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1
4.0
Testing Guide
Project Leaders: Matteo Meucci and Andrew Muller
Creative Commons (CC) Attribution Share-Alike
Free version at http://www.owasp.org
2
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a worldwide free and open com-
munity focused on improving the security of application software. Our mission is to make
application security “visible”, so that people and organizations can make informed decisions
about application security risks. Every one is free to participate in OWASP and all of our
materials are available under a free and open software license. The OWASP Foundation
is a 501c3 not-for-profit charitable organization that ensures the ongoing availability and
support for our work.
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Project Leaders: Matteo Meucci and Andrew Muller
Foreword by Eoin Keary
Frontispiece
About the OWASP Testing Guide Project
About The Open Web Application Security Project
3 - 4
5 - 6
Testing Guide Foreword - Table of contents
0
1
Introduction
The OWASP Testing Project
Principles of Testing
Testing Techniques Explained
Deriving Security Test Requirements
Security Tests Integrated in Development and Testing Workflows
Security Test Data Analysis and Reporting
7 - 21
2
The OWASP Testing Framework
Overview
Phase 1: Before Development Begins
Phase 2: During Definition and Design
Phase 3: During Development
Phase 4: During Deployment
Phase 5: Maintenance and Operations
A Typical SDLC Testing Workflow
22 - 24
3
Web Application Security Testing
Introduction and Objectives
Testing Checklist
Information Gathering
Conduct Search Engine Discovery and Reconnaissance for Information Leakage (OTG-INFO-001)
Fingerprint Web Server (OTG-INFO-002)
Review Webserver Metafiles for Information Leakage (OTG-INFO-003)
Enumerate Applications on Webserver (OTG-INFO-004)
Review Webpage Comments and Metadata for Information Leakage (OTG-INFO-005)
Identify application entry points (OTG-INFO-006)
Map execution paths through application (OTG-INFO-007)
Fingerprint Web Application Framework (OTG-INFO-008)
Fingerprint Web Application (OTG-INFO-009)
Map Application Architecture (OTG-INFO-010)
Configuration and Deployment Management Testing
Test Network/Infrastructure Configuration (OTG-CONFIG-001)
Test Application Platform Configuration (OTG-CONFIG-002)
25 - 207
4
Testing Guide Foreword - Table of contents
Test File Extensions Handling for Sensitive Information (OTG-CONFIG-003)
Review Old, Backup and Unreferenced Files for Sensitive Information (OTG-CONFIG-004)
Enumerate Infrastructure and Application Admin Interfaces (OTG-CONFIG-005)
Test HTTP Methods (OTG-CONFIG-006)
Test HTTP Strict Transport Security (OTG-CONFIG-007)
Test RIA cross domain policy (OTG-CONFIG-008)
Identity Management Testing
Test Role Definitions (OTG-IDENT-001)
Test User Registration Process (OTG-IDENT-002)
Test Account Provisioning Process (OTG-IDENT-003)
Testing for Account Enumeration and Guessable User Account (OTG-IDENT-004)
Testing for Weak or unenforced username policy (OTG-IDENT-005)
Authentication Testing
Testing for Credentials Transported over an Encrypted Channel (OTG-AUTHN-001)
Testing for default credentials (OTG-AUTHN-002)
Testing for Weak lock out mechanism (OTG-AUTHN-003)
Testing for bypassing authentication schema (OTG-AUTHN-004)
Test remember password functionality (OTG-AUTHN-005)
Testing for Browser cache weakness (OTG-AUTHN-006)
Testing for Weak password policy (OTG-AUTHN-007)
Testing for Weak security question/answer (OTG-AUTHN-008)
Testing for weak password change or reset functionalities (OTG-AUTHN-009)
Testing for Weaker authentication in alternative channel (OTG-AUTHN-010)
Authorization Testing
Testing Directory traversal/file include (OTG-AUTHZ-001)
Testing for bypassing authorization schema (OTG-AUTHZ-002)
Testing for Privilege Escalation (OTG-AUTHZ-003)
Testing for Insecure Direct Object References (OTG-AUTHZ-004)
Session Management Testing
Testing for Bypassing Session Management Schema (OTG-SESS-001)
Testing for Cookies attributes (OTG-SESS-002)
Testing for Session Fixation (OTG-SESS-003)
Testing for Exposed Session Variables (OTG-SESS-004)
Testing for Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) (OTG-SESS-005)
Testing for logout functionality (OTG-SESS-006)
Test Session Timeout (OTG-SESS-007)
Testing for Session puzzling (OTG-SESS-008)
Input Validation Testing
Testing for Reflected Cross Site Scripting (OTG-INPVAL-001)
Testing for Stored Cross Site Scripting (OTG-INPVAL-002)
Testing for HTTP Verb Tampering (OTG-INPVAL-003)
Testing for HTTP Parameter pollution (OTG-INPVAL-004)
Testing for SQL Injection (OTG-INPVAL-005)
Oracle Testing
MySQL Testing
SQL Server Testing
Testing PostgreSQL (from OWASP BSP)
MS Access Testing
3
Testing Guide Foreword - Table of contents
Testing for NoSQL injection
Testing for LDAP Injection (OTG-INPVAL-006)
Testing for ORM Injection (OTG-INPVAL-007)
Testing for XML Injection (OTG-INPVAL-008)
Testing for SSI Injection (OTG-INPVAL-009)
Testing for XPath Injection (OTG-INPVAL-010)
IMAP/SMTP Injection (OTG-INPVAL-011)
Testing for Code Injection (OTG-INPVAL-012)
Testing for Local File Inclusion
Testing for Remote File Inclusion
Testing for Command Injection (OTG-INPVAL-013)
Testing for Buffer overflow (OTG-INPVAL-014)
Testing for Heap overflow
Testing for Stack overflow
Testing for Format string
Testing for incubated vulnerabilities (OTG-INPVAL-015)
Testing for HTTP Splitting/Smuggling (OTG-INPVAL-016)
Testing for Error Handling
Analysis of Error Codes (OTG-ERR-001)
Analysis of Stack Traces (OTG-ERR-002)
Testing for weak Cryptography
Testing for Weak SSL/TLS Ciphers, Insufficient Transport Layer Protection (OTG-CRYPST-001)
Testing for Padding Oracle (OTG-CRYPST-002)
Testing for Sensitive information sent via unencrypted channels (OTG-CRYPST-003)
Business Logic Testing
Test Business Logic Data Validation (OTG-BUSLOGIC-001)
Test Ability to Forge Requests (OTG-BUSLOGIC-002)
Test Integrity Checks (OTG-BUSLOGIC-003)
Test for Process Timing (OTG-BUSLOGIC-004)
Test Number of Times a Function Can be Used Limits (OTG-BUSLOGIC-005)
Testing for the Circumvention of Work Flows (OTG-BUSLOGIC-006)
Test Defenses Against Application Mis-use (OTG-BUSLOGIC-007)
Test Upload of Unexpected File Types (OTG-BUSLOGIC-008)
Test Upload of Malicious Files (OTG-BUSLOGIC-009)
Client Side Testing
Testing for DOM based Cross Site Scripting (OTG-CLIENT-001)
Testing for JavaScript Execution (OTG-CLIENT-002)
Testing for HTML Injection (OTG-CLIENT-003)
Testing for Client Side URL Redirect (OTG-CLIENT-004)
Testing for CSS Injection (OTG-CLIENT-005)
Testing for Client Side Resource Manipulation (OTG-CLIENT-006)
Test Cross Origin Resource Sharing (OTG-CLIENT-007)
Testing for Cross Site Flashing (OTG-CLIENT-008)
Testing for Clickjacking (OTG-CLIENT-009)
Testing WebSockets (OTG-CLIENT-010)
Test Web Messaging (OTG-CLIENT-011)
Test Local Storage (OTG-CLIENT-012)
4
Testing Guide Foreword - Table of contents
Reporting
Appendix A: Testing Tools
Black Box Testing Tools
Appendix B: Suggested Reading
Whitepapers
Books
Useful Websites
Appendix C: Fuzz Vectors
Fuzz Categories
Appendix D: Encoded Injection
Input Encoding
Output Encoding
208 - 222
5
5
The problem of insecure software is perhaps the
most important technical challenge of our time. The
dramatic rise of web applications enabling business,
social networking etc has only compounded the
requirements to establish a robust approach to writing
and securing our Internet, Web Applications and Data.
0Testing Guide Foreword
Testing Guide Foreword - By Eoin Keary
Foreword by Eoin Keary, OWASP Global Board
The problem of insecure software is perhaps the most important
technical challenge of our time. The dramatic rise of web appli-
cations enabling business, social networking etc has only com-
pounded the requirements to establish a robust approach to writ-
ing and securing our Internet, Web Applications and Data.
At The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), we’re
trying to make the world a place where insecure software is the
anomaly, not the norm. The OWASP Testing Guide has an import-
ant role to play in solving this serious issue. It is vitally important
that our approach to testing software for security issues is based
on the principles of engineering and science. We need a consis-
tent, repeatable and defined approach to testing web applications.
A world without some minimal standards in terms of engineering
and technology is a world in chaos.
It goes without saying that you can’t build a secure application
without performing security testing on it. Testing is part of a wider
approach to building a secure system. Many software develop-
ment organizations do not include security testing as part of their
standard software development process. What is even worse is
that many security vendors deliver testing with varying degrees
of quality and rigor.
Security testing, by itself, isn’t a particularly good stand alone
measure of how secure an application is, because there are an in-
finite number of ways that an attacker might be able to make an
application break, and it simply isn’t possible to test them all. We
can’t hack ourselves secure and we only have a limited time to test
and defend where an attacker does not have such constraints.
In conjunction with other OWASP projects such as the Code review
Guide, the Development Guide and tools such as OWASP ZAP, this
is a great start towards building and maintaining secure applica-
tions. The Development Guide will show your project how to archi-
tect and build a secure application, the Code Review Guide will tell
you how to verify the security of your application’s source code,
and this Testing Guide will show you how to verify the security of
your running application. I highly recommend using these guides
as part of your application security initiatives.
Why OWASP?
Creating a guide like this is a huge undertaking, requiring the ex-
pertise of hundreds of people around the world. There are many
different ways to test for security flaws and this guide captures
the consensus of the leading experts on how to perform this test-
ing quickly, accurately, and efficiently. OWASP gives like minded
security folks the ability to work together and form a leading prac-
tice approach to a security problem.
The importance of having this guide available in a completely free
and open way is important for the foundations mission. It gives
anyone the ability to understand the techniques used to test for
common security issues. Security should not be a black art or
closed secret that only a few can practice. It should be open to all
and not exclusive to security practitioners but also QA, Developers
6
Testing Guide Foreword - By Eoin Keary
and Technical Managers. The project to build this guide keeps this
expertise in the hands of the people who need it - you, me and
anyone that is involved in building software.
This guide must make its way into the hands of developers and
software testers. There are not nearly enough application security
experts in the world to make any significant dent in the overall
problem. The initial responsibility for application security must
fall on the shoulders of the developers, they write the code. It
shouldn’t be a surprise that developers aren’t producing secure
code if they’re not testing for it or consider the types of bugs
which introduce vulnerability.
Keeping this information up to date is a critical aspect of this guide
project. By adopting the wiki approach, the OWASP community
can evolve and expand the information in this guide to keep pace
with the fast moving application security threat landscape.
This Guide is a great testament to the passion and energy our
members and project volunteers have for this subject. It shall cer-
tainly help change the world a line of code at a time.
Tailoring and Prioritizing
You should adopt this guide in your organization. You may need to
tailor the information to match your organization’s technologies,
processes, and organizational structure.
In general there are several different roles within organizations
that may use this guide:
Developers should use this guide to ensure that they are produc-
ing secure code. These tests should be a part of normal code and
unit testing procedures.
• Software testers and QA should use this guide to expand the set
of test cases they apply to applications. Catching these vulnerabil-
ities early saves considerable time and effort later.
Security specialists should use this guide in combination with
other techniques as one way to verify that no security holes have
been missed in an application.
Project Managers should consider the reason this guide exists
and that security issues are manifested via bugs in code and de-
sign.
The most important thing to remember when performing security
testing is to continuously re-prioritize. There are an infinite num-
ber of possible ways that an application could fail, and organiza-
tions always have limited testing time and resources. Be sure time
and resources are spent wisely. Try to focus on the security holes
that are a real risk to your business. Try to contextualize risk in
terms of the application and its use cases.
This guide is best viewed as a set of techniques that you can use
to find different types of security holes. But not all the techniques
are equally important. Try to avoid using the guide as a checklist,
new vulnerabilities are always manifesting and no guide can be
an exhaustive list of “things to test for”, but rather a great place
to start.
The Role of Automated Tools
There are a number of companies selling automated security anal-
ysis and testing tools. Remember the limitations of these tools
so that you can use them for what they’re good at. As Michael
Howard put it at the 2006 OWASP AppSec Conference in Seattle,
“Tools do not make software secure! They help scale the process
and help enforce policy.
Most importantly, these tools are generic - meaning that they are
not designed for your custom code, but for applications in general.
That means that while they can find some generic problems, they
do not have enough knowledge of your application to allow them
to detect most flaws. In my experience, the most serious security
issues are the ones that are not generic, but deeply intertwined in
your business logic and custom application design.
These tools can also be seductive, since they do find lots of poten-
tial issues. While running the tools doesn’t take much time, each
one of the potential problems takes time to investigate and ver-
ify. If the goal is to find and eliminate the most serious flaws as
quickly as possible, consider whether your time is best spent with
automated tools or with the techniques described in this guide.
Still, these tools are certainly part of a well-balanced application
security program. Used wisely, they can support your overall pro-
cesses to produce more secure code.
Call to Action
If you’re building, designing or testing software, I strongly encour-
age you to get familiar with the security testing guidance in this
document. It is a great road map for testing the most common
issues facing applications today, but it is not exhaustive. If you
find errors, please add a note to the discussion page or make the
change yourself. You’ll be helping thousands of others who use
this guide.
Please consider joining us as an individual or corporate member so
that we can continue to produce materials like this testing guide
and all the other great projects at OWASP.
Thank you to all the past and future contributors to this guide,
your work will help to make applications worldwide more secure.
Eoin Keary, OWASP Board Member, April 19, 2013
7
Testing Guide Frontispiece
“Open and collaborative knowledge: that is the
OWASP way.
With V4 we realized a new guide that will be the
standard de-facto guide to perform Web Application
Penetration Testing
1
“Open and collaborative knowledge: that is the OWASP way.
With V4 we realized a new guide that will be the standard de-fac-
to guide to perform Web Application Penetration Testing. - Matteo
Meucci
OWASP thanks the many authors, reviewers, and editors for their
hard work in bringing this guide to where it is today. If you have any
comments or suggestions on the Testing Guide, please e-mail the
Testing Guide mail list:
Or drop an e-mail to the project leaders: Andrew Muller and Matteo Meucci
Version 4.0
The OWASP Testing Guide version 4 improves on version 3 in three ways:
[1] This version of the Testing Guide integrates with the two other
flagship OWASP documentation products: the Developers Guide and
the Code Review Guide. To achieve this we aligned the testing cate-
gories and test numbering with those in other OWASP products. The
aim of the Testing and Code Review Guides is to evaluate the security
controls described by the Developers Guide.
[2] All chapters have been improved and test cases expanded to 87
(64 test cases in v3) including the introduction of four new chapters
and controls:
• Identity Management Testing
• Error Handling
• Cryptography
• Client Side Testing
[3] This version of the Testing Guide encourages the community not
to simply accept the test cases outlined in this guide. We encourage
security testers to integrate with other software testers and devise
test cases specific to the target application. As we find test cases that
have wider applicability we encourage the security testing community
to share them and contribute them to the Testing Guide. This will con-
tinue to build the application security body of knowledge and allow
the development of the Testing Guide to be an iterative rather than
monolithic process.
Copyright and License
Copyright (c) 2014 The OWASP Foundation.
This document is released under the Creative Commons 2.5 License.
Please read and understand the license and copyright conditions.
Testing Guide Frontispiece
http://lists.owasp.org/mailman/listinfo/owasp-testing
Revision History
The Testing Guide v4 will be released in 2014. The Testing guide orig-
inated in 2003 with Dan Cuthbert as one of the original editors. It was
handed over to Eoin Keary in 2005 and transformed into a wiki. Mat-
teo Meucci has taken on the Testing guide and is now the lead of the
OWASP Testing Guide Project. From 2012 Andrew Muller co-leader-
ship the project with Matteo Meucci.
2014
• “OWASP Testing Guide”, Version 4.0
15th September, 2008
• “OWASP Testing Guide”, Version 3.0
December 25, 2006
• “OWASP Testing Guide”, Version 2.0
July 14, 2004
• “OWASP Web Application Penetration Checklist”, Version 1.1
December 2004
• “The OWASP Testing Guide, Version 1.0
Project Leaders
Andrew Muller
Matteo Meucci
Andrew Muller: OWASP Testing Guide Lead since 2013.
Matteo Meucci: OWASP Testing Guide Lead since 2007.
Eoin Keary: OWASP Testing Guide 2005-2007 Lead.
Daniel Cuthbert: OWASP Testing Guide 2003-2005 Lead.
8
Testing Guide Frontispiece
v4 Authors
Matteo Meucci
Pavol Luptak
Marco Morana
Giorgio Fedon
Stefano Di Paola
Gianrico Ingrosso
Giuseppe Bonfà
Andrew Muller
Robert Winkel
Roberto Suggi Liverani
Robert Smith
Tripurari Rai
v3 Authors
Anurag Agarwwal
Daniele Bellucci
Ariel Coronel
Stefano Di Paola
Giorgio Fedon
Adam Goodman
Christian Heinrich
Kevin Horvath
Gianrico Ingrosso
Roberto Suggi Liverani
Kuza55
v2 Authors
Vicente Aguilera
Mauro Bregolin
Tom Brennan
Gary Burns
Luca Carettoni
Dan Cornell
Mark Curphey
Daniel Cuthbert
Sebastien Deleersnyder
Stephen DeVries
v2 Reviewers
Vicente Aguilera
Marco Belotti
Mauro Bregolin
Marco Cova
Daniel Cuthbert
Paul Davies
Stefano Di Paola
Matteo G.P. Flora
Simona Forti
Darrell Groundy
v3 Reviewers
Marco Cova
Kevin Fuller
Matteo Meucci
Nam Nguyen
Rick Mitchell
v4 Reviewers
Davide Danelon
Andrea Rosignoli
Irene Abezgauz
Lode Vanstechelman
Sebastien Gioria
Yiannis Pavlosoglou
Aditya Balapure
Thomas Ryan
Tim Bertels
Cecil Su
Aung KhAnt
Norbert Szetei
Michael Boman
Wagner Elias
Kevin Horvat
Tom Brennan
Tomas Zatko
Juan Galiana Lara
Sumit Siddharth
Mike Hryekewicz
Simon Bennetts
Ray Schippers
Raul Siles
Jayanta Karmakar
Brad Causey
Vicente Aguilera
Ismael Gonçalves
David Fern
Tom Eston
Kevin Horvath
Rick Mitchell
Eduardo Castellanos
Simone Onofri
Harword Sheen
Amro AlOlaqi
Suhas Desai
Ryan Dewhurst
Zaki Akhmad
Davide Danelon
Alexander Antukh
Thomas Kalamaris
Alexander Vavousis
Christian Heinrich
Babu Arokiadas
Rob Barnes
Ben Walther
Anant Shrivastava
Colin Watson
Luca Carettoni
Eoin Keary
Jeff Williams
Juan Manuel Bahamonde
Thomas Skora
Irene Abezgauz
Hugo Costa
Pavol Luptak
Ferruh Mavituna
Marco Mella
Matteo Meucci
Marco Morana
Antonio Parata
Cecil Su
Harish Skanda Sureddy
Mark Roxberry
Andrew Van der Stock
Stefano Di Paola
David Endler
Giorgio Fedon
Javier Fernández-Sanguino
Glyn Geoghegan
Stan Guzik
Madhura Halasgikar
Eoin Keary
David Litchfield
Andrea Lombardini
Ralph M. Los
Claudio Merloni
Matteo Meucci
Marco Morana
Laura Nunez
Gunter Ollmann
Antonio Parata
Yiannis Pavlosoglou
Carlo Pelliccioni
Harinath Pudipeddi
Alberto Revelli
Mark Roxberry
Tom Ryan
Anush Shetty
Larry Shields
Dafydd Studdard
Andrew van der Stock
Ariel Waissbein
Jeff Williams
Tushar Vartak
Eoin Keary
James Kist
Katie McDowell
Marco Mella
Matteo Meucci
Syed Mohamed
Antonio Parata
Alberto Revelli
Mark Roxberry
Dave Wichers
Trademarks
Java, Java Web Server, and JSP are registered trademarks
of Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Merriam-Webster is a trademark of Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
Octave is a service mark of Carnegie Mellon University.
