥ(0x124) ~= H(0x48)
ĥ(0x125) ~= h(0x68)
Ħ(0x126) ~= H(0x48)
ħ(0x127) ~= h(0x68)
Ĩ(0x128) ~= I(0x49)
ĩ(0x129) ~= i(0x69)
Ī(0x12a) ~= I(0x49)
ī(0x12b) ~= i(0x69)
Ĭ(0x12c) ~= I(0x49)
ĭ(0x12d) ~= i(0x69)
Į(0x12e) ~= I(0x49)
į(0x12f) ~= i(0x69)
İ(0x130) ~= I(0x49)
ı(0x131) ~= i(0x69)
Ĵ(0x134) ~= J(0x4a)
ĵ(0x135) ~= j(0x6a)
Ķ(0x136) ~= K(0x4b)
ķ(0x137) ~= k(0x6b)
ĸ(0x138) ~= ?(0x3f)
Ĺ(0x139) ~= L(0x4c)
ĺ(0x13a) ~= l(0x6c)
Ļ(0x13b) ~= L(0x4c)
ļ(0x13c) ~= l(0x6c)
Ľ(0x13d) ~= L(0x4c)
ľ(0x13e) ~= l(0x6c)
Ł(0x141) ~= L(0x4c)
ł(0x142) ~= l(0x6c)
Ń(0x143) ~= N(0x4e)
ń(0x144) ~= n(0x6e)
Ņ(0x145) ~= N(0x4e)
ņ(0x146) ~= n(0x6e)
Ň(0x147) ~= N(0x4e)
ň(0x148) ~= n(0x6e)
Ō(0x14c) ~= O(0x4f)
ō(0x14d) ~= o(0x6f)
Ŏ(0x14e) ~= O(0x4f)
ŏ(0x14f) ~= o(0x6f)
Ő(0x150) ~= O(0x4f)
ő(0x151) ~= o(0x6f)
Ŕ(0x154) ~= R(0x52)
ŕ(0x155) ~= r(0x72)
Ŗ(0x156) ~= R(0x52)
ŗ(0x157) ~= r(0x72)
Ř(0x158) ~= R(0x52)
ř(0x159) ~= r(0x72)
Ś(0x15a) ~= S(0x53)
ś(0x15b) ~= s(0x73)
Ŝ(0x15c) ~= S(0x53)
ŝ(0x15d) ~= s(0x73)
Ş(0x15e) ~= S(0x53)
ş(0x15f) ~= s(0x73)
Ţ(0x162) ~= T(0x54)
ţ(0x163) ~= t(0x74)
Ť(0x164) ~= T(0x54)
ť(0x165) ~= t(0x74)
Ŧ(0x166) ~= T(0x54)
ŧ(0x167) ~= t(0x74)
Ũ(0x168) ~= U(0x55)
ũ(0x169) ~= u(0x75)
Ū(0x16a) ~= U(0x55)
ū(0x16b) ~= u(0x75)
Ŭ(0x16c) ~= U(0x55)
ŭ(0x16d) ~= u(0x75)
Ů(0x16e) ~= U(0x55)
ů(0x16f) ~= u(0x75)
Ű(0x170) ~= U(0x55)
ű(0x171) ~= u(0x75)
Ų(0x172) ~= U(0x55)
ų(0x173) ~= u(0x75)
Ŵ(0x174) ~= W(0x57)
ŵ(0x175) ~= w(0x77)
Ŷ(0x176) ~= Y(0x59)
ŷ(0x177) ~= y(0x79)
Ÿ(0x178) ~= �(0xfffd)
Ź(0x179) ~= Z(0x5a)
ź(0x17a) ~= z(0x7a)
Ż(0x17b) ~= Z(0x5a)
ż(0x17c) ~= z(0x7a)
〈(0x2329) ~= <(0x3c)
〈(0x3008) ~= <(0x3c)
<(0xff1c) ~= <(0x3c)
ʹ(0x2b9) ~= '(0x27)
ʼ(0x2bc) ~= '(0x27)
ˈ(0x2c8) ~= '(0x27)
′(0x2032) ~= '(0x27)
'(0xff07) ~= '(0x27)

As you can see in the end, I could list 3 different homoglyphs for < (less than, ASCII 0×27) and 5 for ' (apostrophe, ASCII 0×3c). Anybody with a bit of familiarity with XSS or SQL injection has already guessed where I’m going…

Classic ASP translates the query string parameter value %u3008scr%u0131pt%u3009%u212fval(%uFF07al%u212Frt(%22XSS%22)%u02C8)%u2329/scr%u0131pt%u232A to


which, if echoed back, is executed as a JavaScript block by web browsers.

Any “sane” web server runtime (either a recent IIS with ASP.NET or Apache with PHP/Python/Ruby, or a Java Servlet Container, or you pick yours) either leaves the %u… stuff alone (because this escaping style is deprecated), or translates the whole into


which obviously has no other meaning than “funny text”, to any decent web browser.

This undocumented (AFAIK) Classic ASP “feature” (which was sooo good and smart that Microsoft itself dropped it in ASP.NET) can severely screw up with any anti-XSS filter. It does with Google Chrome’s, it does not with Microsoft IE8’s (unsurprisingly, since the original mess came from Redmond), it does not anymore with NoScript’s, since version 2.0.2rc2.

