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“Insufficient Authorization – The Basics” Webinar Questions – Part I

Recently we offered webinar on a really interesting Insufficient Authorization vulnerability: a site that allows the user to live chat with a customer service representative updated the transcript using a request parameter that an attacker could have manipulated in order to view a different transcript, potentially giving access to a great deal of confidential information; using an “email me this conversation” request in combination with various chatID parameters could have allowed an attacker to collect sensitive information from a wide variety of customer conversations.

To view the webinar, please click here.

So many excellent questions were raised that we thought it would be valuable to share them in a pair of blog posts — here is the first set of questions and answers:

Did you complete this exploit within a network or from the outside?

Here at WhiteHat, we do what is called black box testing. We test apps from outside of their network, knowing nothing of the internal workings of the application or its data mapping. This makes testing more authentic, because we can probably assume the attacker isn’t inside of the network, either.

What is the standard way to remediate these vulnerabilities? Via safer coding?

The best way to remediate this vulnerability is to implement a granular access control policy, and ensure that the application’s sensitive data and functionalities are only available to the users/admins who have the appropriate permissions.

Can you please elaborate on Generic Framework Solution and Custom Code Solution?

Most frameworks have options for access control. The best thing to do is take advantage of these, and restrict the appropriate resources/functionalities so that only people who actually require the access are allowed access. The best approach to custom coding a solution is to apply the least-privilege principle across all data access: allow each role access only to the data that is actually required to perform the related tasks. In addition, data should never be stored in the application’s root directory; this minimizes the possibility that those files can be found by an unauthorized user who simply knows where to look.

Can you talk about the tools you used to capture and manage the cookies and parameters as you attempted the exploit?

During testing, we have a plethora of tools available. For this particular test, I only used a standard proxy suite. This allows for capturing requests directly from your internet browser, editing and sending the requests, and viewing the responses. Usually, this is all that is needed to exploit an application.

What resources do you recommend for a person that is interested in learning how to perform Pen Testing?

Books, the internet, and more books! A few books that I recommend are The Hacker Playbook, The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook, and Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing Guide. Take a look at the OWASP top ten, and dig further into each vulnerability.

How did you select this target?

Here at WhiteHat, the team that is responsible for the majority of penetration testing has a list of clients that need business logic assessments. (For a business logic assessment, we test every identifiable functionality of a site.) Each team member independently chooses a site to perform an assessment on. This particular application just happened to be the one I chose that day.

Does the use of SSL/TLS affect the exploitability of this vulnerability?

The use of SSL/TLS does not affect the exploitability. SSL/TLS simply prevents man-in-the-middle attacks, meaning that an attacker can’t relay and possibly alter the communication between a user’s browser and the web server. The proxy that I use breaks the SSL connection between my browser and the server, so that encrypted data can be viewed and modified within the proxy. Requests are then sent over SSL from the proxy.

We hope you found this interesting; more questions and answers will be coming soon — !