VeriSign and Thawte are registered trademarks
of VeriSign, Inc.
Visa is a registered trademark of VISA USA.
OWASP is a registered trademark of the OWASP Foundation
All other products and company names may be trademarks of their
respective owners. Use of a term in this document should not be
regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark.
9
Testing Guide Introduction
11
The OWASP Testing Project has been in development
for many years. The aim of the project is to help people
understand the what, why, when, where, and how of
testing web applications.
2
Writing the Testing Guide has proven to be a difficult task. It was a
challenge to obtain consensus and develop content that allowed peo-
ple to apply the concepts described in the guide, while also enabling
them to work in their own environment and culture. It was also a chal-
lenge to change the focus of web application testing from penetration
testing to testing integrated in the software development life cycle.
However, the group is very satisfied with the results of the project.
Many industry experts and security professionals, some of whom are
responsible for software security at some of the largest companies in
the world, are validating the testing framework. This framework helps
organizations test their web applications in order to build reliable and
secure software. The framework does not simply highlighting areas
of weakness, although the latter is certainly a by product of many of
the OWASP guides and checklists. As such, hard decisions had top
be made about the appropriateness of certain testing techniques
and technologies. The group fully understands that not everyone will
agree upon all of these decisions. However, OWASP is able to take the
high ground and change culture over time through awareness and ed-
ucation based on consensus and experience.
The rest of this guide is organized as follows: This introduction cov-
ers the pre-requisites of testing web applications and the scope of
testing. It also covers the principles of successful testing and testing
techniques. Chapter 3 presents the OWASP Testing Framework and
explains its techniques and tasks in relation to the various phases of
the software development life cycle. Chapter 4 covers how to test for
specific vulnerabilities (e.g., SQL Injection) by code inspection and pen-
etration testing.
Measuring Security: the Economics of Insecure Software
A basic tenet of software engineering is that you can’t control what
you can’t measure [1]. Security testing is no different. Unfortunately,
measuring security is a notoriously difficult process. This topic will not
be covered in detail here, as it would take a guide on its own (for an
introduction, see [2]).
One aspect that should be emphasized is that security measure-
ments are about both the specific technical issues (e.g., how prevalent
a certain vulnerability is) and how these issues affect the economics
of software. Most technical people will at least understand the basic
issues, or they may have a deeper understanding of the vulnerabilities.
Sadly, few are able to translate that technical knowledge into mone-
tary terms and quantify the potential cost of vulnerabilities to the ap-
plication owner’s business. Until this happens, CIOs will not be able to
develop an accurate return on security investment and, subsequently,
assign appropriate budgets for software security.
While estimating the cost of insecure software may appear a daunt-
ing task, there has been a significant amount of work in this direction.
The OWASP Testing Project
For example, in June 2002, the US National Institute of Standards
(NIST) published a survey on the cost of insecure software to the US
economy due to inadequate software testing [3]. Interestingly, they
estimate that a better testing infrastructure would save more than a
third of these costs, or about $22 billion a year. More recently, the links
between economics and security have been studied by academic re-
searchers. See [4] for more information about some of these efforts.
While estimating the cost of insecure software may appear a daunt-
ing task, there has been a significant amount of work in this direction.
For example, in June 2002, the US National Institute of Standards
(NIST) published a survey on the cost of insecure software to the US
economy due to inadequate software testing [3]. Interestingly, they
estimate that a better testing infrastructure would save more than a
third of these costs, or about $22 billion a year. More recently, the links
between economics and security have been studied by academic re-
searchers. See [4] for more information about some of these efforts.
The framework described in this document encourages people to
measure security throughout the entire development process. They
can then relate the cost of insecure software to the impact it has on
the business, and consequently develop appropriate business pro-
cesses and assign resources to manage the risk. Remember that
measuring and testing web applications is even more critical than for
other software, since web applications are exposed to millions of us-
ers through the Internet.
What is Testing?
During the development life cycle of a web application many things
need to be tested, but what does testing actually mean? The Merri-
am-Webster Dictionary describes testing as:
• To put to test or proof.
• To undergo a test.
• To be assigned a standing or evaluation based on tests.
For the purposes of this document testing is a process of comparing
the state of a system or application against a set of criteria. In the se-
curity industry people frequently test against a set of mental criteria
that are neither well defined nor complete. As a result of this, many
outsiders regard security testing as a black art. The aim of this doc-
ument is to change that perception and to make it easier for people
without in-depth security knowledge to make a difference in testing.
Why Perform Testing?
This document is designed to help organizations understand what
comprises a testing program, and to help them identify the steps that
need to be undertaken to build and operate a testing program on web
applications. The guide gives a broad view of the elements required to
10
make a comprehensive web application security program. This guide
can be used as a reference guide and as a methodology to help deter-
mine the gap between existing practices and industry best practices.
This guide allows organizations to compare themselves against indus-
try peers, to understand the magnitude of resources required to test
and maintain software, or to prepare for an audit. This chapter does
not go into the technical details of how to test an application, as the
intent is to provide a typical security organizational framework. The
technical details about how to test an application, as part of a pene-
tration test or code review, will be covered in the remaining parts of
this document.
When to Test?
Most people today don’t test software until it has already been created
and is in the deployment phase of its life cycle (i.e., code has been cre-
ated and instantiated into a working web application). This is generally
a very ineffective and cost-prohibitive practice. One of the best meth-
ods to prevent security bugs from appearing in production applications
is to improve the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) by including
security in each of its phases. An SDLC is a structure imposed on the
development of software artefacts. If an SDLC is not currently being
used in your environment, it is time to pick one! The following figure
shows a generic SDLC model as well as the (estimated) increasing cost
of fixing security bugs in such a model.
Companies should inspect their overall SDLC to ensure that security
is an integral part of the development process. SDLCs should include
security tests to ensure security is adequately covered and controls
are effective throughout the development process.
What to Test?
It can be helpful to think of software development as a combination of
people, process, and technology. If these are the factors that “create
software, then it is logical that these are the factors that must be test-
Testing Guide Introduction
12
Figure 1: Generic SDLC Model
D
E
F
I
N
E
D
E
S
I
G
N
D
E
V
E
L
O
P
D
E
P
L
O
Y
ed. Today most people generally test the technology or the software
itself.
An effective testing program should have components that test:
People – to ensure that there is adequate education and awareness;
Process – to ensure that there are adequate policies and standards
and that people know how to follow these policies;
Technology – to ensure that the process has been effective in its im-
plementation.
Unless a holistic approach is adopted, testing just the technical imple-
mentation of an application will not uncover management or opera-
tional vulnerabilities that could be present. By testing the people, pol-
icies, and processes, an organization can catch issues that would later
manifest themselves into defects in the technology, thus eradicating
bugs early and identifying the root causes of defects. Likewise, testing
only some of the technical issues that can be present in a system will
result in an incomplete and inaccurate security posture assessment.
Denis Verdon, Head of Information Security at Fidelity National Fi-
nancial presented an excellent analogy for this misconception at the
OWASP AppSec 2004 Conference in New York [5]: “If cars were built
like applications [...] safety tests would assume frontal impact only.
Cars would not be roll tested, or tested for stability in emergency ma-
neuvers, brake effectiveness, side impact, and resistance to theft.
Feedback and Comments
As with all OWASP projects, we welcome comments and feedback.
We especially like to know that our work is being used and that it is
effective and accurate.
There are some common misconceptions when developing a testing
methodology to find security bugs in software. This chapter covers
some of the basic principles that professionals should take into ac-
count when performing security tests on software.
Principles of Testing
There is No Silver Bullet
While it is tempting to think that a security scanner or application
firewall will provide many defenses against attack or identify a mul-
titude of problems, in reality there is no silver bullet to the problem
of insecure software. Application security assessment software, while
useful as a first pass to find low-hanging fruit, is generally immature
and ineffective at in-depth assessments or providing adequate test
coverage. Remember that security is a process and not a product.
Think Strategically, Not Tactically
Over the last few years, security professionals have come to realize
the fallacy of the patch-and-penetrate model that was pervasive in
information security during the 1990’s. The patch-and-penetrate
model involves fixing a reported bug, but without proper investigation
of the root cause. This model is usually associated with the window of
vulnerability shown in the figure below. The evolution of vulnerabilities
in common software used worldwide has shown the ineffectiveness
of this model. For more information about the window of vulnerability
please refer to [6].
Vulnerability studies [7] have shown that with the reaction time of
attackers worldwide, the typical window of vulnerability does not pro-
M
A
I
N
T
A
I
N
11
vide enough time for patch installation, since the time between a vul-
nerability being uncovered and an automated attack against it being
developed and released is decreasing every year.
There are several incorrect assumptions in the patch-and-penetrate
model. Many users believe that patches interfere with normal op-
erations and might break existing applications. It is also incorrect to
assume that all users are aware of newly released patches. Conse-
quently not all users of a product will apply patches, either because
they think patching may interfere with how the software works or be-
A security vulerability
is discovered
Vulerability is know
to the vendor
A patch is
published
The vendor
notifies it’s clients
(sometimes)
Vulerability is
made pubic
Securtity
tools are
udpdated (IDS
signatures,
new modules
for VA tools)
The existence
of the patch is
widely known
The patch is
installed in
all systems
affected
Risk
Level
Time
cause they lack knowledge about the existence of the patch.
It is essential to build security into the Software Development Life
Cycle (SDLC) to prevent reoccurring security problems within an ap-
plication. Developers can build security into the SDLC by developing
standards, policies, and guidelines that fit and work within the devel-
opment methodology. Threat modeling and other techniques should
be used to help assign appropriate resources to those parts of a sys-
tem that are most at risk.
The SDLC is King
The SDLC is a process that is well-known to developers. By integrating
security into each phase of the SDLC, it allows for a holistic approach
to application security that leverages the procedures already in place
within the organization. Be aware that while the names of the various
Figure 2: Window of Vulnerability
Testing Guide Introduction
phases may change depending on the SDLC model used by an orga-
nization, each conceptual phase of the archetype SDLC will be used to
develop the application (i.e., define, design, develop, deploy, maintain).
Each phase has security considerations that should become part of
the existing process, to ensure a cost-effective and comprehensive
security program.
There are several secure SDLC frameworks that exist that provide
both descriptive and prescriptive advice. Whether a person takes de-
scriptive or prescriptive advice depends on the maturity of the SDLC
process. Essentially, prescriptive advice shows how the secure SDLC
should work, and descriptive advice shows how its used in the real
world. Both have their place. For example, if you don’t know where
to start, a prescriptive framework can provide a menu of potential
security controls that can be applied within the SDLC. Descriptive ad-
vice can then help drive the decision process by presenting what has
worked well for other organizations. Descriptive secure SDLCs include
BSIMM-V; and the prescriptive secure SDLCs inculde OWASP’s Open
Software Assurance Maturity Model (OpenSAMM) and ISO/IEC 27034
Parts 1-8, parts of which are still in development.
Test Early and Test Often
When a bug is detected early within the SDLC it can be addressed fast-
er and at a lower cost. A security bug is no different from a functional
12
or performance-based bug in this regard. A key step in making this
possible is to educate the development and QA teams about common
security issues and the ways to detect and prevent them. Although
new libraries, tools, or languages can help design better programs
(with fewer security bugs), new threats arise constantly and develop-
ers must be aware of the threats that affect the software they are
developing. Education in security testing also helps developers acquire
the appropriate mindset to test an application from an attacker’s per-
spective. This allows each organization to consider security issues as
part of their existing responsibilities.
Understand the Scope of Security
It is important to know how much security a given project will re-
quire. The information and assets that are to be protected should
be given a classification that states how they are to be handled (e.g.,
confidential, secret, top secret). Discussions should occur with legal
council to ensure that any specific security requirements will be met.
In the USA requirements might come from federal regulations, such
as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act [8], or from state laws, such as the
California SB-1386 [9]. For organizations based in EU countries, both
country-specific regulation and EU Directives may apply. For example,
Directive 96/46/EC4 [10] makes it mandatory to treat personal data
in applications with due care, whatever the application.
Develop the Right Mindset
Successfully testing an application for security vulnerabilities requires
thinking “outside of the box.” Normal use cases will test the normal
behavior of the application when a user is using it in the manner that is
expected. Good security testing requires going beyond what is expect-
ed and thinking like an attacker who is trying to break the application.
Creative thinking can help to determine what unexpected data may
cause an application to fail in an insecure manner. It can also help find
what assumptions made by web developers are not always true and
how they can be subverted. One of the reasons why automated tools
are actually bad at automatically testing for vulnerabilities is that this
creative thinking must be done on a case-by-case basis as most web
applications are being developed in a unique way (even when using
common frameworks).
Understand the Subject
One of the first major initiatives in any good security program should
be to require accurate documentation of the application. The architec-
ture, data-flow diagrams, use cases, etc, should be written in formal
documents and made available for review. The technical specification
and application documents should include information that lists not
only the desired use cases, but also any specifically disallowed use
case. Finally, it is good to have at least a basic security infrastructure
that allows the monitoring and trending of attacks against an organi-
zation’s applications and network (e.g., IDS systems).
Use the Right Tools
While we have already stated that there is no silver bullet tool, tools
do play a critical role in the overall security program. There is a range
of open source and commercial tools that can automate many rou-
tine security tasks. These tools can simplify and speed up the security
process by assisting security personnel in their tasks. However, it is
important to understand exactly what these tools can and cannot do
so that they are not oversold or used incorrectly.
The Devil is in the Details
It is critical not to perform a superficial security review of an applica-
tion and consider it complete. This will instill a false sense of confi-
dence that can be as dangerous as not having done a security review
in the first place. It is vital to carefully review the findings and weed out
any false positive that may remain in the report. Reporting an incorrect
security finding can often undermine the valid message of the rest of
a security report. Care should be taken to verify that every possible
section of application logic has been tested, and that every use case
scenario was explored for possible vulnerabilities.
Use Source Code When Available
While black box penetration test results can be impressive and useful
to demonstrate how vulnerabilities are exposed in a production en-
vironment, they are not the most effective or efficient way to secure
an application. It is difficult for dynamic testing to test the entire code
base, particularly if many nested conditional statements exist. If the
source code for the application is available, it should be given to the
security staff to assist them while performing their review. It is possi-
ble to discover vulnerabilities within the application source that would
be missed during a black box engagement.
Develop Metrics
An important part of a good security program is the ability to deter-
mine if things are getting better. It is important to track the results of
testing engagements, and develop metrics that will reveal the applica-
tion security trends within the organization.
Good metrics will show:
• If more education and training are required;
• If there is a particular security mechanism that is not clearly
understood by the development team;
• If the total number of security related problems being found
each month is going down.
Consistent metrics that can be generated in an automated way from
available source code will also help the organization in assessing the
effectiveness of mechanisms introduced to reduce security bugs in
software development. Metrics are not easily developed, so using
standard metrics like those provided by the OWASP Metrics project
and other organizations is a good starting point.
Document the Test Results
To conclude the testing process, it is important to produce a formal
record of what testing actions were taken, by whom, when they were
performed, and details of the test findings. It is wise to agree on an ac-
ceptable format for the report which is useful to all concerned parties,
which may include developers, project management, business own-
ers, IT department, audit, and compliance.
The report should be clear to the business owner in identifying where
material risks exist and sufficient to get their backing for subsequent
mitigation actions. The report should also be clear to the developer in
pin-pointing the exact function that is affected by the vulnerability and
associated recommendations for resolving issues in a language that
the developer will understand. The report should also allow another
security tester to reproduce the results. Writing the report should not
be overly burdensome on the security tester themselves. Security
testers are not generally renowned for their creative writing skills and
agreeing on a complex report can lead to instances where test results
do not get properly documented. Using a security test report template
can save time and ensure that results are documented accurately and
consistently, and are in a format that is suitable for the audience.
Testing Guide Introduction
13
Testing Techniques Explained
This section presents a high-level overview of various testing
techniques that can be employed when building a testing pro-
gram. It does not present specific methodologies for these tech-
niques as this information is covered in Chapter 3. This section is
included to provide context for the framework presented in the
next chapter and to highlight the advantages and disadvantages
of some of the techniques that should be considered. In particular,
we will cover:
• Manual Inspections & Reviews
• Threat Modeling
• Code Review
• Penetration Testing
Manual Inspections & Reviews
Overview
Manual inspections are human reviews that typically test the se-
curity implications of people, policies, and processes. Manual in-
spections can also include inspection of technology decisions such
as architectural designs. They are usually conducted by analyzing
documentation or performing interviews with the designers or
system owners.
While the concept of manual inspections and human reviews is
simple, they can be among the most powerful and effective tech-
niques available. By asking someone how something works and
why it was implemented in a specific way, the tester can quickly
determine if any security concerns are likely to be evident. Man-
ual inspections and reviews are one of the few ways to test the
software development life-cycle process itself and to ensure that
there is an adequate policy or skill set in place.
As with many things in life, when conducting manual inspections
and reviews it is recommended that a trust-but-verify model is
adopted. Not everything that the tester is shown or told will be
accurate.
Manual reviews are particularly good for testing whether people
understand the security process, have been made aware of policy,
and have the appropriate skills to design or implement a secure
application.
Other activities, including manually reviewing the documentation,
secure coding policies, security requirements, and architectural
designs, should all be accomplished using manual inspections.
Advantages:
• Requires no supporting technology
• Can be applied to a variety of situations
• Flexible
• Promotes teamwork
• Early in the SDLC
Disadvantages:
• Can be time consuming
• Supporting material not always available
• Requires significant human thought and skill to be effective
Testing Guide Introduction
Threat Modeling
Overview
Threat modeling has become a popular technique to help system
designers think about the security threats that their systems and
applications might face. Therefore, threat modeling can be seen as
risk assessment for applications. In fact, it enables the designer to
develop mitigation strategies for potential vulnerabilities and helps
them focus their inevitably limited resources and attention on the
parts of the system that most require it. It is recommended that
all applications have a threat model developed and documented.
Threat models should be created as early as possible in the SDLC,
and should be revisited as the application evolves and develop-
ment progresses.
To develop a threat model, we recommend taking a simple ap-
proach that follows the NIST 800-30 [11] standard for risk assess-
ment. This approach involves:
• Decomposing the application – use a process of manual
inspection to understand how the application works, its assets,
functionality, and connectivity.
• Defining and classifying the assets – classify the assets into
tangible and intangible assets and rank them according to
business importance.