Of course, it may also be used to bypass Web Application Firewalls (WAFs), which, ironically enough, are often deployed to “virtually patch” XSS and SQL injection bugs in hardly maintainable applications, just like the ones developed with Classic ASP: this blog had been just created when it witnessed a tragicomic case involving the United Nations.

So, how many WAFs out there can actually resist when HomoXSSuality calls?

Hungry Fox
You may have heard of Microsoft Update’s debacle past Tuesday, with two critical Windows vulnerabilities disclosed when it was too late for this patching cycle:

I said “is exploited“, rather than “can be exploited”, because both these 0 day vulnerabilities are being actively exploited in the wild.
I also deleted “malicious” near “web sites”, because exploits for the latter vulnerability are being massively infiltrated inside legit web sites using automated SQL injection attacks.
Give yourself a Christmas gift: if there’s a best moment for switching to a safe or to a safer browser, that’s now.

Window Snyder, Mozilla's Chief Security Something-or-Other
An email I received yesterday night:


I’ve been using NoScript with Firefox for a while (recommended by SANS), and today it paid off bigtime.
I got to work, started Firefox, and went to our homepage.
NoScript complained and I checked out the complaint at the bottom of the page. Our webpage had a link on it to
I started looking and found that we had the SQL injection attack currently featured at SANS:

NoScript found it first! You are a hero! Thanks.

Jeff E.
[Anonymized US Educational Site]

Then a quote from Ryan Naraine’s Talking Firefox security with Mozilla’s Window Snyder:

There are discussions happening internally at Mozilla around adding NoScript functionality into the core browser.
It’s a conversation we’re having. I’d love to see it in there.

Oh Window, why didn’t you tell me these sweet words when we were face to face in the romantic and adventurous land of Whistler?
I guess it’s destiny, even Steve Ballmer had been too shy to declare his love ;)

The mass SQL injection attacks we talked about in in several posts, being mainly targeted to ASP sites running on Microsoft IIS and backed by Microsoft SQL Server, gathered lots of (quite undeserved) bad press to Microsoft.
Therefore the Microsoft Security Response Center felt the need to do something more than saying “blame developers for their poor coding practice”, and asked the HP Web Security Research Group (formerly SPI Labs) to create a tool helping site owners to identify their SQL injection holes.
So now, after one month of development, HP is announcing Scrawlr, the “SQL Injector and Crawler”.

Scrawlr will crawl a website while simultaneously analyzing the parameters of each individual web page for SQL Injection vulnerabilities. […] It can even provide proof positive results by displaying the type of backend database in use and a list of available table names. There is no denying you have SQL Injection when I can show you table names!

Scrawl can be thought as a free version of the professional scanners in HP’s products portfolio, with some limitations making it suitable for self-diagnosis of your site in the specific context of this kind of non-targeted massive attacks, which usually inject URL query parameters from links, rather than POST requests from forms. In facts, it

  • Will only crawl up to 1500 pages
  • Does not support sites requiring authentication
  • Does not perform Blind SQL injection
  • Cannot retrieve database contents
  • Does not support JavaScript or flash parsing
  • Will not test forms for SQL Injection (POST Parameters)

Scrawl can be dowloaded here.
Of course, once you’ve found your site is vulnerable (and if you’re in doubt, it’s 99% likely to be) you still need to plug your holes.
If you’ve got the budget for a professional code review and cleanup service, just ask :)

What is Database Connectivity for JavaScript?

IBM® Database Connectivity for JavaScript™ is middleware that enables Web clients to directly access server-side relational data without compromising enterprise security.

“Directly access” without compromising “enterprise security”, yeah…

On the client, IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript consists of a JavaScript API and library that can be used by Web applications without special browser plug-ins. On the server, the IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript gateway, written in PHP, is an adaptor layer that mediates between IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript and relational databases and provides functions such as operation forwarding and security. Web 2.0 applications can thus use IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript to access relational data as a first-class construct instead of through ad hoc protocols.

Before you start wondering (like I did) what “operation forwarding” and “security” mean in this context, I’ll tell you since I bothered to read the source code: it’s just a thin layer with a JDBC-like API which allows JavaScript code to compose and submit SQL statements from the client side!
Security, if any, needs to be enforced at the database level, and access credentials are sent from the client side as well.

IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript supports the trend for Web applications to be dynamically composed in a Web browser — so-called “Web 2.0″ applications — instead of being completely composed on the server (”Web 1.0″).

First “enterprise”, now “Web 2.0″…

IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript is specifically geared toward enabling the potential Web 2.0 benefits of increased application responsiveness and the ability to flexibly combine information from various sources on the client. Web 2.0 access to server-side data, however, is currently characterized by Representational State Transfer (REST)-like APIs, which are typically application specific.

Bah, those old-fashioned resource mappings which (try to) expose only the data subsets relevant to the application front-end…
But now we can unleash the full power of SQL: free queries to all our databases for everyone in the fantastic world of Web 2.0!

ODBC is powerful — allowing any SQL statement to be executed — and simple, in the sense that developers are required to understand only a few abstractions. IBM Database Connectivity for JavaScript can be thought of as an “ODBC for Web clients,” enabling Web developers to benefit from a general-purpose API for accessing relational data.

Great work IBM! Now please convince some of your many banking customers to deploy this fantastic technology on their Internet-facing web servers, and we’ll be happy to “benefit from a general purpose API for accessing relational data” directly from Firebug, thanks!

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