Thursday, August 2, 2007

Password Recovery Testing

Whats is the Issue?
A great majority of web applications provide a way for users to recover (or reset) their password in case they have forgotten it. The exact procedure varies heavily among different applications, also depending on the required level of security, but the approach is always to use an alternate way of verifying the identity of the user. One of the simplest (and most common) approaches is to ask the user for his/her e-mail address, and send the old password (or a new one) to that address. This scheme is based on the assumption that the user's email has not been compromised and that is secure enough for this goal.
Alternatively (or in addition to that), the application could ask the user to answer one or more "secret questions", which are usually chosen by the user among a set of possible ones. The security of this scheme lies in the ability to provide a way for someone to identify themselves to the system with answers to questions that are not easily answerable via personal information lookups.

How To Test?

Password Reset
The first step is to check whether secret questions are used. Sending the password (or a password reset link) to the user email address without first asking for a secret question means relying 100% on the security of that email address, which is not suitable if the applicaton needs a high level of security.
On the other hand, if secret question are used, the next step is to assessing their strength.
As a first point, how many questions need to be answered before the password can be reset ? The majority of applications only need the user to answer to one question, but some critical applications require the user to answer correctly to two or even more different questions.
As a second step, we need to analyze the questions themselves. Often a self-reset system offers the choice of multiple questions; this is a good sign for the would-be attacker as this presents him/her with options. Ask yourself whether you could obtain answers to any or all of these questions via a simple Google search on the Internet or with some social engineering attack. As a penetration tester, here is a step-by-step walk through of assessing a password self-reset tool:

  • Are there multiple questions offered?
    • If so, try to pick a question which would have a “public” answer; for example, something Google would find with a simple query
    • Always pick questions which have a factual answer such as a “first school” or other facts which can be looked up
    • Look for questions which have few possible options such as “what make was your first car”; this question would present the attacker with a short-list of answers to guess at and based on statistics the attacker could rank answers from most to least likely
  • Determine how many guesses you have (if possible)
    • Does the password reset allow unlimited attempts ?
    • Is there a lockout period after X incorrect answers? Keep in mind that a lockout system can be a security problem in itself, as it can be exploited by an attacker to launch a Denial of Service against users
  • Pick the appropriate question based on analysis from above point, and do research to determine the most likely answers
  • How does the password-reset tool (once a successful answer to a question is found) behave?
    • Does it allow immediate change of the password?
    • Does it display the old password?
    • Does it email the password to some pre-defined email address?
    • The most insecure scenario here is if the password reset tool shows you the password; this gives the attacker the ability to log into the account, and unless the application provides information about the last login the victim would not know that his/her account has been compromised.
    • A less insecure scenario is if the password reset tool forces the user to immediately change his/her password. While not as stealthy as the first case, it allows the attacker to gain access and locks the real user out.
    • The best security is achieved if the password reset is done via an email to the address the user initially registered with, or some other email address; this forces the attacker to not only guess at which email account the password reset was sent to (unless the application tells that) but also to compromise that account in order to take control of the victim access to the application.

The key to successfully exploiting and bypassing a password self-reset is to find a question or set of questions which give the possibility of easily acquiring the answers. Always look for questions which can give you the greatest statistical chance of guessing the correct answer, if you are completely unsure of any of the answers. In the end, a password self-reset tool is only as strong as the weakest question. As a side note, if the application sends/visualizes the old password in cleartext it means that passwords are not stored in a hashed form, which is a security issue in itself already.

Password Remember

The "remember my password" mechanism can be implemented with one of the following methods:
  1. Allowing the "cache password" feature in web browsers. Although not directly an application mechanism, this can and should be disabled.
  2. Storing the password in a permanent cookie. The password must be hashed/encrypted and not sent in cleartext.
For the first method, check the HTML code of the login page to see whether browser caching of the passwords is disabled. The code for this will usually be along the following lines:
The password autocomplete should always be disabled, especially in sensitive applications, since an attacker, if able to access the browser cache, could easily obtain the password in cleartext (public computers are a very notable example of this attack). To check the second implementation type – examine the cookie stored by the application. Verify the credentials are not stored in cleartext, but are hashed. Examine the hashing mechanism: if it appears a common well-known one, check for its strength; in homegrown hash functions, attempt several usernames to check whether the hash function is easily guessable. Additionally, verify that the credentials are only sent during the login phase, and not sent together with every request to the application.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Directory Traversal Attackes