• Exploring potential vulnerabilities - whether technical,
operational,or management.
• Exploring potential threats – develop a realistic view of potential
attack vectors from an attacker’s perspective, by using threat
scenarios or attack trees.
• Creating mitigation strategies – develop mitigating controls for
each of the threats deemed to be realistic.
The output from a threat model itself can vary but is typically a
collection of lists and diagrams. The OWASP Code Review Guide
outlines an Application Threat Modeling methodology that can be
used as a reference for the testing applications for potential se-
curity flaws in the design of the application. There is no right or
wrong way to develop threat models and perform information risk
assessments on applications. [12].
Advantages:
• Practical attacker’s view of the system
• Flexible
• Early in the SDLC
Disadvantages:
• Relatively new technique
• Good threat models don’t automatically mean good software
Source Code Review
Overview
Source code review is the process of manually checking the source
code of a web application for security issues. Many serious securi-
ty vulnerabilities cannot be detected with any other form of anal-
ysis or testing. As the popular saying goes “if you want to know
what’s really going on, go straight to the source.” Almost all secu-
rity experts agree that there is no substitute for actually looking
at the code. All the information for identifying security problems
is there in the code somewhere. Unlike testing third party closed
14
Testing Guide Introduction
software such as operating systems, when testing web applica-
tions (especially if they have been developed in-house) the source
code should be made available for testing purposes.
Many unintentional but significant security problems are also ex-
tremely difficult to discover with other forms of analysis or test-
ing, such as penetration testing, making source code analysis the
technique of choice for technical testing. With the source code, a
tester can accurately determine what is happening (or is supposed
to be happening) and remove the guess work of black box testing.
Examples of issues that are particularly conducive to being found
through source code reviews include concurrency problems, flawed
business logic, access control problems, and cryptographic weak-
nesses as well as backdoors, Trojans, Easter eggs, time bombs,
logic bombs, and other forms of malicious code. These issues of-
ten manifest themselves as the most harmful vulnerabilities in
web sites. Source code analysis can also be extremely efficient to
find implementation issues such as places where input validation
was not performed or when fail open control procedures may be
present. But keep in mind that operational procedures need to be
reviewed as well, since the source code being deployed might not
be the same as the one being analyzed herein [13].
Advantages:
• Completeness and effectiveness
• Accuracy
• Fast (for competent reviewers)
Disadvantages:
• Requires highly skilled security developers
• Can miss issues in compiled libraries
• Cannot detect run-time errors easily
• The source code actually deployed might differ from the one
being analyzed
For more on code review, checkout the OWASP code review project.
Penetration Testing
Overview
Penetration testing has been a common technique used to test
network security for many years. It is also commonly known as
black box testing or ethical hacking. Penetration testing is essen-
tially the “art” of testing a running application remotely to find
security vulnerabilities, without knowing the inner workings of
the application itself. Typically, the penetration test team would
have access to an application as if they were users. The tester acts
like an attacker and attempts to find and exploit vulnerabilities. In
many cases the tester will be given a valid account on the system.
While penetration testing has proven to be effective in network
security, the technique does not naturally translate to applica-
tions. When penetration testing is performed on networks and
operating systems, the majority of the work is involved in finding
and then exploiting known vulnerabilities in specific technologies.
As web applications are almost exclusively bespoke, penetration
testing in the web application arena is more akin to pure research.
Penetration testing tools have been developed that automate the
process, but with the nature of web applications their effective-
ness is usually poor.
Many people today use web application penetration testing as
their primary security testing technique. Whilst it certainly has its
place in a testing program, we do not believe it should be consid-
ered as the primary or only testing technique. Gary McGraw in [14]
summed up penetration testing well when he said, “If you fail a
penetration test you know you have a very bad problem indeed. If
you pass a penetration test you do not know that you don’t have
a very bad problem. However, focused penetration testing (i.e.,
testing that attempts to exploit known vulnerabilities detected in
previous reviews) can be useful in detecting if some specific vul-
nerabilities are actually fixed in the source code deployed on the
web site.
Advantages:
• Can be fast (and therefore cheap)
• Requires a relatively lower skill-set than source code review
• Tests the code that is actually being exposed
Disadvantages:
• Too late in the SDLC
• Front impact testing only.
The Need for a Balanced Approach
With so many techniques and approaches to testing the security of
web applications it can be difficult to understand which techniques
to use and when to use them. Experience shows that there is no
right or wrong answer to the question of exactly what techniques
should be used to build a testing framework. In fact all techniques
should probably be used to test all the areas that need to be tested.
Although it is clear that there is no single technique that can be
performed to effectively cover all security testing and ensure that
all issues have been addressed, many companies adopt only one
approach. The approach used has historically been penetration
testing. Penetration testing, while useful, cannot effectively ad-
dress many of the issues that need to be tested. It is simply “too
little too late” in the software development life cycle (SDLC).
The correct approach is a balanced approach that includes several
techniques, from manual reviews to technical testing. A balanced
approach should cover testing in all phases of the SDLC. This ap-
proach leverages the most appropriate techniques available de-
pending on the current SDLC phase.
Of course there are times and circumstances where only one tech-
nique is possible. For example, a test on a web application that has
already been created, but where the testing party does not have
access to the source code. In this case, penetration testing is clearly
better than no testing at all. However, the testing parties should be
encouraged to challenge assumptions, such as no access to source
code, and to explore the possibility of more complete testing.
A balanced approach varies depending on many factors, such as
the maturity of the testing process and corporate culture. It is rec-
ommended that a balanced testing framework should look some-
thing like the representations shown in Figure 3 and Figure 4. The
following figure shows a typical proportional representation over-
15
laid onto the software development life cycle. In keeping with re-
search and experience, it is essential that companies place a higher
emphasis on the early stages of development.
Testing Guide Introduction
DEFINE
DESIGN
DEVELOP
DEPLOY
MAINTAIN
1
0
-
1
5
%
1
0
-
3
5
%
1
5
-
3
5
%
1
2
-
2
5
%
1
0
-
1
5
%
Figure 3: Proportion of Test Effort in SDLC
Figure 4: Proportion of Test Effort According to Test Technique
‘Example 1: Magic Parameters’
Imagine a simple web application that accepts a name-value pair of
“magic” and then the value. For simplicity, the GET request may be:
http://www.host/application?magic=value
To further simplify the example, the values in this case can only be AS-
CII characters a – z (upper or lowercase) and integers 0 – 9.
The designers of this application created an administrative backdoor
during testing, but obfuscated it to prevent the casual observer from
discovering it. By submitting the value sf8g7sfjdsurtsdieerwqreds-
gnfg8d (30 characters), the user will then be logged in and presented
with an administrative screen with total control of the application. The
HTTP request is now:
http://www.host/application?magic= sf8g7sfjdsurtsdieerwqredsgnf-
g8d
Given that all of the other parameters were simple two- and
three-characters fields, it is not possible to start guessing combina-
tions at approximately 28 characters. A web application scanner will
need to brute force (or guess) the entire key space of 30 characters.
That is up to 30^28 permutations, or trillions of HTTP requests. That
is an electron in a digital haystack.
The code for this exemplar Magic Parameter check may look like the
following:
public void doPost( HttpServletRequest request, HttpServle-
tResponse response)
{
String magic = “sf8g7sfjdsurtsdieerwqredsgnfg8d”;
boolean admin = magic.equals( request.getParameter(“mag-
ic”));
if (admin) doAdmin( request, response);
else …. // normal processing
}
By looking in the code, the vulnerability practically leaps off the page
as a potential problem.
Example 2: Bad Cryptography
Cryptography is widely used in web applications. Imagine that a devel-
oper decided to write a simple cryptography algorithm to sign a user
in from site A to site B automatically. In his/her wisdom, the developer
decides that if a user is logged into site A, then he/she will generate
a key using an MD5 hash function that comprises: Hash { username :
date }
When a user is passed to site B, he/she will send the key on the query
string to site B in an HTTP re-direct. Site B independently computes
the hash, and compares it to the hash passed on the request. If they
match, site B signs the user in as the user they claim to be.
As the scheme is explained the inadequacies can be worked out. Any-
one that figures out the scheme (or is told how it works, or downloads
the information from Bugtraq) can log in as any user. Manual inspec-
tion, such as a review or code inspection, would have uncovered this
security issue quickly. A black-box web application scanner would not
have uncovered the vulnerability. It would have seen a 128-bit hash
that changed with each user, and by the nature of hash functions, did
not change in any predictable way.
PROCESS REVIEWS
& MANUAL INSPECTIONS
CODE REVIEW
SECURITY TESTING
The following figure shows a typical proportional representation
overlaid onto testing techniques.
A Note about Web Application Scanners
Many organizations have started to use automated web application
scanners. While they undoubtedly have a place in a testing program,
some fundamental issues need to be highlighted about why it is be-
lieved that automating black box testing is not (or will ever be) effec-
tive. However, highlighting these issues should not discourage the use
of web application scanners. Rather, the aim is to ensure the limita-
tions are understood and testing frameworks are planned appropri-
ately.
Important: OWASP is currently working to develop a web application
scanner bench marking platform. The following examples show why
automated black box testing is not effective.
16
Testing Guide Introduction
A Note about Static Source Code Review Tools
Many organizations have started to use static source code scanners.
While they undoubtedly have a place in a comprehensive testing pro-
gram, it is necessary to highlight some fundamental issues about why
this approach is not effective when used alone. Static source code
analysis alone cannot identify issues due to flaws in the design, since
it cannot understand the context in which the code is constructed.
Source code analysis tools are useful in determining security issues
due to coding errors, however significant manual effort is required to
validate the findings.
Deriving Security Test Requirements
To have a successful testing program, one must know what the test-
ing objectives are. These objectives are specified by the security re-
quirements. This section discusses in detail how to document require-
ments for security testing by deriving them from applicable standards
and regulations, and from positive and negative application require-
ments. It also discusses how security requirements effectively drive
security testing during the SDLC and how security test data can be
used to effectively manage software security risks.
Testing Objectives
One of the objectives of security testing is to validate that security
controls operate as expected. This is documented via security re-
quirements that describe the functionality of the security control. At a
high level, this means proving confidentiality, integrity, and availability
of the data as well as the service. The other objective is to validate
that security controls are implemented with few or no vulnerabilities.
These are common vulnerabilities, such as the OWASP Top Ten, as
well as vulnerabilities that have been previously identified with secu-
rity assessments during the SDLC, such as threat modelling, source
code analysis, and penetration test.
Security Requirements Documentation
The first step in the documentation of security requirements is to
understand the business requirements. A business requirement
document can provide initial high-level information on the expected
functionality of the application. For example, the main purpose of an
application may be to provide financial services to customers or to al-
low goods to be purchased from an on-line catalog. A security section
of the business requirements should highlight the need to protect the
customer data as well as to comply with applicable security docu-
mentation such as regulations, standards, and policies.
A general checklist of the applicable regulations, standards, and pol-
icies is a good preliminary security compliance analysis for web ap-
plications. For example, compliance regulations can be identified by
checking information about the business sector and the country or
state where the application will operate. Some of these compliance
guidelines and regulations might translate into specific technical re-
quirements for security controls. For example, in the case of financial
applications, the compliance with FFIEC guidelines for authentication
[15] requires that financial institutions implement applications that
mitigate weak authentication risks with multi-layered security con-
trol and multi-factor authentication.
Applicable industry standards for security need also to be captured by
the general security requirement checklist. For example, in the case
of applications that handle customer credit card data, the compliance
with the PCI DSS [16] standard forbids the storage of PINs and CVV2
data and requires that the merchant protect magnetic strip data in
storage and transmission with encryption and on display by mask-
ing. Such PCI DSS security requirements could be validated via source
code analysis.
Another section of the checklist needs to enforce general require-
ments for compliance with the organization’s information security
standards and policies. From the functional requirements perspec-
tive, requirements for the security control need to map to a specific
section of the information security standards. An example of such re-
quirement can be: “a password complexity of six alphanumeric char-
acters must be enforced by the authentication controls used by the
application.” When security requirements map to compliance rules a
security test can validate the exposure of compliance risks. If violation
with information security standards and policies are found, these will
result in a risk that can be documented and that the business has to
manage. Since these security compliance requirements are enforce-
able, they need to be well documented and validated with security
tests.
Security Requirements Validation
From the functionality perspective, the validation of security require-
ments is the main objective of security testing. From the risk man-
agement perspective, the validation of security requirements is the
objective of information security assessments. At a high level, the
main goal of information security assessments is the identification of
gaps in security controls, such as lack of basic authentication, autho-
rization, or encryption controls. More in depth, the security assess-
ment objective is risk analysis, such as the identification of potential
weaknesses in security controls that ensure the confidentiality, in-
tegrity, and availability of the data. For example, when the application
deals with personal identifiable information (PII) and sensitive data,
the security requirement to be validated is the compliance with the
company information security policy requiring encryption of such
data in transit and in storage. Assuming encryption is used to protect
the data, encryption algorithms and key lengths need to comply with
the organization encryption standards. These might require that only
certain algorithms and key lengths could be used. For example, a se-
curity requirement that can be security tested is verifying that only
allowed ciphers are used (e.g., SHA-256, RSA, AES) with allowed min-
imum key lengths (e.g., more than 128 bit for symmetric and more
than 1024 for asymmetric encryption).
From the security assessment perspective, security requirements can
be validated at different phases of the SDLC by using different arti-
facts and testing methodologies. For example, threat modeling focus-
es on identifying security flaws during design, secure code analysis
and reviews focus on identifying security issues in source code during
development, and penetration testing focuses on identifying vulnera-
bilities in the application during testing or validation.
Security issues that are identified early in the SDLC can be document-
ed in a test plan so they can be validated later with security tests. By
combining the results of different testing techniques, it is possible to
derive better security test cases and increase the level of assurance
of the security requirements. For example, distinguishing true vulner-
abilities from the un-exploitable ones is possible when the results of
penetration tests and source code analysis are combined. Considering
the security test for a SQL injection vulnerability, for example, a black
box test might first involve a scan of the application to fingerprint the
vulnerability. The first evidence of a potential SQL injection vulnerabili-
ty that can be validated is the generation of a SQL exception. A further
17
Testing Guide Introduction
validation of the SQL vulnerability might involve manually injecting
attack vectors to modify the grammar of the SQL query for an infor-
mation disclosure exploit. This might involve a lot of trial-and-error
analysis until the malicious query is executed. Assuming the tester
has the source code, she might learn from the source code analysis
on how to construct the SQL attack vector that can exploit the vul-
nerability (e.g., execute a malicious query returning confidential data
to unauthorized user).
Threats and Countermeasures Taxonomies
A threat and countermeasure classification, which takes into con-
sideration root causes of vulnerabilities, is the critical factor in ver-
ifying that security controls are designed, coded, and built to miti-
gate the impact of the exposure of such vulnerabilities. In the case
of web applications, the exposure of security controls to common
vulnerabilities, such as the OWASP Top Ten, can be a good starting
point to derive general security requirements. More specifically, the
web application security frame [17] provides a classification (e.g.
taxonomy) of vulnerabilities that can be documented in different
guidelines and standards and validated with security tests.
The focus of a threat and countermeasure categorization is to define
security requirements in terms of the threats and the root cause of
the vulnerability. A threat can be categorized by using STRIDE [18]
as Spoofing, Tampering, Repudiation, Information disclosure, Denial
of service, and Elevation of privilege. The root cause can be catego-
rized as security flaw in design, a security bug in coding, or an issue
due to insecure configuration. For example, the root cause of weak
authentication vulnerability might be the lack of mutual authenti-
cation when data crosses a trust boundary between the client and
server tiers of the application. A security requirement that captures
the threat of non-repudiation during an architecture design review
allows for the documentation of the requirement for the counter-
measure (e.g., mutual authentication) that can be validated later on
with security tests.
A threat and countermeasure categorization for vulnerabilities can
also be used to document security requirements for secure coding
such as secure coding standards. An example of a common coding
error in authentication controls consists of applying an hash func-
tion to encrypt a password, without applying a seed to the value.
From the secure coding perspective, this is a vulnerability that af-
fects the encryption used for authentication with a vulnerability
root cause in a coding error. Since the root cause is insecure coding
the security requirement can be documented in secure coding stan-
dards and validated through secure code reviews during the devel-
opment phase of the SDLC.
Security Testing and Risk Analysis
Security requirements need to take into consideration the severity
of the vulnerabilities to support a risk mitigation strategy. Assuming
that the organization maintains a repository of vulnerabilities found
in applications (i.e, a vulnerability knowledge base), the security
issues can be reported by type, issue, mitigation, root cause, and
mapped to the applications where they are found. Such a vulnera-
bility knowledge base can also be used to establish a metrics to an-
alyze the effectiveness of the security tests throughout the SDLC.
For example, consider an input validation issue, such as a SQL in-
jection, which was identified via source code analysis and report-
ed with a coding error root cause and input validation vulnerabil-
ity type. The exposure of such vulnerability can be assessed via a
penetration test, by probing input fields with several SQL injection
attack vectors. This test might validate that special characters are
filtered before hitting the database and mitigate the vulnerability.
By combining the results of source code analysis and penetration
testing it is possible to determine the likelihood and exposure of the
vulnerability and calculate the risk rating of the vulnerability. By re-
porting vulnerability risk ratings in the findings (e.g., test report) it is
possible to decide on the mitigation strategy. For example, high and
medium risk vulnerabilities can be prioritized for remediation, while
low risk can be fixed in further releases.
By considering the threat scenarios of exploiting common vulner-
abilities it is possible to identify potential risks that the application
security control needs to be security tested for. For example, the
OWASP Top Ten vulnerabilities can be mapped to attacks such as
phishing, privacy violations, identify theft, system compromise,
data alteration or data destruction, financial loss, and reputation
loss. Such issues should be documented as part of the threat
scenarios. By thinking in terms of threats and vulnerabilities, it
is possible to devise a battery of tests that simulate such attack
scenarios. Ideally, the organization vulnerability knowledge base
can be used to derive security risk driven tests cases to validate
the most likely attack scenarios. For example, if identity theft is
considered high risk, negative test scenarios should validate the
mitigation of impacts deriving from the exploit of vulnerabilities
in authentication, cryptographic controls, input validation, and au-
thorization controls.
Deriving Functional and Non Functional
Test Requirements
Functional Security Requirements
From the perspective of functional security requirements, the ap-
plicable standards, policies and regulations drive both the need for
a type of security control as well as the control functionality. These
requirements are also referred to as “positive requirements”, since
they state the expected functionality that can be validated through
security tests. Examples of positive requirements are: “the ap-
plication will lockout the user after six failed log on attempts” or
“passwords need to be a minimum of six alphanumeric characters”.
The validation of positive requirements consists of asserting the
expected functionality and can be tested by re-creating the testing
conditions and running the test according to predefined inputs. The
results are then shown as as a fail or pass condition.
In order to validate security requirements with security tests, se-
curity requirements need to be function driven and they need to
highlight the expected functionality (the what) and implicitly the
implementation (the how). Examples of high-level security design
requirements for authentication can be:
• Protect user credentials and shared secrets in transit and in
storage
• Mask any confidential data in display (e.g., passwords, accounts)
• Lock the user account after a certain number of failed log in
attempts
• Do not show specific validation errors to the user as a result of a
failed log on
• Only allow passwords that are alphanumeric, include special
characters and six characters minimum length, to limit the attack
surface
18
Testing Guide Introduction
• Allow for password change functionality only to authenticated
users by validating the old password, the new password, and the
user answer to the challenge question, to prevent brute forcing of
a password via password change.
