You know about XSS. How about XSRF/CSRF?

Published: 2006-10-01
Last Updated: 2006-10-02 11:10:39 UTC
by Lenny Zeltser (Version: 2)
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First, a few words about XSS

You know about cross-site scripting (XSS). It's an attack that injects malicious code into a vulnerable application such that the code executes in the victim's application viewer and, therefore, with the victim's session privileges. In most cases, the viewer is a web browser and the malicious code is written in JavaScript. (XSS won over the arguably more correct abbreviation "CSS" because of confusions with an unrelated term Cascading Style Sheets.)

In theory, the victim's viewer could be another application, rather than a web browser. Imagine a vulnerable website  that accepts code as input from the attacker and, without properly filtering on input or output, incorporates the code into a spreadsheet that the victim views in Excel. If the attacker could find a way to supply code that Excel will execute, then we have an instance where an XSS attack targeted a non-web browser. I suppose we could call this a cross-application cross-site scripting (XAXSS) attack. (I wouldn't want to suggest the abbreviation "CAXSS" because then people could confuse it with the term Computer Assisted X-ray Screening System.)

XSS has been discussed for a while. Even though the mechanisms of such attacks are well-understood, XSS vulnerabilities continue to plague many web-based applications. SecurityFix mentioned a number of popular sites that have had XSS holes.

Now, a few words about XSRF/CSRF

An attack mechanism that is not as well-known, but is also very effective in targeting web applications is Cross-Site Request Forgeries (CSRF). (It's sometimes abbreviated as XSRF, although I prefer CSRF acronym, despite the potential for confusing it with the acronym for Canadian Sex Research Forum.) I wasn't as familiar with CSRF techniques as I should have been until I came across the Matasano Chargen posting, which pointed to Jeremiah Grossman's blog, which led me to Chris Shiflett's write-up.

A CSRF attack takes advantage of the web application's ability to act according to the HTTP command it receives from the user. Most web applications do that by design, of course. The trick in a CSRF attack is to get the victim's browser to submit the command of attacker's choice. The victim could receive a link to the targeted web application. The link would contain a GET request, which would cause the application to take action when the victim clicks on the link.

For example, clicking on the following link would cause the victim's preferences to be reset to Irish language:

This link, crafted by Dwayne Litzenberger, takes advantage of a XSRF weakness in's handling of user preferences. There are many ways in which the victim or his browser can be tricked into "clicking" on a link like this. For instance, the link could be embedded in a concealed iframe of the website the victim is visiting (as Google Blogoscoped pointed out), or it could be embedded into an img tag on the malicious site. [Update: I simplified the link from its original version per Adrian's advice.]

By submitting the request, the user will command the application to take the appropriate action. If the user is already logged in to the vulnerable application, the action could be taken behind the scenes without the victim's knowledge. For instance, a vulnerable banking site could be tricked into transferring the the victim's money out of his account.

Not only GET requests can be used as CSRF attack vectors. POST requests can be used as well; the task would be a bit more complicated than with GET requests, but JavaScript can help implement such an attack without much difficulty.

Update: ISC reader Adrian wrote us to point out that he uses CSRF as a way of punishing script kiddies poking around his web server. Referring to the CSRF link mentioned above, he said, "I use it in my apache httpd.conf, as follows:

RedirectMatch \.(php|phtml|phps|php3)$

That teaches them to try to access non-existent php files on my webserver :P ..not that automated bots would follow redirects...but I occasionally catch some odd fish too :)"

How to mitigate CSRF risks?

As a web application developer, you can prevent CSRF vulnerabilities by using some difficult-to-predict token that a proper request needs to include, in addition to the session ID that the browser submits automatically via a cookie. The token could be embedded in the form that the application generates for the user. A CSRF link provided by the attacker would not include the token, and would be invalidated.

Alex Stamos commented on the use of such tokens in response to the Matasano Chargen posting on CSRF:

The token you want to add to protect against XSRF really doesn't have a different function than a cookie. The real problem is that there is no such thing as a browser security model, only a cobbled together set of rules written by the developers that championed features inside of Netscape in 1997. The root issue isn't the assertion made by the cookie, it's that some idiot said "Let's make sure the browser automatically attaches cookies to cross-domain script tags and iFrame POSTs. That would be awesome!"