Properly controlling access to web content is crucial for running a secure web server. Directory Traversal is an HTTP exploit which allows attackers to access restricted directories and execute commands outside of the web server's root directory.Web servers provide two main levels of security mechanisms:

Access Control Lists (ACLs)

Root directory

An Access Control List is used in the authorization process. It is a list which the web server's administrator uses to indicate which users or groups are able to access, modify or execute particular files on the server, as well as other access rights.

The root directory is a specific directory on the server file system in which the users are confined. Users are not able to access anything above this root.

For example: the default root directory of IIS on Windows is C:\Inetpub\wwwroot and with this setup, a user does not have access to C:\Windows but has access to C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\news and any other directories and files under the root directory (provided that the user is authenticated via the ACLs).

The root directory prevents users from accessing sensitive files on the server such as cmd.exe on Windows platforms and the passwd file on Linux/UNIX platforms.This vulnerability can exist either in the web server software itself or in the web application code.

In order to perform a directory traversal attack, all an attacker needs is a web browser and some knowledge on where to blindly find any default files and directories on the system.What an attacker can do if your site is vulnerable. With a system vulnerable to Directory Traversal, an attacker can make use of this vulnerability to step out of the root directory and access other parts of the file system. This might give the attacker the ability to view restricted files, or even more dangerous, allowing the attacker to execute powerful commands on the web server which can lead to a full compromise of the system.

Depending on how the website access is set up, the attacker will execute commands by impersonating himself as the user which is associated with "the website". Therefore it all depends on what the website user has been given access to in the system.Example of a directory traversal attack via web application code

In order to perform a directory traversal attack, all an attacker needs is a web browser and some knowledge on where to blindly find any default files and directories on the system. Example of a directory traversal attack via web application codeIn web applications with dynamic pages, input is usually received from browsers through GET or POST request methods. Here is an example of a GET HTTP request URL:

With this URL, the browser requests the dynamic page show.asp from the server and with it also sends the parameter "view" with the value of "oldarchive.html". When this request is executed on the web server, show.asp retrieves the file oldarchive.htm from the server's file system, renders it and then sends it back to the browser which displays it to the user. The attacker would assume that show.asp can retrieve files from the file system and sends this custom URL:

This will cause the dynamic page to retrieve the file system.ini from the file system and display it to the user. The expression ../ instructs the system to go one directory up which is commonly used as an operating system directive. The attacker has to guess how many directories he has to go up to find the Windows folder on the system, but this is easily done by trial and error. Example of a directory traversal attack via web server.

Apart from vulnerabilities in the code, even the web server itself can be open to directory traversal attacks. The problem can either be incorporated into the web server software or inside some sample script files left available on the server. The vulnerability has been fixed in the latest versions of web Server software, but there are web servers online which are still using older versions of IIS and Apache which might be open to directory traversal attacks. Even tough you might be using a web
Server software version that has fixed this vulnerability, you might still have some sensitive default script directories exposed which are well known to hackers. For example, a URL request which makes use of the scripts directory of IIS to traverse directories and execute a command can be:\

The request would return to the user a list of all files in the C:\ directory by executing the cmd.exe command shell file and run the command "dir c:\" in the shell. The %5c expression that is in the URL request is a web server escape code which is used to represent normal characters. In this case %5c represents the character "\".

Newer versions of modern web server software check for these escape codes and do not let them through. Some older versions however, do not filter out these codes in the root directory enforcer and will let the attackers execute such commands.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Session Hacking