The password reset form should validate the user’s username and
the user’s registered email before sending the temporary
password to the user via email. The temporary password issued
should be a one time password. A link to the password reset web
page will be sent to the user. The password reset web page should
validate the user temporary password, the new password, as well
as the user answer to the challenge question.
Risk Driven Security Requirements
Security tests need also to be risk driven, that is they need to vali-
date the application for unexpected behavior. These are also called
“negative requirements”, since they specify what the application
should not do.
Examples of negative requirements are:
• The application should not allow for the data to be altered or
destroyed
• The application should not be compromised or misused for
unauthorized financial transactions by a malicious user.
Negative requirements are more difficult to test, because there is
no expected behavior to look for. This might require a threat ana-
lyst to come up with unforeseeable input conditions, causes, and
effects. This is where security testing needs to be driven by risk
analysis and threat modeling. The key is to document the threat
scenarios and the functionality of the countermeasure as a factor
to mitigate a threat.
For example, in the case of authentication controls, the following
security requirements can be documented from the threats and
countermeasure perspective:
• Encrypt authentication data in storage and transit to mitigate risk
of information disclosure and authentication protocol attacks
• Encrypt passwords using non reversible encryption such as using
a digest (e.g., HASH) and a seed to prevent dictionary attacks
• Lock out accounts after reaching a log on failure threshold and
enforce password complexity to mitigate risk of brute force
password attacks
• Display generic error messages upon validation of credentials to
mitigate risk of account harvesting or enumeration
Mutually authenticate client and server to prevent non-repudiation
and Man In the Middle (MiTM) attacks
Threat modeling tools such as threat trees and attack libraries can
be useful to derive the negative test scenarios. A threat tree will
assume a root attack (e.g., attacker might be able to read other us-
ers’ messages) and identify different exploits of security controls
(e.g., data validation fails because of a SQL injection vulnerability)
and necessary countermeasures (e.g., implement data validation
and parametrized queries) that could be validated to be effective
in mitigating such attacks.
Deriving Security Test Requirements Through Use and Misuse
Cases
A prerequisite to describing the application functionality is to un-
derstand what the application is supposed to do and how. This can
be done by describing use cases. Use cases, in the graphical form
as commonly used in software engineering, show the interactions
of actors and their relations. They help to identify the actors in the
application, their relationships, the intended sequence of actions
for each scenario, alternative actions, special requirements, pre-
conditions and and post-conditions.
Similar to use cases, misuse and abuse cases [19] describe unin-
tended and malicious use scenarios of the application. These mis-
use cases provide a way to describe scenarios of how an attacker
could misuse and abuse the application. By going through the in-
dividual steps in a use scenario and thinking about how it can be
maliciously exploited, potential flaws or aspects of the application
that are not well-defined can be discovered. The key is to describe
all possible or, at least, the most critical use and misuse scenarios.
Misuse scenarios allow the analysis of the application from the at-
tacker’s point of view and contribute to identifying potential vulner-
abilities and the countermeasures that need to be implemented to
mitigate the impact caused by the potential exposure to such vul-
nerabilities. Given all of the use and abuse cases, it is important to
analyze them to determine which of them are the most critical ones
and need to be documented in security requirements. The identifi-
cation of the most critical misuse and abuse cases drives the doc-
umentation of security requirements and the necessary controls
where security risks should be mitigated.
To derive security requirements from use and misuse case [20] it is
important to define the functional scenarios and the negative sce-
narios and put these in graphical form. In the case of derivation of
security requirements for authentication, for example, the following
step-by-step methodology can be followed.
Step 1: Describe the Functional Scenario: User authenticates by
supplying a username and password. The application grants access
to users based upon authentication of user credentials by the appli-
cation and provides specific errors to the user when validation fails.
Step 2: Describe the Negative Scenario: Attacker breaks the au-
thentication through a brute force or dictionary attack of pass-
words and account harvesting vulnerabilities in the application.
The validation errors provide specific information to an attacker to
guess which accounts are actually valid registered accounts (user-
names). Then the attacker will try to brute force the password for
such a valid account. A brute force attack to four minimum length
all digit passwords can succeed with a limited number of attempts
(i.e., 10^4).
Step 3: Describe Functional and Negative Scenarios With Use and
Misuse Case: The graphical example in Figure below depicts the
derivation of security requirements via use and misuse cases. The
functional scenario consists of the user actions (enteringa user-
name and password) and the application actions (authenticating
the user and providing an error message if validation fails). The mis-
use case consists of the attacker actions, i.e. trying to break authen-
tication by brute forcing the password via a dictionary attack and by
guessing the valid usernames from error messages. By graphically
representing the threats to the user actions (misuses), it is possible
to derive the countermeasures as the application actions that mit-
igate such threats.
19
Enter
username
and
password
User
authentiction
Brute force
authentication
Show
generic
error
message
Harvest
(guess)
valid user
accounts
Look account
after N
failed login
attempts
Dictionary
attacks
Validate
password
minimum lenght
and complexity
Includes
Includes
Includes
Includes
USER
HACKER /
MALICIOUS
USER
APPLICATION /
SERVER
Step 4: Elicit The Security Requirements. In this case, the following
security requirements for authentication are derived:
1) Passwords need to be alphanumeric, lower and upper case and
minimum of seven character length
2) Accounts need to lockout after five unsuccessful log in attempt
3) Log in error messages need to be generic
These security requirements need to be documented and tested.
Security Tests Integrated in Development and
Testing Workflows
Security Testing in the Development Workflow
Security testing during the development phase of the SDLC rep-
resents the first opportunity for developers to ensure that the in-
dividual software components they have developed are security
tested before they are integrated with other components and built
into the application. Software components might consist of soft-
ware artifacts such as functions, methods, and classes, as well
as application programming interfaces, libraries, and executable
files. For security testing, developers can rely on the results of the
source code analysis to verify statically that the developed source
code does not include potential vulnerabilities and is compliant with
the secure coding standards. Security unit tests can further verify
dynamically (i.e., at run time) that the components function as ex-
pected. Before integrating both new and existing code changes in
Testing Guide Introduction
the application build, the results of the static and dynamic analysis
should be reviewed and validated.
The validation of source code before integration in application builds
is usually the responsibility of the senior developer. Such senior de-
velopers are also the subject matter experts in software security
and their role is to lead the secure code review. They must make de-
cisions on whether to accept the code to be released in the applica-
tion build or to require further changes and testing. This secure code
review workflow can be enforced via formal acceptance as well as a
check in a workflow management tool. For example, assuming the
typical defect management workflow used for functional bugs, se-
curity bugs that have been fixed by a developer can be reported on a
defect or change management system. The build master can look at
the test results reported by the developers in the tool and grant ap-
provals for checking in the code changes into the application build.
Security Testing in the Test Workflow
After components and code changes are tested by developers and
checked in to the application build, the most likely next step in the
software development process workflow is to perform tests on the
application as a whole entity. This level of testing is usually referred
to as integrated test and system level test. When security tests are
part of these testing activities they can be used to validate both the
security functionality of the application as a whole, as well as the
exposure to application level vulnerabilities.These security tests on
the application include both white box testing, such as source code
analysis, and black box testing, such as penetration testing. Gray
box testing is similar to Black box testing. In a gray box testing it
is assumed that the tester has some partial knowledge about the
session management of the application, and that should help in un-
derstanding whether the log out and timeout functions are properly
secured.
The target for the security tests is the complete system that will be
potentially attacked and includes both the whole source code and
the executable. One peculiarity of security testing during this phase
is that it is possible for security testers to determine whether vul-
nerabilities can be exploited and expose the application to real risks.
These include common web application vulnerabilities, as well as
security issues that have been identified earlier in the SDLC with
other activities such as threat modeling, source code analysis, and
secure code reviews.
Usually testing engineers, rather then software developers, per-
form security tests when the application is in scope for integration
system tests. Such testing engineers have security knowledge of
web application vulnerabilities, black box and white box security
testing techniques, and own the validation of security requirements
in this phase. In order to perform such security tests, it is a prerequi-
site that security test cases are documented in the security testing
guidelines and procedures.
A testing engineer who validates the security of the application in
the integrated system environment might release the application
for testing in the operational environment (e.g., user acceptance
tests). At this stage of the SDLC (i.e., validation), the application
functional testing is usually a responsibility of QA testers, while
white-hat hackers or security consultants are usually responsible
for security testing. Some organizations rely on their own special-
ized ethical hacking team to conduct such tests when a third party
20
Testing Guide Introduction
assessment is not required (such as for auditing purposes).
Since these tests are the last resort for fixing vulnerabilities be-
fore the application is released to production, it is important that
such issues are addressed as recommended by the testing team.
The recommendations can include code, design, or configuration
change. At this level, security auditors and information security of-
ficers discuss the reported security issues and analyze the potential
risks according to information risk management procedures. Such
procedures might require the development team to fix all high risk
vulnerabilities before the application can be deployed, unless such
risks are acknowledged and accepted.
Developers’ Security Tests
Security Testing in the Coding Phase: Unit Tests
From the developer’s perspective, the main objective of security
tests is to validate that code is being developed in compliance with
secure coding standards requirements. Developers’ own coding
artifacts (such as functions, methods, classes, APIs, and libraries)
need to be functionally validated before being integrated into the
application build.
The security requirements that developers have to follow should be
documented in secure coding standards and validated with static
and dynamic analysis. If the unit test activity follows a secure code
review, unit tests can validate that code changes required by se-
cure code reviews are properly implemented. Secure code reviews
and source code analysis through source code analysis tools help
developers in identifying security issues in source code as it is de-
veloped. By using unit tests and dynamic analysis (e.g., debugging)
developers can validate the security functionality of components as
well as verify that the countermeasures being developed mitigate
any security risks previously identified through threat modeling and
source code analysis.
A good practice for developers is to build security test cases as a
generic security test suite that is part of the existing unit testing
framework. A generic security test suite could be derived from pre-
viously defined use and misuse cases to security test functions,
methods and classes. A generic security test suite might include
security test cases to validate both positive and negative require-
ments for security controls such as:
• Identity, Authentication & Access Control
• Input Validation & Encoding
• Encryption
• User and Session Management
• Error and Exception Handling
• Auditing and Logging
Developers empowered with a source code analysis tool integrated
into their IDE, secure coding standards, and a security unit testing
framework can assess and verify the security of the software com-
ponents being developed. Security test cases can be run to identify
potential security issues that have root causes in source code: be-
sides input and output validation of parameters entering and exiting
the components, these issues include authentication and authori-
zation checks done by the component, protection of the data within
the component, secure exception and error handling, and secure
auditing and logging. Unit test frameworks such as Junit, Nunit,
and CUnit can be adapted to verify security test requirements. In
the case of security functional tests, unit level tests can test the
functionality of security controls at the software component lev-
el, such as functions, methods, or classes. For example, a test case
could validate input and output validation (e.g., variable sanitation)
and boundary checks for variables by asserting the expected func-
tionality of the component.
The threat scenarios identified with use and misuse cases can be
used to document the procedures for testing software compo-
nents. In the case of authentication components, for example, se-
curity unit tests can assert the functionality of setting an account
lockout as well as the fact that user input parameters cannot be
abused to bypass the account lockout (e.g., by setting the account
lockout counter to a negative number).
At the component level, security unit tests can validate positive as-
sertions as well as negative assertions, such as errors and excep-
tion handling. Exceptions should be caught without leaving the sys-
tem in an insecure state, such as potential denial of service caused
by resources not being de-allocated (e.g., connection handles not
closed within a final statement block), as well as potential elevation
of privileges (e.g., higher privileges acquired before the exception is
thrown and not re-set to the previous level before exiting the func-
tion). Secure error handling can validate potential information dis-
closure via informative error messages and stack traces.
Unit level security test cases can be developed by a security engi-
neer who is the subject matter expert in software security and is
also responsible for validating that the security issues in the source
code have been fixed and can be checked into the integrated system
build. Typically, the manager of the application builds also makes
sure that third-party libraries and executable files are security as-
sessed for potential vulnerabilities before being integrated in the
application build.
Threat scenarios for common vulnerabilities that have root causes
in insecure coding can also be documented in the developer’s se-
curity testing guide. When a fix is implemented for a coding defect
identified with source code analysis, for example, security test cas-
es can verify that the implementation of the code change follows
the secure coding requirements documented in the secure coding
standards.
Source code analysis and unit tests can validate that the code
change mitigates the vulnerability exposed by the previously iden-
tified coding defect. The results of automated secure code analysis
can also be used as automatic check-in gates for version control, for
example software artifacts cannot be checked into the build with
high or medium severity coding issues.
Functional Testers’ Security Tests
Security Testing During the Integration and Validation Phase:
Integrated System Tests and Operation Tests
The main objective of integrated system tests is to validate the “de-
fense in depth” concept, that is, that the implementation of secu-
rity controls provides security at different layers. For example, the
lack of input validation when calling a component integrated with
the application is often a factor that can be tested with integration
testing.
The integration system test environment is also the first environ-
21
ment where testers can simulate real attack scenarios as can be
potentially executed by a malicious external or internal user of the
application. Security testing at this level can validate whether vul-
nerabilities are real and can be exploited by attackers. For example,
a potential vulnerability found in source code can be rated as high
risk because of the exposure to potential malicious users, as well
as because of the potential impact (e.g., access to confidential in-
formation).
Real attack scenarios can be tested with both manual testing tech-
niques and penetration testing tools. Security tests of this type are
also referred to as ethical hacking tests. From the security testing
perspective, these are risk driven tests and have the objective of
testing the application in the operational environment. The target
is the application build that is representative of the version of the
application being deployed into production.
Including security testing in the integration and validation phase
is critical to identifying vulnerabilities due to integration of com-
ponents as well as validating the exposure of such vulnerabil-
ities. Application security testing requires a specialized set of
skills, including both software and security knowledge, that are
not typical of security engineers.As a result organizations are of-
ten required to security-train their software developers on ethical
hacking techniques, security assessment procedures and tools.
A realistic scenario is to develop such resources in-house and
document them in security testing guides and procedures that
take into account the developer’s security testing knowledge.
A so called “security test cases cheat list or check-list”, for example,
can provide simple test cases and attack vectors that can be used
by testers to validate exposure to common vulnerabilities such as
spoofing, information disclosures, buffer overflows, format strings,
SQL injection and XSS injection, XML, SOAP, canonicalization issues,
denial of service and managed code and ActiveX controls (e.g., .NET).
A first battery of these tests can be performed manually with a very
basic knowledge of software security.
The first objective of security tests might be the validation of a set
of minimum security requirements. These security test cases might
consist of manually forcing the application into error and exception-
al states and gathering knowledge from the application behavior.
For example, SQL injection vulnerabilities can be tested manually by
injecting attack vectors through user input and by checking if SQL
exceptions are thrown back the user. The evidence of a SQL excep-
tion error might be a manifestation of a vulnerability that can be
exploited.
A more in-depth security test might require the tester’s knowl-
edge of specialized testing techniques and tools. Besides source
code analysis and penetration testing, these techniques include, for
example, source code and binary fault injection, fault propagation
analysis and code coverage, fuzz testing, and reverse engineering.
The security testing guide should provide procedures and recom-
mend tools that can be used by security testers to perform such
in-depth security assessments.
The next level of security testing after integration system tests is to
perform security tests in the user acceptance environment. There
are unique advantages to performing security tests in the opera-
tional environment. The user acceptance tests environment (UAT)
is the one that is most representative of the release configuration,
with the exception of the data (e.g., test data is used in place of real
data). A characteristic of security testing in UAT is testing for secu-
rity configuration issues. In some cases these vulnerabilities might
represent high risks. For example, the server that hosts the web
application might not be configured with minimum privileges, valid
SSL certificate and secure configuration, essential services disabled
and web root directory not cleaned from test and administration
web pages.
Security Test Data Analysis and Reporting
Goals for Security Test Metrics and Measurements
Defining the goals for the security testing metrics and measure-
ments is a prerequisite for using security testing data for risk anal-
ysis and management processes. For example, a measurement
such as the total number of vulnerabilities found with security tests
might quantify the security posture of the application. These mea-
surements also help to identify security objectives for software se-
curity testing.For example, reducing the number of vulnerabilities to
an acceptable number (minimum) before the application is deployed
into production.
Another manageable goal could be to compare the application
security posture against a baseline to assess improvements in
application security processes. For example, the security metrics
baseline might consist of an application that was tested only with
penetration tests. The security data obtained from an application
that was also security tested during coding should show an im-
provement (e.g., fewer number of vulnerabilities) when compared
with the baseline.
In traditional software testing, the number of software defects,
such as the bugs found in an application, could provide a measure of
software quality. Similarly, security testing can provide a measure
of software security. From the defect management and reporting
perspective, software quality and security testing can use similar
categorizations for root causes and defect remediation efforts.
From the root cause perspective, a security defect can be due to an
error in design (e.g., security flaws) or due to an error in coding (e.g.,
security bug). From the perspective of the effort required to fix a
defect, both security and quality defects can be measured in terms
of developer hours to implement the fix, the tools and resources
required to fix, and the cost to implement the fix.
A characteristic of security test data, compared to quality data,
is the categorization in terms of the threat, the exposure of
the vulnerability, and the potential impact posed by the vul-
nerability to determine the risk. Testing applications for se-
curity consists of managing technical risks to make sure that
the application countermeasures meet acceptable levels.
For this reason, security testing data needs to support the securi-
ty risk strategy at critical checkpoints during the SDLC.
For example, vulnerabilities found in source code with source code
analysis represent an initial measure of risk. A measure of risk
(e.g., high, medium, low) for the vulnerability can be calculated by
determining the exposure and likelihood factors and by validating
the vulnerability with penetration tests. The risk metrics associat-
ed to vulnerabilities found with security tests empower business
management to make risk management decisions, such as to de-
cide whether risks can be accepted, mitigated, or transferred at
different levels within the organization (e.g., business as well as
technical risks).
Testing Guide Introduction
22
When evaluating the security posture of an application it is im-
portant to take into consideration certain factors, such as the
size of the application being developed. Application size has
been statistically proven to be related to the number of issues
found in the application during testing. One measure of applica-
tion size is the number of lines of code (LOC) of the application.
Typically, software quality defects range from about 7 to 10 defects
per thousand lines of new and changed code [21]. Since testing
can reduce the overall number by about 25% with one test alone,
it is logical for larger size applications to be tested more often than
smaller size applications.
When security testing is done in several phases of the SDLC, the
test data can prove the capability of the security tests in detect-
ing vulnerabilities as soon as they are introduced. The test data can
also prove the effectiveness of removing the vulnerabilities by im-
plementing countermeasures at different checkpoints of the SDLC.
A measurement of this type is also defined as “contain-
ment metrics” and provides a measure of the ability of a se-
curity assessment performed at each phase of the devel-
opment process to maintain security within each phase.
These containment metrics are also a critical factor in lowering the
cost of fixing the vulnerabilities. It is less expensive to deal with
vulnerabilities in the same phase of the SDLC that they are found,
rather then fixing them later in another phase.
Security test metrics can support security risk, cost, and defect
management analysis when they are associated with tangible and
timed goals such as:
• Reducing the overall number of vulnerabilities by 30%
• Fixing security issues by a certain deadline (e.g., before beta
release)
Security test data can be absolute, such as the number of vulnera-
bilities detected during manual code review, as well as comparative,
such as the number of vulnerabilities detected in code reviews com-
pared to penetration tests. To answer questions about the quality
of the security process, it is important to determine a baseline for
what could be considered acceptable and good. Security test data
can also support specific objectives of the security analysis. These
objects could be compliance with security regulations and informa-
tion security standards, management of security processes, the
identification of security root causes and process improvements,
and security cost benefit analysis.