So we're back to hidden fields in forms and big blobs of crypto in GET parameters along with entropic and protected cookies...

Other ways of mitigating CSRF risks include the use of CAPCHA to check whether the request to an important page was submitted by a human before executing it, keeping the session time-out short, and not relying on cookie-based mechanisms for managing session IDs.

As a user of web applications, consider logging out of sensitive websites, rather than keeping yourself logged in while multi-tasking and browsing the web. Disabling scripting support in your web browser might help to some extent, especially against attacks on POST-driven AJAX application that might be vulnerable to CSRF attacks. However, there are plenty of GET-based CSRF flaws that could be exploited without the use of JavaScript.

For additional information about CSRF, please see Chris Shiflett's write-up, the Cross Site Reference Forgery paper by Jesse Burns, and the Session Riding paper by Thomas Schreiber. (Session Riding is another term for CSRF attacks.)

Update: ISC reader Adam shared this CSRF war story with us: "I created a webpage where students could vote for next homecoming king and queen. I used HTTP-Auth to ensure only students could vote (and only vote once). But the 'submit' page used GET data to process votes. One creative candidate sent an email to a campus mailing list that appeared to be a standard 'click here to cast your ballot' message.  But the link he used was to the 'submit' page (with his name in GET statement).  So when someone would click on the link in their email, they would prompted by the HTTP-Auth and then be greeted by a 'thank you for voting' page.  I let you guess who won..."

-- Lenny

Lenny Zeltser
ISC Handler on Duty
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Weekend Vulnerability Roundup

Published: 2006-10-01
Last Updated: 2006-10-01 23:44:11 UTC
by Lenny Zeltser (Version: 2)
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Our readers told us about several vulnerabilities that caught the public's eye this weekend. Here's a brief summary:


CNet reported that an unpatched vulnerability in the Firefox JavaScript engine was demonstrated at ToorCon the other day. According to the article:

The JavaScript issue appears to be a real vulnerability, Window Snyder, Mozilla's security chief, said after watching a video of the presentation Saturday night. "What they are describing might be a variation on an old attack," she said. "We're going to do some investigating."

A Bugtraq listing for this issue states that the cause of the problem is Firefox' failure "to properly sanitize user-supplied input before using it to create new JavaScript objects." (Thanks for the pointers, Juha-Matti.)

We don't have any additional information regarding this vulnerability. In the mean time, we suspect using the NoScript extension to only enable JavaScript for trusted sites might be an effective mitigating measure.


OpenSSH patched two vulnerabilities in the release of OpenSSH 4.4. (Thanks for letting us know, Hamid.)
See also

One denial-of-service condition was discovered by Tavis Ormandy, and could cause the SSH daemon "to spin until the login grace time expired." This issue affects OpenSSH if it has support for SSH version 1 enabled. (Please migrate to SSH version 2, if you can do so and haven't already.) A proof-of-concept exploit for this vulnerability is floating around. The CVE reference for this vulnerability is CVE-2006-4924.

The other denial-of-service condition was discovered by Mark Dowd. It could, theoretically, lead to remote execution of arbitrary code. This is probably the strongest reason to upgrade to OpenSSH 4.4 sooner, rather than later, although the release also includes some enticing new functionality.


An XSRF/CSRF vulnerability was reported in phpMyAdmin, a web-based front-end for managing MySQL servers. The bug could allow an attacker "to inject arbitrary SQL commands by forcing an authenticated user to follow a crafted link." The issue was fixed in the first release candidate for phpMyAdmin 2.9.1.

Lenny Zeltser
ISC Handler on Duty
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Yellow: WebViewFolderIcon setslice exploit spreading

Published: 2006-10-01
Last Updated: 2006-10-01 21:57:25 UTC
by Swa Frantzen (Version: 5)
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On Friday 29th (and for nearly all of our readers past their working day), we saw the WebViewFolderIcon setslice exploit spreading in the wild. We raise our Infocon to Yellow in order to increase the awareness of the problem and call for action. We have decided to stay Yellow till Monday morning for most of our readers. Without further spectacular evolutions we will go back to Green on Monday.

