Archive for the XSS Category

As you probably know, the details about the paradoxical behavior of the Internet Explorer XSS Filter, introducing XSS vulnerabilities of its own on otherwise immune web sites, which we hinted at some months ago, have been revealed by Edoardo "Sirdarckcat" Vela and David "thornmaker" Lindsay recently at the Black Hat Europe conference, in Barcelona (on a side note, looks like Sirdarckcat enjoyed his stay there so much that he decided to remotely hack a certain volcano...)

I've been quite disappointed by the preamble of their paper, which calls IE8's XSS filter a new type of defense and a somewhat novel approach (before bashing it), when we all know that NoScript came first. Sirdarckcat personally apologized, blaming Lindsay for this and other "pro-big-players" bias, such as the decision of omitting, from the comparative table in their slides, Sirdarckcat's opinion about NoScript's being the safest among the in-browser filters and the hardest to bypass.

Notwithstanding, the technical core of this research is very worth reading, if you're interested in XSS attack and defense techniques.

After the Black Hat debacle got echoes in the press, David Ross, the main XSS Filter engineer at Microsoft, published a Guidance on Internet Explorer XSS Filter document on the Microsoft Security Response Center website, announcing a not better specified "patch" coming in June (mmm, two whole months? need some help?) and making two interesting statements:

In the case of the Internet Explorer XSS Filter, researchers found scenarios that are generally applicable across XSS filtering technologies in all currently shipping browsers with this technology built-in.

This essentially means just two, IE8 and Chrome... but wait, Chrome doesn't ship with its XSS Auditor enabled anymore because it was dog slow!
Hence the final recommendation by Ross...

Overall we maintain that it’s important to use a browser with an XSS Filter

... can really mean one thing only: Microsoft maintains that it's important to use Firefox with NoScript :)

Update Jul 29 2010

This "feature", eventually publicized by Sirdardckcat and Thornmaker, allowed Microsoft to win the BlackHat 2010 Pwnie award for the "Most Epic FAIL":)


Internet Explorer 8's famous XSS filter can be exploited to perform successful XSS attacks against web sites which would be otherwise safe. In other words, XSS "protection" is helping XSS attackers, oh the irony.

Well, this is not exactly news among security researchers, but those aware of the details (including Microsoft of course, Eduardo "Sirdarckcat" Vela and myself) have kept a low profile so far. Check, for instance, slide #17 in my OWASP presentation (alternate link), given two weeks ago.

However, after Microsoft left it unfixed for many months, someone apparently decided to whisper this dirty little secret in Dan Goodin (The Register)'s ear.

To Microsoft's credit, this problem has no quick fix: in fact, it's way worse than a simple implementation bug. Its root is a flawed design choice: when a potential XSS attack is detected, IE 8 modifies the response (the content of the target page) in order to neuter the malicious code. This is, incidentally, the only significant departure from NoScript's approach, which modifies the request (the data sent by the client) instead, and is therefore immune.

Anyway, here's the juice: IE 8's response-changing mechanism can be easily exploited to turn a normally innocuous fragment of the victim page into a XSS injection. The attacker just needs a certain degree of control on the content of the web site to be injected: social networks, forums, wikis and even Google Apps are good prey. To be fair, Google Apps are not vulnerable anymore, since Google's properties wisely choose to deploy the

X-XSS-Protection: 0

header, which is the "safety switch" disabling IE 8's XSS protection.

So, web site owners' dilemma is, opt out or not opt out?
For browser users, there should be no dilemma at all ;-)

Strict Transport Security (STS) has gone live on PayPal yesterday.

STS is a simple yet effective system for web sites requiring high safety levels, e.g. payment gateways or financial institutions, to force HTTPS connections on every request originated by supporting browsers.

It is currently supported by NoScript, Chrome 4 beta and Sid Stamm's Force TLS.

Together with NoScript's anti-XSS protection, this feature makes PayPal a much safer service for NoScript users.

When Microsoft unveiled its IE 8's "XSS filters", almost one year ago, we could notice how, despite their impressive resemblance to NoScript's anti-XSS protection, they were quite limited in comparison.

One of the limitations was their ability to mitigate a subset of reflective (AKA type 1) XSS vulnerabilities only, leaving them totally useless against DOM-based (AKA type 0) XSS attacks which, instead, are effectively defeated by NoScript.

Today I noticed via sla.ckers.org that such a DOM-based XSS attack is currently possible against Paypal and Ebay, no less, allowing the attacker to steal authentication info and other sensitive data, or even perform financial transactions on the behalf of the victim.

Even more interesting, modern browsers* except IE properly encode request URLs before sending them on the wire, but exploitation of this specific Paypal vulnerability requires the "double quotes" character to pass through with no encoding: therefore, while the vast majority of XSS exploits are cross-browser, this one affects exclusively IE**. Embrace and XSStend?

  1. * Latest versions of Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome.
  2. ** Variants could affect any browser, since IE's encoding bug is generally not required for DOM-based XSS. Firefox users can protect themselves by using NoScript, even in the permissive and not recommended "Allow Scripts Globally" mode.

Sick BirdEverybody heard the tweets: after several other security issues, including "exotic" ones like Clickjacking or JSON hijacking, Twitter is in serious troubles again, this time with an old-school XSS worm which quickly managed to infect many users profiles and is still spreading in multiple variants.

This plague is the brainchild of a 17 years old named Mikeyy, who created it as a publicity stunt to promote his own Twitter clone, StalkDaily.com. A good technical description of its rather simple inner workings has been kindly provided by Damon Cortesi. As you can see, unless the mikeyylolz.uuuq.com doman is allowed to run JavaScript (very unlikely for NoScript users) you're immune from infection.

This worm having been active so long is quite a surprise to me, since the exploited vulnerability (missing output encoding on users' profile web page URL) requires less than one minute to be fixed, if you know what you're doing. The existence of a mildly obfuscated version authorizes a scary suspect: have Twitter guys just been trying to block the original strain by signature, rather than fixing their website error? This is would be ridiculous*, since any script kiddie can create his own slightly modified version for fun or profit (and is probably doing that). And while the initial code just logs your session cookie on a remote server (which is already bad enough) and replicates itself as spam, nothing restrains a more malicious attacker from taking over your account with all its profile data right away.

The morale of this story? Never tweet without NoScript.

* Update

Ridicolous, but apparently true: in Twitter's first hand account of the countermeasures taken over the weekend, there's a lot of "cleaning up and locking down profiles", but nothing about fixing the website's bugs which allow infections like this to be spread.

Bad Behavior has blocked 1129 access attempts in the last 7 days.