When security test data is reported it has to provide metrics to sup-
port the analysis. The scope of the analysis is the interpretation of
test data to find clues about the security of the software being pro-
duced as well the effectiveness of the process.
Some examples of clues supported by security test data can be:
• Are vulnerabilities reduced to an acceptable level for release?
• How does the security quality of this product compare with
similar software products?
• Are all security test requirements being met?
• What are the major root causes of security issues?
• How numerous are security flaws compared to security bugs?
• Which security activity is most effective in finding vulnerabilities?
• Which team is more productive in fixing security defects
and vulnerabilities?
• Which percentage of overall vulnerabilities are high risk?
Which tools are most effective in detecting security vulnerabilities?
• Which kind of security tests are most effective in finding
vulnerabilities (e.g., white box vs. black box) tests?
• How many security issues are found during secure code reviews?
• How many security issues are found during secure design
reviews?
In order to make a sound judgment using the testing data, it is im-
portant to have a good understanding of the testing process as well
as the testing tools. A tool taxonomy should be adopted to decide
which security tools to use. Security tools can be qualified as being
good at finding common known vulnerabilities targeting different
artifacts.
The issue is that the unknown security issues are not tested. The fact
that a security test is clear of issues does not mean that the software
or application is good. Some studies [22] have demonstrated that, at
best, tools can only find 45% of overall vulnerabilities.
Even the most sophisticated automation tools are not a match for
an experienced security tester. Just relying on successful test re-
sults from automation tools will give security practitioners a false
sense of security.Typically, the more experienced the security tes-
ters are with the security testing methodology and testing tools,
the better the results of the security test and analysis will be. It is
important that managers making an investment in security testing
tools also consider an investment in hiring skilled human resources
as well as security test training.
Reporting Requirements
The security posture of an application can be characterized from the
perspective of the effect, such as number of vulnerabilities and the
risk rating of the vulnerabilities, as well as from the perspective of
the cause or origin, such as coding errors, architectural flaws, and
configuration issues.
Vulnerabilities can be classified according to different criteria.
The most commonly used vulnerability severity metric is the Forum
of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) Common Vulner-
ability Scoring System (CVSS), which is currently in release version 2
with version 3 due for release shortly.
When reporting security test data the best practice is to include the
following information:
• The categorization of each vulnerability by type
• The security threat that the issue is exposed to
The root cause of security issues (e.g., security bugs, security flaw)
• The testing technique used to find the issue
• The remediation of the vulnerability (e.g., the countermeasure)
• The severity rating of the vulnerability (High, Medium, Low and/
or CVSS score)
By describing what the security threat is, it will be possible to un-
derstand if and why the mitigation control is ineffective in mitigat-
ing the threat.
Reporting the root cause of the issue can help pinpoint what
needs to be fixed. In the case of a white box testing, for example,
the software security root cause of the vulnerability will be the
Testing Guide Introduction
23
offending source code.
Once issues are reported, it is also important to provide guidance to
the software developer on how to re-test and find the vulnerability.
This might involve using a white box testing technique (e.g., security
code review with a static code analyzer) to find if the code is vulnera-
ble. If a vulnerability can be found via a black box technique (penetra-
tion test), the test report also needs to provide information on how to
validate the exposure of the vulnerability to the front end (e.g., client).
The information about how to fix the vulnerability should be de-
tailed enough for a developer to implement a fix. It should provide
secure coding examples, configuration changes, and provide ade-
quate references.
Finally, the severity rating contributes to the calculation of risk rat-
ing and helps to prioritize the remediation effort. Typically, assigning
a risk rating to the vulnerability involves external risk analysis based
upon factors such as impact and exposure.
Business Cases
For the security test metrics to be useful, they need to provide val-
ue back to the organization’s security test data stakeholders. The
stakeholders can include project managers, developers, information
security offices, auditors, and chief information officers. The value
can be in terms of the business case that each project stakeholder
has in terms of role and responsibility.
Software developers look at security test data to show that software
is coded more securely and efficiently. This allows them to make the
case for using source code analysis tools as well as following secure
coding standards and attending software security training.
Project managers look for data that allows them to successfully
manage and utilize security testing activities and resources accord-
ing to the project plan. To project managers, security test data can
show that projects are on schedule and moving on target for deliv-
ery dates and are getting better during tests.
Security test data also helps the business case for security testing
if the initiative comes from information security officers (ISOs). For
example, it can provide evidence that security testing during the SDLC
does not impact the project delivery, but rather reduces the overall
workload needed to address vulnerabilities later in production.
To compliance auditors, security test metrics provide a level of
software security assurance and confidence that security standard
compliance is addressed through the security review processes
within the organization.
Finally, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Information Secu-
rity Officers (CISOs), who are responsible for the budget that needs to
be allocated in security resources, look for derivation of a cost benefit
analysis from security test data.This allows them to make informed
decisions on which security activities and tools to invest. One of the
metrics that supports such analysis is the Return On Investment
(ROI) in Security [23]. To derive such metrics from security test data,
it is important to quantify the differential between the risk due to the
exposure of vulnerabilities and the effectiveness of the security tests
in mitigating the security risk, and factor this gap with the cost of the
security testing activity or the testing tools adopted.
Testing Guide Introduction
References
[1] T. DeMarco, Controlling Software Projects: Management,
Measurement and Estimation, Yourdon Press, 1982
[2] S. Payne, A Guide to Security Metrics - http://www.sans.org/
reading_room/whitepapers/auditing/55.php
[3] NIST, The economic impacts of inadequate infrastructure for
software testing - http://www.nist.gov/director/planning/upload/
report02-3.pdf
[4] Ross Anderson, Economics and Security Resource Page -
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/econsec.html
[5] Denis Verdon, Teaching Developers To Fish - OWASP AppSec
NYC 2004
[6] Bruce Schneier, Cryptogram Issue #9 - https://www.schneier.
com/crypto-gram-0009.html
[7 Symantec, Threat Reports - http://www.symantec.com/
security_response/publications/threatreport.jsp
[8] FTC, The Gramm-Leach Bliley Act - http://business.ftc.gov/
privacy-and-security/gramm-leach-bliley-act
[9] Senator Peace and Assembly Member Simitian, SB 1386-
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/01-02/bill/sen/sb_1351-1400/
sb_1386_bill_20020926_chaptered.html
[10] European Union, Directive 96/46/EC on the protection of
individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and
on the free movement of such data - http://ec.europa.eu/justice/
policies/privacy/docs/95-46-ce/dir1995-46_part1_en.pdf
[11] NIST, Risk management guide for information technology
systems - http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-30-rev1/
sp800_30_r1.pdf
[12] SEI, Carnegie Mellon, Operationally Critical Threat, Asset,
and Vulnerability Evaluation (OCTAVE) - http://www.cert.org/
octave/
[13] Ken Thompson, Reflections on Trusting Trust, Reprinted
from Communication of the ACM - http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/
ken/trust.html
[14] Gary McGraw, Beyond the Badness-ometer - http://www.
drdobbs.com/security/beyond-the-badness-ometer/189500001
[15] FFIEC, Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment -
http://www.ffiec.gov/pdf/authentication_guidance.pdf
[16] PCI Security Standards Council, PCI Data Security Standard
- https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/index.
php
[17] MSDN, Cheat Sheet: Web Application Security Frame -
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms978518.
aspx#tmwacheatsheet_webappsecurityframe
[18] MSDN, Improving Web Application Security, Chapter 2,
Threat And Countermeasures - http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/
library/aa302418.aspx
[19] Sindre,G. Opdmal A., Capturing Security Requirements
Through Misuse Cases ‘ - http://folk.uio.no/nik/2001/21-sindre.
pdf
[20] Improving Security Across the Software Development
Lifecycle Task Force, Referred Data from Caper Johns, Software
Assessments, Benchmarks and Best Practices - http://www.
criminal-justice-careers.com/resources/SDLCFULL.pdf
[21] MITRE, Being Explicit About Weaknesses, Slide 30,
Coverage of CWE - http://cwe.mitre.org/documents/being-explicit/
BlackHatDC_BeingExplicit_Slides.ppt
[22] Marco Morana, Building Security Into The Software Life
Cycle, A Business Case - http://www.blackhat.com/presentations/
bh-usa-06/bh-us-06-Morana-R3.0.pdf
24
This section describes a typical testing framework that can be
developed within an organization. It can be seen as a reference
framework that comprises techniques and tasks that are
appropriate at various phases of the software development life
cycle (SDLC).
3The OWASP Testing Framework
The OWASP Testing Framework
Overview
This section describes a typical testing framework that can be de-
veloped within an organization. It can be seen as a reference frame-
work that comprises techniques and tasks that are appropriate at
various phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Com-
panies and project teams can use this model to develop their own
testing framework and to scope testing services from vendors. This
framework should not be seen as prescriptive, but as a flexible ap-
proach that can be extended and molded to fit an organization’s
development process and culture.
This section aims to help organizations build a complete strategic
testing process, and is not aimed at consultants or contractors who
tend to be engaged in more tactical, specific areas of testing.
It is critical to understand why building an end-to-end testing
framework is crucial to assessing and improving software security.
In Writing Secure Code Howard and LeBlanc note that issuing a se-
curity bulletin costs Microsoft at least $100,000, and it costs their
customers collectively far more than that to implement the security
patches. They also note that the US government’s CyberCrime web
site (http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/) details recent
criminal cases and the loss to organizations. Typical losses far ex-
ceed USD $100,000.
With economics like this, it is little wonder why software vendors
move from solely performing black box security testing, which can
only be performed on applications that have already been devel-
oped, to concentrate on testing in the early cycles of application
development such as definition, design, and development.
Many security practitioners still see security testing in the realm of
penetration testing. As discussed before, while penetration testing
has a role to play, it is generally inefficient at finding bugs and relies
excessively on the skill of the tester. It should only be considered as
an implementation technique, or to raise awareness of production
issues. To improve the security of applications, the security quality
of the software must be improved. That means testing the security
at the definition, design, develop, deploy, and maintenance stages,
and not relying on the costly strategy of waiting until code is com-
pletely built.
As discussed in the introduction of this document, there are many
development methodologies such as the Rational Unified Process,
eXtreme and Agile development, and traditional waterfall method-
ologies. The intent of this guide is to suggest neither a particular de-
velopment methodology nor provide specific guidance that adheres
to any particular methodology. Instead, we are presenting a generic
development model, and the reader should follow it according to
their company process.
This testing framework consists of the following activities that
should take place:
• Before development begins
• During definition and design
• During development
• During deployment
• Maintenance and operations
Phase 1: Before Development Begins
Phase 1.1: Define a SDLC
Before application development starts an adequate SDLC must be
defined where security is inherent at each stage.
Phase 1.2: Review Policies and Standards
Ensure that there are appropriate policies, standards, and documen-
tation in place. Documentation is extremely important as it gives de-
velopment teams guidelines and policies that they can follow.
People can only do the right thing if they know what the right thing is.
If the application is to be developed in Java, it is essential that there
is a Java secure coding standard. If the application is to use cryptog-
raphy, it is essential that there is a cryptography standard. No pol-
icies or standards can cover every situation that the development
team will face. By documenting the common and predictable issues,
there will be fewer decisions that need to be made during the de-
velopment process.
Phase 1.3: Develop Measurement and Metrics Criteria and Ensure
Traceability
Before development begins, plan the measurement program. By
defining criteria that need to be measured, it provides visibility into
defects in both the process and product. It is essential to define
the metrics before development begins, as there may be a need to
modify the process in order to capture the data.
Phase 2: During Definition and Design
Phase 2.1: Review Security Requirements
Security requirements define how an application works from a se-
curity perspective. It is essential that the security requirements are
tested. Testing in this case means testing the assumptions that are
made in the requirements and testing to see if there are gaps in the
requirements definitions.
For example, if there is a security requirement that states that users
must be registered before they can get access to the whitepapers
25
section of a website, does this mean that the user must be regis-
tered with the system or should the user be authenticated? Ensure
that requirements are as unambiguous as possible.
When looking for requirements gaps, consider looking at security
mechanisms such as:
• User Management
• Authentication
• Authorization
• Data Confidentiality
• Integrity
• Accountability
• Session Management
• Transport Security
• Tiered System Segregation
• Legislative and standards compliance (including Privacy,
Government and Industry standards)
Phase 2.2: Review Design and Architecture
Applications should have a documented design and architecture.
This documentation can include models, textual documents, and
other similar artifacts. It is essential to test these artifacts to ensure
that the design and architecture enforce the appropriate level of se-
curity as defined in the requirements.
Identifying security flaws in the design phase is not only one of the
most cost-efficient places to identify flaws, but can be one of the
most effective places to make changes. For example, if it is identi-
fied that the design calls for authorization decisions to be made in
multiple places, it may be appropriate to consider a central autho-
rization component. If the application is performing data validation
at multiple places, it may be appropriate to develop a central valida-
tion framework (ie, fixing input validation in one place, rather than in
hundreds of places, is far cheaper).
If weaknesses are discovered, they should be given to the system
architect for alternative approaches.
Phase 2.3: Create and Review UML Models
Once the design and architecture is complete, build Unified
Modeling Language (UML) models that describe how the ap-
plication works. In some cases, these may already be available.
Use these models to confirm with the systems designers an exact
understanding of how the application works. If weaknesses are dis-
covered, they should be given to the system architect for alternative
approaches.
Phase 2.4: Create and Review Threat Models
Armed with design and architecture reviews and the UML models
explaining exactly how the system works, undertake a threat mod-
eling exercise. Develop realistic threat scenarios. Analyze the design
and architecture to ensure that these threats have been mitigated,
accepted by the business, or assigned to a third party, such as an
insurance firm. When identified threats have no mitigation strate-
gies, revisit the design and architecture with the systems architect
to modify the design.
Phase 3: During Development
Theoretically, development is the implementation of a design. How-
ever, in the real world, many design decisions are made during code
development. These are often smaller decisions that were either too
detailed to be described in the design, or issues where no policy or
standard guidance was offered. If the design and architecture were
not adequate, the developer will be faced with many decisions. If
there were insufficient policies and standards, the developer will be
faced with even more decisions.
Phase 3.1: Code Walk Through
The security team should perform a code walk through with the
developers, and in some cases, the system architects. A code walk
through is a high-level walk through of the code where the devel-
opers can explain the logic and flow of the implemented code. It al-
lows the code review team to obtain a general understanding of the
code, and allows the developers to explain why certain things were
developed the way they were.
The purpose is not to perform a code review, but to understand at
a high level the flow, the layout, and the structure of the code that
makes up the application.
Phase 3.2: Code Reviews
Armed with a good understanding of how the code is structured
and why certain things were coded the way they were, the tester
can now examine the actual code for security defects.
Static code reviews validate the code against a set of checklists,
icluding:
• Business requirements for availability, confidentiality, and
integrity.
• OWASP Guide or Top 10 Checklists for technical exposures
(depending on the depth of the review).
• Specific issues relating to the language or framework in use, such
as the Scarlet paper for PHP or Microsoft Secure Coding checklists
for ASP.NET.
• Any industry specific requirements, such as Sarbanes-Oxley 404,
COPPA, ISO/IEC 27002, APRA, HIPAA, Visa Merchant guidelines,
or other regulatory regimes.
In terms of return on resources invested (mostly time), static code
reviews produce far higher quality returns than any other security
review method and rely least on the skill of the reviewer. However,
they are not a silver bullet and need to be considered carefully with-
in a full-spectrum testing regime.
For more details on OWASP checklists, please refer to OWASP Guide
for Secure Web Applications, or the latest edition of the OWASP Top 10.
Phase 4: During Deployment
Phase 4.1: Application Penetration Testing
Having tested the requirements, analyzed the design, and per-
formed code review, it might be assumed that all issues have been
caught. Hopefully this is the case, but penetration testing the ap-
plication after it has been deployed provides a last check to ensure
that nothing has been missed.
Phase 4.2: Configuration Management Testing
The application penetration test should include the checking of how
the infrastructure was deployed and secured. While the application
may be secure, a small aspect of the configuration could still be at a
default install stage and vulnerable to exploitation.
The OWASP Testing Framework
26
The OWASP Testing Framework
Phase 5: Maintenance and Operations
Phase 5.1: Conduct Operational Management Reviews
There needs to be a process in place which details how the oper-
ational side of both the application and infrastructure is managed.
Phase 5.2: Conduct Periodic Health Checks
Monthly or quarterly health checks should be performed on both
the application and infrastructure to ensure no new security risks
have been introduced and that the level of security is still intact.
OWASP TESTING FRAMEWORK WORK FLOW
Before
Development
Policy Review
Review SDLC
Process
Standards
Review
Definition
and Design
Metrics
Criteria
Measurement
Traceability
Requirements
Review
Design and
Architecture
Review
Create /
Review UML
models
Create /
Review Threat
Models
Development Code Review Code
Walkthroughs
Unit and
System tests
Deployment Penetration
Testing
Configuration
Management
Reviews
Unit and
System tests
Acceptance
Tests
Maintenance Chance
verification Health Checks
Operational
Management
reviews
Regression
Tests
Phase 5.3: Ensure Change Verification
After every change has been approved and tested in the QA envi-
ronment and deployed into the production environment, it is vital
that the change is checked to ensure that the level of security has
not been affected by the change. This should be integrated into the
change management process.
A Typical SDLC Testing Workflow
The following figure shows a typical SDLC Testing Workflow.
27
Testing: Introduction and objectives
This section describes the OWASP web application security testing
methodology and explains how to test for evidence of vulnerabilities
within the application due to deficiencies with identified security con-
trols.
What is Web Application Security Testing?
A security test is a method of evaluating the security of a computer
system or network by methodically validating and verifying the effec-
tiveness of application security controls. A web application security
test focuses only on evaluating the security of a web application. The
process involves an active analysis of the application for any weak-
nesses, technical flaws, or vulnerabilities. Any security issues that are
found will be presented to the system owner, together with an as-
sessment of the impact, a proposal for mitigation or a technical solu-
tion.
What is a Vulnerability?
A vulnerability is a flaw or weakness in a system’s design, implemen-
tation, operation or management that could be exploited to compro-
mise the system’s security objectives.
What is a Threat?
A threat is anything (a malicious external attacker, an internal user, a
system instability, etc) that may harm the assets owned by an appli-
cation (resources of value, such as the data in a database or in the file
system) by exploiting a vulnerability.
What is a Test?
A test is an action to demonstrate that an application meets the secu-
rity requirements of its stakeholders.
The Approach in Writing this Guide
The OWASP approach is open and collaborative:
Open: every security expert can participate with his or her experience
in the project. Everything is free.
• Collaborative: brainstorming is performed before the articles are
written so the team can share ideas and develop a collective vision
of the project. That means rough consensus, a wider audience and
increased participation.
This approach tends to create a defined Testing Methodology that
will be:
• Consistent
• Reproducible
• Rigorous
• Under quality control
The problems to be addressed are fully documented and tested. It is
important to use a method to test all known vulnerabilities and docu-
ment all the security test activities.
What is the OWASP testing methodology?
Security testing will never be an exact science where a complete list
of all possible issues that should be tested can be defined. Indeed,
security testing is only an appropriate technique for testing the secu-
rity of web applications under certain circumstances. The goal of this
project is to collect all the possible testing techniques, explain these
techniques, and keep the guide updated. The OWASP Web Application
Security Testing method is based on the black box approach. The tes-
ter knows nothing or has very little information about the application
to be tested.