This exploit started in the Month of Browser Bugs on July the 18th as a Denial of Service, however its author released recently a code executing variant of it.

Reason for Yellow

The WebViewFolderIcon setslice exploit is becoming more widespread, so we changed the InfoCon level to yellow to emphasize the need to consider fixes.

If you have not taken measures yet, please consider some emergency fixes to cover the weekend. The exploit is widely known, easy to recreate, and used on more and more websites. The risk of getting hit is increasing significantly and the type of users of the exploit are also not the least dangerous ones. Some of the exploits are believed to be linked to CWS (CoolWebSearch), which is notoriously hard to remove.


We suggest following actions (do them all: a layered approach will work when one of the measures fails):
  • Update your antivirus software, make sure your vendor has protection for it (*).
  • Install following killbits (**):

make sure you set both.
You can do this manually as in the Microsoft security advisory, by using Tom Liston's tool, with a GPO, ...
  • Consider asking your users to stop their usage of MSIE, we know it's hard to break an addiction, but you're using the most targeted browser in the world.
We are aware of 3rd party patches, but our recommendation is to use the measures above instead for now.


Alex Sotirov from Determina on Full Disclosure: "We're also researching additional exploitation vectors. The underlying cause of the setSlice vulnerability is an integer overflow in COMCTL32.DLL, a core Windows component used by a large number of applications. The WebViewFolderIcon ActiveX control is most likely only one of the attack vectors for this vulnerability."


(*): It's important to note the difference of your antivirus solutions detecting the exploitation itself (very rare) and detecting the payload of known exploits (common). Only the first will offer real protection against new threats.
(**): There are currently no reports of side effects on other application when stopping this ActiveX control.

Swa Frantzen -- Section66
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SunJava 1.5.0_09 Released

Published: 2006-10-01
Last Updated: 2006-10-01 13:08:42 UTC
by Koon Yaw Tan (Version: 2)
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One of reader shared with us that SunJava 1.5.0_09 has been released. You can get it from:

Java Runtime Environment (JRE) 5.0 Update 9
Release Notes
Test your installation

Update: As of Sun Oct 1 09:00:00 EDT 2006, neither the locally-installed, nor the on-line Java version tester seems to be aware of the 1.5.0_09 update. In one test, the on-line updated reported that 1.5_0_06 is the latest version. Also, Jim Manico reported that in his test, version 1.5_0_08 was reported as being up-to-date as well.

Perhaps the updater only detects major version changes? In this case, we saw no important security reason to rush with the 1.5_0_09 update. However, we hope that the update mechanism will work as advertised when an important security vulnerability needs to be patched.

(Original diary entry by Koon Tan; update by Lenny Zeltser)
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password reveal .
<a hreaf="">the social network</a> is described as follows because they respect your privacy and keep your data secure:

<a hreaf="">the social network</a> is described as follows because they respect your privacy and keep your data secure. The social networks are not interested in collecting data about you. They don't care about what you're doing, or what you like. They don't want to know who you talk to, or where you go.

<a hreaf="">the social network</a> is not interested in collecting data about you. They don't care about what you're doing, or what you like. They don't want to know who you talk to, or where you go. The social networks only collect the minimum amount of information required for the service that they provide. Your personal information is kept private, and is never shared with other companies without your permission
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<a hreaf=""> nearest public toilet to me</a>
<a hreaf=""> public bathroom near me</a>
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<a hreaf=""> public bathroom near me</a>
Enter comment here... a fake TeamViewer page, and that page led to a different type of malware. This week's infection involved a downloaded JavaScript (.js) file that led to Microsoft Installer packages (.msi files) containing other script that used free or open source programs.
distribute malware. Even if the URL listed on the ad shows a legitimate website, subsequent ad traffic can easily lead to a fake page. Different types of malware are distributed in this manner. I've seen IcedID (Bokbot), Gozi/ISFB, and various information stealers distributed through fake software websites that were provided through Google ad traffic. I submitted malicious files from this example to VirusTotal and found a low rate of detection, with some files not showing as malware at all. Additionally, domains associated with this infection frequently change. That might make it hard to detect.
Enter corthrthmment here...

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