Technical security testing of Session Management implementation covers two key areas:
  • Integrity of Session ID creation
  • Secure management of active sessions and Session IDs
The Session ID should be sufficiently unpredictable and abstracted from any private information, and the Session management should be logically secured to prevent any manipulation or circumvention of application security. These two key areas are interdependent, but should be considered separately for a number of reasons. Firstly, the choice of underlying technology to provide the sessions is bewildering and can already include a large number of OTS products and an almost unlimited number of bespoke or proprietary implementations. Whilst the same technical analysis must be performed on each, established vendor solutions may require a slightly different testing approach, and existing security research may exist on the implementation. Secondly, even an unpredictable and abstract Session ID may be rendered completely ineffectual should the Session management be flawed. Similarly, a strong and secure session management implementation may be undermined by a poor Session ID implementation. Furthermore, the analyst should closely examine how (and if) the application uses the available Session management. It is not uncommon to see Microsoft ISS server ASP Session IDs passed religiously back and forth during interaction with an application, only to discover that these are not used by the application logic at all. It is therefore not correct to say that because an application is built on a ‘proven secure’ platform its Session Management is automatically secure.

Session Analysis
The Session Tokens (Cookie, SessionID or Hidden Field) themselves should be examined to ensure their quality from a security perspective. They should be tested against criteria such as their randomness, uniqueness, resistance to statistical and cryptographic analysis and information leakage.
  • Token Structure & Information Leakage
The first stage is to examine the structure and content of a Session ID provided by the application. A common mistake is to include specific data in the Token instead of issuing a generic value and referencing real data at the server side. If the Session ID is clear-text, the structure and pertinent data may be immediately obvious as the following: part or the entire Token appears to be
encoded or hashed, it should be compared to various techniques to check for
obvious obfuscation. For example the string
is represented in Hex, Base64 and as an MD5 hash: 
Hex 3139322E3136382E3130302E313A6F77617370757365723A70617373776F72643A31353A3538Base64 MTkyLjE2OC4xMDAuMTpvd2FzcHVzZXI6cGFzc3dvcmQ6MTU6NTg=MD5 01c2fc4f0a817afd8366689bd29dd40aHaving identified the type of obfuscation, it may be possible to decode back to the original data. In most cases, however, this is unlikely. Even so, it may be useful to enumerate the encoding in place from the format of the message. Furthermore, if both the format and obfuscation technique can be deduced, automated brute-force attacks could be devised. Hybrid tokens may include information such as IP address or User ID together with an encoded portion,
Analysis of the variable areas (if any) of the Session ID should be undertaken to establish the existence of any recognizable or predictable patterns. These analysis may be performed manually and with bespoke or OTS statistical or cryptanalytic tools in order to deduce any patterns in Session ID content. Manual checks should include comparisons of Session IDs issued for the same login conditions – e.g. the same username, password and IP address. Time is an important factor which must also be controlled. High numbers of simultaneous connections should be made in order to gather samples in the same time window and keep that variable constant. Even a quantization of 50ms or less may be too coarse and a sample taken in this way may reveal time-based components that would otherwise be missed. Variable elements should be analysed over time to determine whether they are incremental in nature. Where they are incremental, patterns relating to absolute or elapsed time should be investigated. Many systems use time as a seed for their pseudo random elements. Where the patterns are seemingly random, one-way hashes of time or other environmental variations should be considered as a possibility. Typically, the result of a cryptographic hash is a decimal or hexadecimal number so should be identifiable. In analysing Session IDs sequences, patterns or cycles, static elements and client dependencies should all be considered as possible contributing elements to the structure and function of the application.
  • Are the Session IDs provably random in nature? e.g. Can the result be reproduced?
  • Do the same input conditions produce the same ID on a subsequent run?
  • Are the Session IDs provably resistant to statistical or cryptanalysis?
  • What elements of the Session IDs are time-linked?
  • What portions of the Session IDs are predictable?
  • Can the next ID be deduced even given full knowledge of the generation algorithm and previous IDs?
Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks inevitably lead on from questions relating to predictability and randomness. The variance within the Session IDs must be considered together with application session durations and timeouts. If the variation within the Session IDs is relatively small, and Session ID validity is long, the likelihood of a successful brute-force attack is much higher. A long session ID (or rather one with a great deal of variance) and a shorter validity period would make it far harder to succeed in a brute force attack.
  • How long would a brute-force attack on all possible Session IDs take?
  • Is the Session ID space large enough to prevent brute forcing? e.g. is the length of the key sufficient when compared to the valid life-span
  • Do delays between connection attempts with different Session IDs mitigate the risk of this attack?