The testing model consists of:
• Tester: Who performs the testing activities
• Tools and methodology: The core of this Testing Guide project
• Application: The black box to test
The test is divided into 2 phases:
Phase 1 Passive mode:
In the passive mode the tester tries to understand the application’s
logic and plays with the application. Tools can be used for informa-
tion gathering. For example, an HTTP proxy can be used to observe all
the HTTP requests and responses. At the end of this phase, the tester
should understand all the access points (gates) of the application (e.g.,
HTTP headers, parameters, and cookies). The Information Gathering
section explains how to perform a passive mode test.
For example the tester could find the following:
This may indicate an authentication form where the application re-
quests a username and a password.
The following parameters represent two access points (gates) to the
application:
In this case, the application shows two gates (parameters a and b). All
the gates found in this phase represent a point of testing. A spread-
sheet with the directory tree of the application and all the access
points would be useful for the second phase.
Web Application Penetration Testing
The following sections describe the 12
subcategories of the Web Application
Penetration Testing Methodology:
4Web Application
Security Testing
https://www.example.com/login/Authentic_Form.html
http://www.example.com/Appx.jsp?a=1&b=1
28
Web Application Penetration Testing
Phase 2 Active mode:
In this phase the tester begins to test using the methodology de-
scribed in the follow sections.
The set of active tests have been split into 11 sub-categories for a
total of 91 controls:
• Information Gathering
• Configuration and Deployment Management Testing
• Identity Management Testing
• Authentication Testing
• Authorization Testing
• Session Management Testing
• Input Validation Testing
• Error Handling
• Cryptography
• Business Logic Testing
• Client Side Testing
Testing for Information Gathering
Understanding the deployed configuration of the server hosting the
web application is almost as important as the application securi-
ty testing itself. After all, an application chain is only as strong as its
weakest link. Application platforms are wide and varied, but some key
platform configuration errors can compromise the application in the
same way an unsecured application can compromise the server.
Conduct search engine discovery/reconnaissance
for information leakage (OTG-INFO-001)
Summary
There are direct and indirect elements to search engine discovery
and reconnaissance. Direct methods relate to searching the indexes
and the associated content from caches. Indirect methods relate to
gleaning sensitive design and configuration information by searching
forums, newsgroups, and tendering websites.
Once a search engine robot has completed crawling, it commences in-
dexing the web page based on tags and associated attributes, such as
<TITLE>, in order to return the relevant search results [1]. If the robots.
txt file is not updated during the lifetime of the web site, and inline
HTML meta tags that instruct robots not to index content have not
been used, then it is possible for indexes to contain web content not
intended to be included in by the owners. Website owners may use
the previously mentioned robots.txt, HTML meta tags, authentication,
and tools provided by search engines to remove such content.
Test Objectives
To understand what sensitive design and configuration information of
the application/system/organization is exposed both directly (on the
organization’s website) or indirectly (on a third party website).
How to Test
Use a search engine to search for:
• Network diagrams and configurations
• Archived posts and emails by administrators and other key staff
• Log on procedures and username formats
• Usernames and passwords
• Error message content
• Development, test, UAT and staging versions of the website
site:owasp.org
Search operators
Using the advanced “site:” search operator, it is possible to restrict
search results to a specific domain [2]. Do not limit testing to just
one search engine provider as they may generate different results
depending on when they crawled content and their own algorithms.
Consider using the following search engines:
• Baidu
• binsearch.info
• Bing
• Duck Duck Go
• ixquick/Startpage
• Google
• Shodan
• PunkSpider
Duck Duck Go and ixquick/Startpage provide reduced information
leakage about the tester.
Google provides the Advanced “cache:” search operator [2], but this
is the equivalent to clicking the “Cached” next to each Google Search
Result. Hence, the use of the Advanced “site:” Search Operator and
then clicking “Cached” is preferred.
The Google SOAP Search API supports the doGetCachedPage and the
associated doGetCachedPageResponse SOAP Messages [3] to assist
with retrieving cached pages. An implementation of this is under de-
velopment by the OWASP “Google Hacking” Project.
PunkSpider is web application vulnerability search engine. It is of lit-
tle use for a penetration tester doing manual work. However it can
be useful as demonstration of easiness of finding vulnerabilities by
script-kiddies.
Example To find the web content of owasp.org indexed by a typical
search engine, the syntax required is:
To display the index.html of owasp.org as cached, the syntax is:
cache:owasp.org
29
There are several different vendors and versions of web servers on
the market today. Knowing the type of web server that is being test-
ed significantly helps in the testing process and can also change the
course of the test.
This information can be derived by sending the web server specific
commands and analyzing the output, as each version of web server
software may respond differently to these commands. By knowing
how each type of web server responds to specific commands and
keeping this information in a web server fingerprint database, a pen-
etration tester can send these commands to the web server, analyze
the response, and compare it to the database of known signatures.
Please note that it usually takes several different commands to accu-
rately identify the web server, as different versions may react similarly
to the same command. Rarely do different versions react the same to
all HTTP commands. So by sending several different commands, the
tester can increase the accuracy of their guess.
Test Objectives
Find the version and type of a running web server to determine known
vulnerabilities and the appropriate exploits to use during testing.
How to Test
Black Box testing
The simplest and most basic form of identifying a web server is to look
at the Server field in the HTTP response header. Netcat is used in this
experiment.
Consider the following HTTP Request-Response:
From the Server field, one can understand that the server is likely
Apache, version 1.3.3, running on Linux operating system.
Four examples of the HTTP response headers are shown below.
From an Apache 1.3.23 server:
$ nc 202.41.76.251 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 02:53:29 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.3 (Unix) (Red Hat/Linux)
Last-Modified: Wed, 07 Oct 1998 11:18:14 GMT
ETag: “1813-49b-361b4df6”
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 1179
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 17:10: 49 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.23
Last-Modified: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 03:48: 19 GMT
ETag: 32417-c4-3e5d8a83
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 196
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/HTML
Web Application Penetration Testing
Google Hacking Database
The Google Hacking Database is list of useful search queries for Goo-
gle. Queries are put in several categories:
• Footholds
• Files containing usernames
• Sensitive Directories
• Web Server Detection
• Vulnerable Files
• Vulnerable Servers
• Error Messages
• Files containing juicy info
• Files containing passwords
• Sensitive Online Shopping Info
Tools
[4] FoundStone SiteDigger: http://www.mcafee.com/uk/downloads/
free-tools/sitedigger.aspx
[5] Google Hacker: http://yehg.net/lab/pr0js/files.php/googlehacker.
zip
[6] Stach & Liu’s Google Hacking Diggity Project: http://www.stach-
liu.com/resources/tools/google-hacking-diggity-project/
[7] PunkSPIDER: http://punkspider.hyperiongray.com/
References
Web
[1] “Google Basics: Learn how Google Discovers, Crawls, and
Serves Web Pages” - https://support.google.com/webmasters/an-
swer/70897
[2] “Operators and More Search Help”: https://support.google.com/
websearch/answer/136861?hl=en
[3] “Google Hacking Database”: http://www.exploit-db.com/goo-
gle-dorks/
Remediation
Carefully consider the sensitivity of design and configuration informa-
tion before it is posted online.
Periodically review the sensitivity of existing design and configuration
information that is posted online.
Fingerprint Web Server (OTG-INFO-002)
Summary
Web server fingerprinting is a critical task for the penetration tester.
Knowing the version and type of a running web server allows testers
to determine known vulnerabilities and the appropriate exploits to use
during testing.
30
403 HTTP/1.1 Forbidden
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 02:41: 27 GMT
Server: Unknown-Webserver/1.0
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/HTML; charset=iso-8859-1
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Expires: Yours, 17 Jun 2003 01:41: 33 GMT
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 01:41: 33 GMT
Content-Type: text/HTML
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Last-Modified: Wed, 28 May 2003 15:32: 21 GMT
ETag: b0aac0542e25c31: 89d
Content-Length: 7369
$ nc apache.example.com 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 17:10: 49 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.23
Last-Modified: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 03:48: 19 GMT
ETag: 32417-c4-3e5d8a83
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 196
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/HTML
$ nc iis.example.com 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Content-Location: http://iis.example.com/Default.htm
Date: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 20:13: 52 GMT
Content-Type: text/HTML
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Last-Modified: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 20:13: 52 GMT
ETag: W/e0d362a4c335be1: ae1
Content-Length: 133
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Netscape-Enterprise/4.1
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 06:19: 04 GMT
Content-type: text/HTML
Last-modified: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 15:37: 56 GMT
Content-length: 57
Accept-ranges: bytes
Connection: close
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Sun-ONE-Web-Server/6.1
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 14:53:45 GMT
Content-length: 1186
Content-type: text/html
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 14:50:31 GMT
Last-Modified: Wed, 10 Jan 2007 09:58:26 GMT
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Connection: close
Web Application Penetration Testing
However, this testing methodology is limited in accuracy. There are
several techniques that allow a web site to obfuscate or to modify the
server banner string. For example one could obtain the following an-
swer:
In this case, the server field of that response is obfuscated. The tes-
ter cannot know what type of web server is running based on such
information.
Protocol Behavior
More refined techniques take in consideration various characteristics
of the several web servers available on the market. Below is a list of
some methodologies that allow testers to deduce the type of web
From a Microsoft IIS 5.0 server:
From a Netscape Enterprise 4.1 server:
From a SunONE 6.1 server:
server in use.
HTTP header field ordering
The first method consists of observing the ordering of the several
headers in the response. Every web server has an inner ordering of the
header. Consider the following answers as an example:
Response from Apache 1.3.23
Response from IIS 5.0
Response from Netscape Enterprise 4.1
$ nc netscape.example.com 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Netscape-Enterprise/4.1
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 06:01: 40 GMT
Content-type: text/HTML
Last-modified: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 15:37: 56 GMT
Content-length: 57
Accept-ranges: bytes
Connection: close
31
Response from a SunONE 6.1
We can notice that the ordering of the Date field and the Server field
differs between Apache, Netscape Enterprise, and IIS.
Malformed requests test
Another useful test to execute involves sending malformed requests
or requests of nonexistent pages to the server. Consider the following
HTTP responses.
Response from Apache 1.3.23
Response from IIS 5.0
Response from Netscape Enterprise 4.1
$ nc iis.example.com 80
GET / HTTP/3.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Content-Location: http://iis.example.com/Default.htm
Date: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 20:14: 02 GMT
Content-Type: text/HTML
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Last-Modified: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 20:14: 02 GMT
ETag: W/e0d362a4c335be1: ae1
Content-Length: 133
$ nc apache.example.com 80
GET / JUNK/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 17:17: 47 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.23
Last-Modified: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 03:48: 19 GMT
ETag: 32417-c4-3e5d8a83
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 196
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/HTML
$ nc iis.example.com 80
GET / JUNK/1.0
HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Date: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 20:14: 34 GMT
Content-Type: text/HTML
Content-Length: 87
$ nc netscape.example.com 80
GET / HTTP/3.0
$ nc sunone.example.com 80
GET / HTTP/3.0
HTTP/1.1 400 Bad request
Server: Sun-ONE-Web-Server/6.1
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 15:25:00 GMT
Content-length: 0
Content-type: text/html
Connection: close
$ nc sunone.example.com 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Sun-ONE-Web-Server/6.1
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 15:23:37 GMT
Content-length: 0
Content-type: text/html
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 15:20:26 GMT
Last-Modified: Wed, 10 Jan 2007 09:58:26 GMT
Connection: close
$ nc apache.example.com 80
GET / HTTP/3.0
HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 17:12: 37 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.23
Connection: close
Transfer: chunked
Content-Type: text/HTML; charset=iso-8859-1
Web Application Penetration Testing
Response from a SunONE 6.1
We notice that every server answers in a different way. The answer
also differs in the version of the server. Similar observations can be
done we create requests with a non-existent HTTP method/verb.
Consider the following responses:
Response from Apache 1.3.23
HTTP/1.1 505 HTTP Version Not Supported
Server: Netscape-Enterprise/4.1
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 06:04: 04 GMT
Content-length: 140
Content-type: text/HTML
Connection: close
Response from IIS 5.0
32
Response from Netscape Enterprise 4.1
Response from a SunONE 6.1
Tools
• httprint - http://net-square.com/httprint.html
• httprecon - http://www.computec.ch/projekte/httprecon/
• Netcraft - http://www.netcraft.com
• Desenmascarame - http://desenmascara.me
Automated Testing
Rather than rely on manual banner grabbing and analysis of the web
server headers, a tester can use automated tools to achieve the same
results. There are many tests to carry out in order to accurately finger-
print a web server. Luckily, there are tools that automate these tests.
“httprint” is one of such tools. httprint uses a signature dictionary that
allows it to recognize the type and the version of the web server in
use.
An example of running httprint is shown below:
Online Testing
Online tools can be used if the tester wishes to test more stealthily
and doesn’t wish to directly connect to the target website. An example
$ nc netscape.example.com 80
GET / JUNK/1.0
<HTML><HEAD><TITLE>Bad request</TITLE></HEAD>
<BODY><H1>Bad request</H1>
Your browser sent to query this server could not understand.
</BODY></HTML>
Web Application Penetration Testing
$ nc sunone.example.com 80
GET / JUNK/1.0
<HTML><HEAD><TITLE>Bad request</TITLE></HEAD>
<BODY><H1>Bad request</H1>
Your browser sent a query this server could not understand.
</BODY></HTML>
of an online tool that often delivers a lot of information about target
Web Servers, is Netcraft. With this tool we can retrieve information
about operating system, web server used, Server Uptime, Netblock
Owner, history of change related to Web server and O.S.
An example is shown below:
OWASP Unmaskme Project is expected to become another online
tool to do fingerprinting of any website with an overall interpreta-
tion of all the Web-metadata extracted. The idea behind this project
is that anyone in charge of a website could test the metadata the
site is showing to the world and assess it from a security point of
view.
While this project is still being developed, you can test a Spanish
Proof of Concept of this idea.
References
Whitepapers
Saumil Shah: An Introduction to HTTP fingerprinting” - http://
www.net-square.com/httprint_paper.html
• Anant Shrivastava: “Web Application Finger Printing” - http://
anantshri.info/articles/web_app_finger_printing.html
Remediation
Protect the presentation layer web server behind a hardened re-
verse proxy.
Obfuscate the presentation layer web server headers.
• Apache
• IIS
Review Webserver Metafiles for Information
Leakage (OTG-INFO-003)
Summary
This section describes how to test the robots.txt file for information
leakage of the web application’s directory or folder path(s). Fur-
thermore, the list of directories that are to be avoided by Spiders,
Robots, or Crawlers can also be created as a dependency for Map
execution paths through application (OTG-INFO-007)
Test Objectives
1. Information leakage of the web application’s directory or folder
path(s).
33
2. Create the list of directories that are to be avoided by Spiders, Ro-
bots, or Crawlers.
How to Test
robots.txt
Web Spiders, Robots, or Crawlers retrieve a web page and then re-
cursively traverse hyperlinks to retrieve further web content. Their
accepted behavior is specified by the Robots Exclusion Protocol of
the robots.txt file in the web root directory [1].
As an example, the beginning of the robots.txt file from http://www.
google.com/robots.txt sampled on 11 August 2013 is quoted below:
The User-Agent directive refers to the specific web spider/robot/
crawler. For example the User-Agent: Googlebot refers to the spider
from Google while “User-Agent: bingbot”[1] refers to crawler from
Microsoft/Yahoo!. User-Agent: * in the example above applies to all
web spiders/robots/crawlers [2] as quoted below:
The Disallow directive specifies which resources are prohibited by
spiders/robots/crawlers. In the example above, directories such as
the following are prohibited:
Web spiders/robots/crawlers can intentionally ignore the Disallow
directives specified in a robots.txt file [3], such as those from So-
cial Networks[2] to ensure that shared linked are still valid. Hence,
robots.txt should not be considered as a mechanism to enforce re-
strictions on how web content is accessed, stored, or republished
by third parties.
robots.txt in webroot - with “wget” or “curl”
The robots.txt file is retrieved from the web root directory of the web
server. For example, to retrieve the robots.txt from www.google.com
using “wget” or “curl”:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /sdch
Disallow: /groups
Disallow: /images
Disallow: /catalogs
...
cmlh$ wget http://www.google.com/robots.txt
--2013-08-11 14:40:36-- http://www.google.com/robots.txt
Resolving www.google.com... 74.125.237.17, 74.125.237.18,
74.125.237.19, ...
Connecting to www.google.com|74.125.237.17|:80... connect-
ed.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: unspecified [text/plain]
Saving to: ‘robots.txt.1’
[ <=> ] 7,074 --.-K/s in 0s
2013-08-11 14:40:37 (59.7 MB/s) - ‘robots.txt’ saved [7074]
cmlh$ head -n5 robots.txt
User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /sdch
Disallow: /groups
Disallow: /images
cmlh$
cmlh$ curl -O http://www.google.com/robots.txt
% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time
Time Current
Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed
101 7074 0 7074 0 0 9410 0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--
27312
cmlh$ head -n5 robots.txt
User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /sdch
Disallow: /groups
Disallow: /images
cmlh$
cmlh$ ./rockspider.pl -www www.google.com
“Rockspider” Alpha v0.1_2
Copyright 2013 Christian Heinrich
Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0
1. Downloading http://www.google.com/robots.txt
...
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /sdch
Disallow: /groups
Disallow: /images
Disallow: /catalogs
...
User-agent: *
Web Application Penetration Testing
robots.txt in webroot - with rockspider
“rockspider”[3] automates the creation of the initial scope for Spiders/
Robots/Crawlers of files and directories/folders of a web site.
For example, to create the initial scope based on the Allowed: directive
from www.google.com using “rockspider”[4]:
34
Analyze robots.txt using Google Webmaster Tools
Web site owners can use the Google “Analyze robots.txt” function to
analyse the website as part of its “Google Webmaster Tools” (https://
www.google.com/webmasters/tools). This tool can assist with test-
ing and the procedure is as follows:
1. Sign into Google Webmaster Tools with a Google account.
2. On the dashboard, write the URL for the site to be analyzed.
3. Choose between the available methods and follow the on screen
instruction.
META Tag
<META> tags are located within the HEAD section of each HTML Doc-
ument and should be consistent across a web site in the likely event
that the robot/spider/crawler start point does not begin from a docu-
ment link other than webroot i.e. a “deep link”[5].
If there is no “<META NAME=”ROBOTS” ... >” entry then the “Robots
Exclusion Protocol” defaults to “INDEX,FOLLOW” respectively. There-
fore, the other two valid entries defined by the “Robots Exclusion Pro-
tocol” are prefixed with “NO...” i.e. “NOINDEX” and “NOFOLLOW”.
Web spiders/robots/crawlers can intentionally ignore the “<META
NAME=”ROBOTS”” tag as the robots.txt file convention is preferred.
Hence, <META> Tags should not be considered the primary mecha-
nism, rather a complementary control to robots.txt.
<META> Tags - with Burp
Based on the Disallow directive(s) listed within the robots.txt file in
webroot, a regular expression search for “<META NAME=”ROBOTS””
within each web page is undertaken and the result compared to the
robots.txt file in webroot.
For example, the robots.txt file from facebook.com has a “Disallow:
/ac.php” entry[6] and the resulting search for “<META NAME=”RO-
BOTS”” shown below:
2. “robots.txt” saved as “www.google.com-robots.txt”
3. Sending Allow: URIs of www.google.com to web proxy i.e.
127.0.0.1:8080
/catalogs/about sent
/catalogs/p? sent
/news/directory sent
...
4. Done.
cmlh$
Web Application Penetration Testing
The above might be considered a fail since “INDEX,FOLLOW” is the
default <META> Tag specified by the “Robots Exclusion Protocol” yet
“Disallow: /ac.php” is listed in robots.txt.
Tools
• Browser (View Source function)
• curl
• wget
• rockspider[7]
References
Whitepapers
[1] “The Web Robots Pages” - http://www.robotstxt.org/
[2] “Block and Remove Pages Using a robots.txt File” - https://support.
google.com/webmasters/answer/156449
[3] “(ISC)2 Blog: The Attack of the Spiders from the Clouds” - http://
blog.isc2.org/isc2_blog/2008/07/the-attack-of-t.html
[4] “Telstra customer database exposed” - http://www.smh.
com.au/it-pro/security-it/telstra-customer-database-ex-
posed-20111209-1on60.html
Enumerate Applications on Webserver
(OTG-INFO-004)
Summary
A paramount step in testing for web application vulnerabilities is to
find out which particular applications are hosted on a web server.
Many applications have known vulnerabilities and known attack strat-
egies that can be exploited in order to gain remote control or to exploit
data. In addition, many applications are often misconfigured or not
updated, due to the perception that they are only used “internally” and
therefore no threat exists.
With the proliferation of virtual web servers, the traditional 1:1-type
relationship between an IP address and a web server is losing much
of its original significance. It is not uncommon to have multiple web
sites or applications whose symbolic names resolve to the same IP
address. This scenario is not limited to hosting environments, but also
applies to ordinary corporate environments as well.
Security professionals are sometimes given a set of IP addresses as a
target to test. It is arguable that this scenario is more akin to a pene-
tration test-type engagement, but in any case it is expected that such
an assignment would test all web applications accessible through this
target. The problem is that the given IP address hosts an HTTP service
on port 80, but if a tester should access it by specifying the IP address
(which is all they know) it reports “No web server configured at this ad-
dress” or a similar message. But that system could “hide” a number of
web applications, associated to unrelated symbolic (DNS) names. Ob-
viously, the extent of the analysis is deeply affected by the tester tests
all applications or only tests the applications that they are aware of.
Sometimes, the target specification is richer. The tester may be given
a list of IP addresses and their corresponding symbolic names. Nev-
ertheless, this list might convey partial information, i.e., it could omit
some symbolic names and the client may not even being aware of
that (this is more likely to happen in large organizations).
Other issues affecting the scope of the assessment are represented
by web applications published at non-obvious URLs (e.g., http://www.
example.com/some-strange-URL), which are not referenced else-
35
where. This may happen either by error (due to misconfigurations), or
intentionally (for example, unadvertised administrative interfaces).
To address these issues, it is necessary to perform web application
discovery.
Test Objectives
Enumerate the applications within scope that exist on a web server
How to Test
Black Box Testing
Web application discovery is a process aimed at identifying web ap-
plications on a given infrastructure. The latter is usually specified as
a set of IP addresses (maybe a net block), but may consist of a set of
DNS symbolic names or a mix of the two. This information is hand-
ed out prior to the execution of an assessment, be it a classic-style
penetration test or an application-focused assessment. In both
cases, unless the rules of engagement specify otherwise (e.g., “test
only the application located at the URL http://www.example.com/”),
the assessment should strive to be the most comprehensive in
scope, i.e. it should identify all the applications accessible through
the given target. The following examples examine a few techniques
that can be employed to achieve this goal.
Note: Some of the following techniques apply to Internet-facing
web servers, namely DNS and reverse-IP web-based search ser-
vices and the use of search engines. Examples make use of private
IP addresses (such as 192.168.1.100), which, unless indicated oth-
erwise, represent generic IP addresses and are used only for ano-
nymity purposes.
There are three factors influencing how many applications are re-
lated to a given DNS name (or an IP address):
1. Different base URL
The obvious entry point for a web application is www.example.
com, i.e., with this shorthand notation we think of the web applica-
tion originating at http://www.example.com/ (the same applies for
https). However, even though this is the most common situation,
there is nothing forcing the application to start at “/”.
For example, the same symbolic name may be associated to three
web applications such as: http://www.example.com/url1 http://
www.example.com/url2 http://www.example.com/url3
In this case, the URL http://www.example.com/ would not be as-
sociated with a meaningful page, and the three applications would
be “hidden”, unless the tester explicitly knows how to reach them,
i.e., the tester knows url1, url2 or url3. There is usually no need to
publish web applications in this way, unless the owner doesn’t want
them to be accessible in a standard way, and is prepared to inform
the users about their exact location. This doesn’t mean that these
applications are secret, just that their existence and location is not
explicitly advertised.
2. Non-standard ports
While web applications usually live on port 80 (http) and 443 (https),
there is nothing magic about these port numbers. In fact, web ap-
plications may be associated with arbitrary TCP ports, and can be
referenced by specifying the port number as follows: http[s]://www.
example.com:port/. For example, http://www.example.com:20000/.
nmap –PN –sT –sV –p0-65535 192.168.1.100
Web Application Penetration Testing
3. Virtual hosts
DNS allows a single IP address to be associated with one or more
symbolic names. For example, the IP address 192.168.1.100 might
be associated to DNS names www.example.com, helpdesk.example.
com, webmail.example.com. It is not necessary that all the names
belong to the same DNS domain. This 1-to-N relationship may be re-
flected to serve different content by using so called virtual hosts. The
information specifying the virtual host we are referring to is embed-
ded in the HTTP 1.1 Host: header [1].
One would not suspect the existence of other web applications in ad-
dition to the obvious www.example.com, unless they know of help-
desk.example.com and webmail.example.com.
Approaches to address issue 1 - non-standard URLs
There is no way to fully ascertain the existence of non-standard-
named web applications. Being non-standard, there is no fixed crite-
ria governing the naming convention, however there are a number of
techniques that the tester can use to gain some additional insight.
First, if the web server is mis-configured and allows directory brows-
ing, it may be possible to spot these applications. Vulnerability scan-
ners may help in this respect.
Second, these applications may be referenced by other web pages
and there is a chance that they have been spidered and indexed by
web search engines. If testers suspect the existence of such “hidden
applications on www.example.com they could search using the site
operator and examining the result of a query for “site: www.example.
com”. Among the returned URLs there could be one pointing to such a
non-obvious application.
Another option is to probe for URLs which might be likely candidates for
non-published applications. For example, a web mail front end might
be accessible from URLs such as https://www.example.com/webmail,
https://webmail.example.com/, or https://mail.example.com/. The
same holds for administrative interfaces, which may be published at
hidden URLs (for example, a Tomcat administrative interface), and yet
not referenced anywhere. So doing a bit of dictionary-style searching
(or “intelligent guessing”) could yield some results. Vulnerability scan-
ners may help in this respect.
Approaches to address issue 2 - non-standard ports
It is easy to check for the existence of web applications on non-stan-
dard ports. A port scanner such as nmap [2] is capable of performing
service recognition by means of the -sV option, and will identify http[s]
services on arbitrary ports. What is required is a full scan of the whole
64k TCP port address space.
For example, the following command will look up, with a TCP connect
scan, all open ports on IP 192.168.1.100 and will try to determine what
services are bound to them (only essential switches are shown – nmap
features a broad set of options, whose discussion is out of scope):
It is sufficient to examine the output and look for http or the indi-
cation of SSL-wrapped services (which should be probed to confirm
that they are https). For example, the output of the previous com-
mand coullook like:
36
transfers are largely not honored by DNS servers. However, it may
be worth a try. First of all, testers must determine the name servers
serving x.y.z.t. If a symbolic name is known for x.y.z.t (let it be www.
example.com), its name servers can be determined by means of tools
such as nslookup, host, or dig, by requesting DNS NS records.
If no symbolic names are known for x.y.z.t, but the target definition
contains at least a symbolic name, testers may try to apply the same
process and query the name server of that name (hoping that x.y.z.t
will be served as well by that name server). For example, if the target
consists of the IP address x.y.z.t and the name mail.example.com, de-
termine the name servers for domain example.com.
The following example shows how to identify the name servers for
www.owasp.org by using the host command:
A zone transfer may now be requested to the name servers for do-
main example.com. If the tester is lucky, they will get back a list of the
DNS entries for this domain. This will include the obvious www.exam-
ple.com and the not-so-obvious helpdesk.example.com and webmail.
example.com (and possibly others). Check all names returned by the
zone transfer and consider all of those which are related to the target
being evaluated.
Trying to request a zone transfer for owasp.org from one of its name
servers:
DNS inverse queries
This process is similar to the previous one, but relies on inverse (PTR)
DNS records. Rather than requesting a zone transfer, try setting the
record type to PTR and issue a query on the given IP address. If the
testers are lucky, they may get back a DNS name entry. This technique
relies on the existence of IP-to-symbolic name maps, which is not
guaranteed.
Web-based DNS searches
This kind of search is akin to DNS zone transfer, but relies on web-
based services that enable name-based searches on DNS. One
such service is the Netcraft Search DNS service, available at http://
searchdns.netcraft.com/?host. The tester may query for a list of
names belonging to your domain of choice, such as example.com.
Then they will check whether the names they obtained are pertinent
to the target they are examining.
From this example, one see that:
• There is an Apache http server running on port 80.
• It looks like there is an https server on port 443 (but this needs to
be confirmed, for example, by visiting https://192.168.1.100 with a
browser).
• On port 901 there is a Samba SWAT web interface.
The service on port 1241 is not https, but is the SSL-wrapped Nessus
daemon.
• Port 3690 features an unspecified service (nmap gives back its
fingerprint - here omitted for clarity - together with instructions
to submit it for incorporation in the nmap fingerprint database,
provided you know which service it represents).
• Another unspecified service on port 8000; this might possibly be
http, since it is not uncommon to find http servers on this port. Let’s
examine this issue:
This confirms that in fact it is an HTTP server. Alternatively, testers
could have visited the URL with a web browser; or used the GET or
HEAD Perl commands, which mimic HTTP interactions such as the
one given above (however HEAD requests may not be honored by all
servers).
• Apache Tomcat running on port 8080.
The same task may be performed by vulnerability scanners, but first
check that the scanner of choice is able to identify http[s] services
running on non-standard ports. For example, Nessus [3] is capable of
identifying them on arbitrary ports (provided it is instructed to scan all
the ports), and will provide, with respect to nmap, a number of tests
on known web server vulnerabilities, as well as on the SSL configu-
ration of https services. As hinted before, Nessus is also able to spot
popular applications or web interfaces which could otherwise go un-
noticed (for example, a Tomcat administrative interface).
Approaches to address issue 3 - virtual hosts
There are a number of techniques which may be used to identify DNS
names associated to a given IP address x.y.z.t.
DNS zone transfers
This technique has limited use nowadays, given the fact that zone
$ host -t ns www.owasp.org
www.owasp.org is an alias for owasp.org.
owasp.org name server ns1.secure.net.
owasp.org name server ns2.secure.net.
$ host -l www.owasp.org ns1.secure.net
Using domain server:
Name: ns1.secure.net
Address: 192.220.124.10#53
Aliases:
Host www.owasp.org not found: 5(REFUSED)
; Transfer failed.
Interesting ports on 192.168.1.100:
(The 65527 ports scanned but not shown below are in state:
closed)
PORT STATE SERVICE VERSION
22/tcp open ssh OpenSSH 3.5p1 (protocol 1.99)
80/tcp open http Apache httpd 2.0.40 ((Red Hat Linux))
443/tcp open ssl OpenSSL
901/tcp open http Samba SWAT administration server
1241/tcp open ssl Nessus security scanner
3690/tcp open unknown
8000/tcp open http-alt?
8080/tcp open http Apache Tomcat/Coyote JSP engine 1.1
Web Application Penetration Testing
37
Reverse-IP services
Reverse-IP services are similar to DNS inverse queries, with the dif-
ference that the testers query a web-based application instead of a
name server. There are a number of such services available. Since they
tend to return partial (and often different) results, it is better to use
multiple services to obtain a more comprehensive analysis.
Domain tools reverse IP: http://www.domaintools.com/reverse-ip/
(requires free membership)
MSN search: http://search.msn.com syntax: “ip:x.x.x.x” (without the
quotes)
Webhosting info: http://whois.webhosting.info/ syntax: http://
whois.webhosting.info/x.x.x.x
DNSstuff: http://www.dnsstuff.com/ (multiple services available)
http://www.net-square.com/mspawn.html (multiple queries on
domains and IP addresses, requires installation)
tomDNS: http://www.tomdns.net/index.php (some services are still
private at the time of writing)
SEOlogs.com: http://www.seologs.com/ip-domains.html (re-
verse-IP/domain lookup)
The following example shows the result of a query to one of the above
reverse-IP services to 216.48.3.18, the IP address of www.owasp.org.
Three additional non-obvious symbolic names mapping to the same
address have been revealed.
Googling
Following information gathering from the previous techniques, tes-
ters can rely on search engines to possibly refine and increment their
analysis. This may yield evidence of additional symbolic names be-
longing to the target, or applications accessible via non-obvious URLs.
For instance, considering the previous example regarding www.
owasp.org, the tester could query Google and other search engines
looking for information (hence, DNS names) related to the newly dis-
covered domains of webgoat.org, webscarab.com, and webscarab.
net.
Googling techniques are explained in Testing: Spiders, Robots, and
Crawlers.
Gray Box Testing
Not applicable. The methodology remains the same as listed in Black
Box testing no matter how much information the tester starts with.
Tools
• DNS lookup tools such as nslookup, dig and similar.
• Search engines (Google, Bing and other major search engines).
• Specialized DNS-related web-based search service: see text.
• Nmap - http://www.insecure.org
• Nessus Vulnerability Scanner - http://www.nessus.org
• Nikto - http://www.cirt.net/nikto2
References
Whitepapers [1] RFC 2616 – Hypertext Transfer Protocol – HTTP 1.1
Review webpage comments and metadata
for information leakage (OTG-INFO-005)
Summary
It is very common, and even recommended, for programmers to in-
clude detailed comments and metadata on their source code. How-
ever, comments and metadata included into the HTML code might
reveal internal information that should not be available to potential
attackers. Comments and metadata review should be done in order to
determine if any information is being leaked.
Test Objectives
Review webpage comments and metadata to better understand the
application and to find any information leakage.
How to Test
HTML comments are often used by the developers to include debug-
ging information about the application. Sometimes they forget about
the comments and they leave them on in production. Testers should
look for HTML comments which start with “”.
Black Box Testing
Check HTML source code for comments containing sensitive informa-
tion that can help the attacker gain more insight about the application.
It might be SQL code, usernames and passwords, internal IP address-
es, or debugging information.
The tester may even find something like this:
...
<div class=”table2”>
<div class=”col1”>1</div><div class=”col2”>Mary</div>
<div class=”col1”>2</div><div class=”col2”>Peter</div>
<div class=”col1”>3</div><div class=”col2”>Joe</div>
<!-- Query: SELECT id, name FROM app.users WHERE active=’1’
-->
</div>
...
<!-- Use the DB administrator password for testing: f@keP@
a$$w0rD -->
Web Application Penetration Testing
38
will advise robots to not index and not follow links on the HTML page
containing the tag.
The Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) and Protocol for
Web Description Resources (POWDER) provide infrastructure for as-
sociating meta data with Internet content.
Gray Box Testing
Not applicable.
Tools
• Wget
• Browser “view source” function
• Eyeballs
• Curl
References
Whitepapers
[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/REC-html401-19991224 HTML
version 4.01
[2] http://www.w3.org/TR/2010/REC-xhtml-basic-20101123/ XHT-
ML (for small devices)
[3] http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/ HTML version 5
Identify application entry points (OTG-INFO-006)
Summary
Enumerating the application and its attack surface is a key precursor
before any thorough testing can be undertaken, as it allows the tester
to identify likely areas of weakness. This section aims to help identify
and map out areas within the application that should be investigated
once enumeration and mapping have been completed.
Test Objectives
Understand how requests are formed and typical responses from the
application
How to Test
Before any testing begins, the tester should always get a good under-
standing of the application and how the user and browser communi-
cates with it. As the tester walks through the application, they should
pay special attention to all HTTP requests (GET and POST Methods,
also known as Verbs), as well as every parameter and form field that
is passed to the application. In addition, they should pay attention to
when GET requests are used and when POST requests are used to
pass parameters to the application. It is very common that GET re-
quests are used, but when sensitive information is passed, it is often
done within the body of a POST request.
Note that to see the parameters sent in a POST request, the tester will
need to use a tool such as an intercepting proxy (for example, OWASP:
Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)) or a browser plug-in. Within the POST request,
the tester should also make special note of any hidden form fields that
are being passed to the application, as these usually contain sensitive
information, such as state information, quantity of items, the price of
items, that the developer never intended for you to see or change.
Check HTML version information for valid version numbers and Data
Type Definition (DTD) URLs
• “strict.dtd” -- default strict DTD
• “loose.dtd” -- loose DTD
• “frameset.dtd” -- DTD for frameset documents
Some Meta tags do not provide active attack vectors but instead allow
an attacker to profile an application to
Some Meta tags alter HTTP response headers, such as http-equiv
that sets an HTTP response header based on the the content attribute
of a meta element, such as:
which will result in the HTTP header:
and
will result in
Test to see if this can be used to conduct injection attacks (e.g. CRLF
attack). It can also help determine the level of data leakage via the
browser cache.
A common (but not WCAG compliant) Meta tag is the refresh.
A common use for Meta tag is to specify keywords that a search en-
gine may use to improve the quality of search results.
Although most web servers manage search engine indexing via the
robots.txt file, it can also be managed by Meta tags. The tag below
<META name=”Author” content=”Andrew Muller”>
Expires: Fri, 21 Dec 2012 12:34:56 GMT
<META http-equiv=”Expires” content=”Fri, 21 Dec 2012
12:34:56 GMT”>
<META http-equiv=”Cache-Control” content=”no-cache”>
Cache-Control: no-cache
<META name=”robots” content=”none”>
<META http-equiv=”Refresh” content=”15;URL=https://www.
owasp.org/index.html”>
<META name=”keywords” lang=”en-us” content=”OWASP, se-
curity, sunshine, lollipops”>
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN”
“http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd”>
Web Application Penetration Testing
39
Responses:
• Identify where new cookies are set (Set-Cookie header), modified,
or added to.
Identify where there are any redirects (3xx HTTP status code), 400
status codes, in particular 403 Forbidden, and 500 internal server
errors during normal responses (i.e., unmodified requests).
• Also note where any interesting headers are used. For example,
“Server: BIG-IP” indicates that the site is load balanced.
Thus, if a site is load balanced and one server is incorrectly
configured, then the tester might have to make multiple requests
to access the vulnerable server, depending on the type of load
balancing used.
Black Box Testing
Testing for application entry points:
The following are two examples on how to check for application
entry points.
EXAMPLE 1
This example shows a GET request that would purchase an item
from an online shopping application.
Result Expected:
Here the tester would note all the parameters of the request such
as CUSTOMERID, ITEM, PRICE, IP, and the Cookie (which could just
be encoded parameters or used for session state).
EXAMPLE 2
This example shows a POST request that would log you into an ap-
plication.
Body of the POST message:
Result Expected:
In this example the tester would note all the parameters as they
have before but notice that the parameters are passed in the body
of the message and not in the URL. Additionally, note that there is a
custom cookie that is being used.
In the author’s experience, it has been very useful to use an intercept-
ing proxy and a spreadsheet for this stage of the testing. The proxy
will keep track of every request and response between the tester and
the application as they u walk through it. Additionally, at this point,
testers usually trap every request and response so that they can
see exactly every header, parameter, etc. that is being passed to the
application and what is being returned. This can be quite tedious at
times, especially on large interactive sites (think of a banking applica-
tion). However, experience will show what to look for and this phase
can be significantly reduced.
As the tester walks through the application, they should take note
of any interesting parameters in the URL, custom headers, or body
of the requests/responses, and save them in a spreadsheet. The
spreadsheet should include the page requested (it might be good to
also add the request number from the proxy, for future reference),
the interesting parameters, the type of request (POST/GET), if ac-
cess is authenticated/unauthenticated, if SSL is used, if it’s part of
a multi-step process, and any other relevant notes. Once they have
every area of the application mapped out, then they can go through
the application and test each of the areas that they have identified
and make notes for what worked and what didn’t work. The rest of
this guide will identify how to test each of these areas of interest, but
this section must be undertaken before any of the actual testing can
commence.
Below are some points of interests for all requests and responses.
Within the requests section, focus on the GET and POST methods,
as these appear the majority of the requests. Note that other meth-
ods, such as PUT and DELETE, can be used. Often, these more rare
requests, if allowed, can expose vulnerabilities. There is a special sec-
tion in this guide dedicated for testing these HTTP methods.
Requests:
• Identify where GETs are used and where POSTs are used.
Identify all parameters used in a POST request (these are in the body
of the request).
• Within the POST request, pay special attention to any hidden
parameters. When a POST is sent all the form fields (including
hidden parameters) will be sent in the body of the HTTP message
to the application. These typically aren’t seen unless a proxy or view
the HTML source code is used. In addition, the next page shown, its
data, and the level of access can all be different depending on the
value of the hidden parameter(s).
Identify all parameters used in a GET request (i.e., URL), in particular
the query string (usually after a ? mark).
Identify all the parameters of the query string. These usually are in a
pair format, such as foo=bar. Also note that many parameters can
be in one query string such as separated by a &, ~, :, or any other
special character or encoding.
• A special note when it comes to identifying multiple parameters
in one string or within a POST request is that some or all of the
parameters will be needed to execute the attacks.
The tester needs to identify all of the parameters (even if encoded
or encrypted) and identify which ones are processed by the
application. Later sections of the guide will identify how to test
these parameters. At this point, just make sure each one of them
is identified.
• Also pay attention to any additional or custom type headers not
typically seen (such as debug=False).
GET https://x.x.x.x/shoppingApp/buyme.asp?CUSTOME-
RID=100&ITEM=z101a&PRICE=62.50&IP=x.x.x.x
Host: x.x.x.x
Cookie: SESSIONID=Z29vZCBqb2IgcGFkYXdhIG15IHVzZXJuY-
W1lIGlzIGZvbyBhbmQgcGFzc3dvcmQgaXMgYmFy
POST https://x.x.x.x/KevinNotSoGoodApp/authenticate.asp?-
service=login
Host: x.x.x.x
Cookie: SESSIONID=dGhpcyBpcyBhIGJhZCBhcHAgdGhhdCB-
zZXRzIHByZWRpY3RhYmxlIGNvb2tpZXMgYW5kIG1pbmUgaX-
MgMTIzNA==
CustomCookie=00my00trusted00ip00is00x.x.x.x00
user=admin&pass=pass123&debug=true&fromtrustIP=true
Web Application Penetration Testing
40
Gray Box Testing
Testing for application entry points via a Gray Box methodology
would consist of everything already identified above with one addi-
tion. In cases where there are external sources from which the ap-
plication receives data and processes it (such as SNMP traps, syslog
messages, SMTP, or SOAP messages from other servers) a meeting
with the application developers could identify any functions that
would accept or expect user input and how they are formatted. For
example, the developer could help in understanding how to formu-
late a correct SOAP request that the application would accept and
where the web service resides (if the web service or any other func-
tion hasn’t already been identified during the black box testing).
Tools
Intercepting Proxy:
• OWASP: Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)
• OWASP: WebScarab
• Burp Suite
• CAT
Browser Plug-in:
• TamperIE for Internet Explorer
• Tamper Data for Firefox
References
Whitepapers
• RFC 2616 – Hypertext Transfer Protocol – HTTP 1.1 -
http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2616
Map execution paths through application
(OTG-INFO-007)
Summary
Before commencing security testing, understanding the structure
of the application is paramount. Without a thorough understanding
of the layout of the application, it is unlkely that it will be tested
thoroughly.
Test Objectives
Map the target application and understand the principal workflows.
How to Test
In black box testing it is extremely difficult to test the entire code
base. Not just because the tester has no view of the code paths
through the application, but even if they did, to test all code paths
would be very time consuming. One way to reconcile this is to doc-
ument what code paths were discovered and tested.
There are several ways to approach the testing and measurement
of code coverage:
• Path - test each of the paths through an application that includes
combinatorial and boundary value analysis testing for each
decision path. While this approach offers thoroughness, the
number of testable paths grows exponentially with each decision
branch.
Data flow (or taint analysis) - tests the assignment of variables via
external interaction (normally users). Focuses on mapping the
flow, transformation and use of data throughout an application.
• Race - tests multiple concurrent instances of the application
manipulating the same data.
The trade off as to what method is used and to what degree each
method is used should be negotiated with the application owner.
Simpler approaches could also be adopted, including asking the ap-
plication owner what functions or code sections they are particular-
ly concerned about and how those code segments can be reached.
Black Box Testing
To demonstrate code coverage to the application owner, the tester
can start with a spreadsheet and document all the links discovered
by spidering the application (either manually or automatically). Then
the tester can look more closely at decision points in the application
and investigate how many significant code paths are discovered.
These should then be documented in the spreadsheet with URLs,
prose and screenshot descriptions of the paths discovered.
Gray/White Box testing
Ensuring sufficient code coverage for the application owner is far
easier with the gray and white box approach to testing. Information
solicited by and provided to the tester will ensure the minimum re-
quirements for code coverage are met.
Example
Automatic Spidering
The automatic spider is a tool used to automatically discover new
resources (URLs) on a particular website. It begins with a list of
URLs to visit, called the seeds, which depends on how the Spider is
started. While there are a lot of Spidering tools, the following exam-
ple uses the Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP):
ZAP offers the following automatic spidering features, which can be
selected based on the tester’s needs:
Spider Site - The seed list contains all the existing URIs already
found for the selected site.
Spider Subtree - The seed list contains all the existing URIs already
found and present in the subtree of the selected node.
• Spider URL - The seed list contains only the URI corresponding to
the selected node (in the Site Tree).
Spider all in Scope - The seed list contains all the URIs the user has
selected as being ‘In Scope’.
Tools
• Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)
Web Application Penetration Testing
41
From the X-Powered-By field, we understand that the web ap-
plication framework is likely to be Mono. However, although this
approach is simple and quick, this methodology doesn’t work in
100% of cases. It is possible to easily disable X-Powered-By head-
er by a proper configuration. There are also several techniques
that allow a web site to obfuscate HTTP headers (see an example
in #Remediation chapter).
So in the same example the tester could either miss the X-Pow-
ered-By header or obtain an answer like the following:
Sometimes there are more HTTP-headers that point at a certain
web framework. In the following example, according to the in-
formation from HTTP-request, one can see that X-Powered-By
header contains PHP version. However, the X-Generator header
points out the used framework is actually Swiftlet, which helps a
penetration tester to expand his attack vectors. When perform-
ing fingerprinting, always carefully inspect every HTTP-header for
such leaks.
$ nc 127.0.0.1 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx/1.0.14
Date: Sat, 07 Sep 2013 08:19:15 GMT
Content-Type: text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
X-Powered-By: Mono
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx/1.0.14
Date: Sat, 07 Sep 2013 08:19:15 GMT
Content-Type: text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
X-Powered-By: Blood, sweat and tears
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx/1.4.1
Date: Sat, 07 Sep 2013 09:22:52 GMT
Content-Type: text/html
Connection: keep-alive
Vary: Accept-Encoding
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.4.16-1~dotdeb.1
Expires: Thu, 19 Nov 1981 08:52:00 GMT
Cache-Control: no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate, post-
check=0, pre-check=0
Pragma: no-cache
X-Generator: Swiftlet
Web Application Penetration Testing
• List of spreadsheet software
• Diagramming software
References
Whitepapers
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_coverage
Fingerprint Web Application Framework
(OTG-INFO-008)
Summary
Web framework[*] fingerprinting is an important subtask of the infor-
mation gathering process. Knowing the type of framework can auto-
matically give a great advantage if such a framework has already been
tested by the penetration tester. It is not only the known vulnerabili-
ties in unpatched versions but specific misconfigurations in the frame-
work and known file structure that makes the fingerprinting process
so important.
Several different vendors and versions of web frameworks are widely
used. Information about it significantly helps in the testing process,
and can also help in changing the course of the test. Such information
can be derived by careful analysis of certain common locations. Most
of the web frameworks have several markers in those locations which
help an attacker to spot them. This is basically what all automatic tools
do, they look for a marker from a predefined location and then com-
pare it to the database of known signatures. For better accuracy sev-
eral markers are usually used.
[*] Please note that this article makes no differentiation between Web
Application Frameworks (WAF) and Content Management Systems
(CMS). This has been done to make it convenient to fingerprint both of
them in one chapter. Furthermore, both categories are referenced as
web frameworks.
Test Objectives
To define type of used web framework so as to have a better under-
standing of the security testing methodology.
How to Test
Black Box testing
There are several most common locations to look in in order to define
the current framework:
• HTTP headers
• Cookies
• HTML source code
• Specific files and folders
HTTP headers
The most basic form of identifying a web framework is to look at the
X-Powered-By field in the HTTP response header. Many tools can be
used to fingerprint a target. The simplest one is netcat utility.
Consider the following HTTP Request-Response:
42
More frequently such information is placed between <head></
head> tags, in <meta> tags or at the end of the page.
Nevertheless, it is recommended to check the whole document
since it can be useful for other purposes such as inspection of oth-
er useful comments and hidden fields. Sometimes, web develop-
ers do not care much about hiding information about the frame-
work used. It is still possible to stumble upon something like this
at the bottom of the page:
Common frameworks
Specific files and folders
Specific files and folders are different for each specific frame-
work. It is recommended to install the corresponding framework
during penetration tests in order to have better understanding
of what infrastructure is presented and what files might be left
on the server. However, several good file lists already exist and
one good example is FuzzDB wordlists of predictable files/folders
(http://code.google.com/p/fuzzdb/).
Tools
A list of general and well-known tools is presented below. There
are also a lot of other utilities, as well as framework-based finger-
printing tools.
WhatWeb
Website: http://www.morningstarsecurity.com/research/whatweb
Currently one of the best fingerprinting tools on the market. Included
in a default Kali Linux build. Language: Ruby Matches for fingerprinting
are made with:
• Text strings (case sensitive)
• Regular expressions
• Google Hack Database queries (limited set of keywords)
• MD5 hashes
• URL recognition
• HTML tag patterns
The cookie CAKEPHP has automatically been set, which gives in-
formation about the framework being used. List of common cook-
ies names is presented in chapter #Cookies_2. Limitations are the
same - it is possible to change the name of the cookie. For exam-
ple, for the selected CakePHP framework this could be done by
the following configuration (excerpt from core.php):
/**
* The name of CakePHP’s session cookie.
*
* Note the guidelines for Session names states: “The session
name references
* the session id in cookies and URLs. It should contain only al-
phanumeric
* characters.
* @link http://php.net/session_name
*/
Configure::write(‘Session.cookie, ‘CAKEPHP’);
GET /cake HTTP /1.1
Host: defcon-moscow.org
User-Agent: Mozilla75.0 |Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.7; rv:
22. 0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/22 . 0
Accept: text/html, application/xhtml + xml, application/xml;
q=0.9, */*; q=0 , 8
Accept - Language: ru-ru, ru; q=0.8, en-us; q=0.5 , en; q=0 . 3
Accept - Encoding: gzip, deflate
DNT: 1
Cookie: CAKEPHP=rm72kprivgmau5fmjdesbuqi71;
Connection: Keep-alive
Cache-Control: max-age=0
Web Application Penetration Testing
Framework
Zope
CakePHP
Laravel
%framework_name%
powered by
built upon
running
Framework
Adobe ColdFusion
Microsoft ASP.NET
ZK
Business Catalyst
Indexhibit
Cookie name
BITRIX_
AMP
django
Keyword
<!-- START headerTags.cfm
__VIEWSTATE
<!-- ZK
<!-- BC_OBNW -->
ndxz-studio
HTML source code
General Markers
Specific markers
Cookies
Another similar and somehow more reliable way to determine the
current web framework are framework-specific cookies.
Consider the following HTTP-request:
However, these changes are less likely to be made than changes
to the X-Powered-By header, so this approach can be considered
as more reliable.
HTML source code
This technique is based on finding certain patterns in the HTML
page source code. Often one can find a lot of information which
helps a tester to recognize a specific web framework. One of
the common markers are HTML comments that directly lead to
framework disclosure. More often certain framework-specific
paths can be found, i.e. links to framework-specific css and/or js
folders. Finally, specific script variables might also point to a cer-
tain framework.
From the screenshot below one can easily learn the used frame-
work and its version by the mentioned markers. The comment,
specific paths and script variables can all help an attacker to
quickly determine an instance of ZK framework.
Cookies
43
• Custom ruby code for passive and aggressive operations
Sample output is presented on a screenshot below:
BlindElephant
Website: https://community.qualys.com/community/blindelephant
This great tool works on the principle of static file checksum based
version difference thus providing a very high quality of fingerprint-
ing. Language: Python
Sample output of a successful fingerprint:
Wappalyzer
Website: http://wappalyzer.com
Wapplyzer is a Firefox Chrome plug-in. It works only on regular ex-
pression matching and doesn’t need anything other than the page
to be loaded on browser. It works completely at the browser level
and gives results in the form of icons. Although sometimes it has
false positives, this is very handy to have notion of what technol-
ogies were used to construct a target website immediately after
browsing a page.
Sample output of a plug-in is presented on a screenshot below.
References
Whitepapers
Saumil Shah: “An Introduction to HTTP fingerprinting” - http://
www.net-square.com/httprint_paper.html
Anant Shrivastava : “Web Application Finger Printing” - http://
anantshri.info/articles/web_app_finger_printing.html
Remediation
The general advice is to use several of the tools described above
and check logs to better understand what exactly helps an attack-
er to disclose the web framework. By performing multiple scans
after changes have been made to hide framework tracks, it’s pos-
sible to achieve a better level of security and to make sure of the
framework can not be detected by automatic scans. Below are
some specific recommendations by framework marker location
and some additional interesting approaches.
HTTP headers
Check the configuration and disable or obfuscate all HTTP-head-
ers that disclose information the technologies used. Here is an
interesting article about HTTP-headers obfuscation using Net-
scaler: http://grahamhosking.blogspot.ru/2013/07/obfuscat-
ing-http-header-using-netscaler.html
Cookies
It is recommended to change cookie names by making changes in
the corresponding configuration files.
HTML source code
Manually check the contents of the HTML code and remove every-
thing that explicitly points to the framework.
General guidelines:
• Make sure there are no visual markers disclosing the framework
pentester$ python BlindElephant.py http://my_target drupal
Loaded /Library/Python/2.7/site-packages/blindelephant/
dbs/drupal.pkl with 145 versions, 478 differentiating paths,
and 434 version groups.
Starting BlindElephant fingerprint for version of drupal at
http://my_target
Hit http://my_target/CHANGELOG.txt
File produced no match. Error: Retrieved file doesn’t match
known fingerprint. 527b085a3717bd691d47713dff74acf4
Hit http://my_target/INSTALL.txt
File produced no match. Error: Retrieved file doesn’t match
known fingerprint. 14dfc133e4101be6f0ef5c64566da4a4
Hit http://my_target/misc/drupal.js
Possible versions based on result: 7.12, 7.13, 7.14
Hit http://my_target/MAINTAINERS.txt
File produced no match. Error: Retrieved file doesn’t match
known fingerprint. 36b740941a19912f3fdbfcca7caa08ca
Hit http://my_target/themes/garland/style.css
Possible versions based on result: 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 7.7,
7.8, 7.9, 7.10, 7.11, 7.12, 7.13, 7.14
...
Fingerprinting resulted in:
7.14
Best Guess: 7.14
Web Application Penetration Testing
44
• Remove any unnecessary comments (copyrights, bug
information, specific framework comments)
• Remove META and generator tags
• Use the companies own css or js files and do not store those in a
framework-specific folders
• Do not use default scripts on the page or obfuscate them if they
must be used.
Specific files and folders
General guidelines:
• Remove any unnecessary or unused files on the server. This
implies text files disclosing information about versions and
installation too.
• Restrict access to other files in order to achieve 404-response
when accessing them from outside. This can be done, for
example, by modifying htaccess file and adding RewriteCond
or RewriteRule there. An example of such restriction for two
common WordPress folders is presented below.
However, these are not the only ways to restrict access. In order to
automate this process, certain framework-specific plugins exist.
One example for WordPress is StealthLogin (http://wordpress.org/
plugins/stealth-login-page).
Additional approaches
General guidelines:
[1] Checksum management
The purpose of this approach is to beat checksum-based scanners
and not let them disclose files by their hashes. Generally, there are
two approaches in checksum management:
• Change the location of where those files are placed (i.e. move
them to another folder, or rename the existing folder)
• Modify the contents - even slight modification results in a
completely different hash sum, so adding a single byte in the end
of the file should not be a big problem.
[2] Controlled chaos
A funny and effective method that involves adding bogus files and
folders from other frameworks in order to fool scanners and con-
fuse an attacker. But be careful not to overwrite existing files and
folders and to break the current framework!
Fingerprint Web Application
(OTG-INFO-009)
Summary
There is nothing new under the sun, and nearly every web applica-
tion that one may think of developing has already been developed.
With the vast number of free and open source software projects
that are actively developed and deployed around the world, it is
very likely that an application security test will face a target site
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /wp-login\.php$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /wp-admin/$
RewriteRule $ /http://your_website [R=404,L]
<meta name=”generator” content=”WordPress 3.9.2” />
GET / HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.2; WOW64; rv:31.0)
Gecko/20100101 Firefox/31.0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xm-
l;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.5
‘’’Cookie: wp-settings-time-1=1406093286; wp-settings-
time-2=1405988284’’’
DNT: 1
Connection: keep-alive
Host: blog.owasp.org
Web Application Penetration Testing
that is entirely or partly dependent on these well known applica-
tions (e.g. Wordpress, phpBB, Mediawiki, etc). Knowing the web
application components that are being tested significantly helps
in the testing process and will also drastically reduce the effort
required during the test. These well known web applications have
known HTML headers, cookies, and directory structures that can
be enumerated to identify the application.
Test Objectives
Identify the web application and version to determine known vul-
nerabilities and the appropriate exploits to use during testing.
How to Test
Cookies
A relatively reliable way to identify a web application is by the ap-
plication-specific cookies.
Consider the following HTTP-request:
The cookie CAKEPHP has automatically been set, which gives in-
formation about the framework being used. List of common cook-
ies names is presented in Cpmmon Application Identifiers section.
However, it is possible to change the name of the cookie.
HTML source code
This technique is based on finding certain patterns in the HTML
page source code. Often one can find a lot of information which
helps a tester to recognize a specific web application. One of the
common markers are HTML comments that directly lead to ap-
plication disclosure. More often certain application-specific paths
can be found, i.e. links to application-specific css and/or js folders.
Finally, specific script variables might also point to a certain ap-
plication.
From the meta tag below, one can easily learn the application
used by a website and its version. The comment, specific paths
and script variables can all help an attacker to quickly determine
an instance of an application.
More frequently such information is placed between <head></
head> tags, in <meta> tags or at the end of the page. Neverthe-
45
Specific files and folders are different for each specific application.
It is recommended to install the corresponding application during
penetration tests in order to have better understanding of what in-
frastructure is presented and what files might be left on the server.
However, several good file lists already exist and one good example
is FuzzDB wordlists of predictable files/folders (http://code.google.
com/p/fuzzdb/).
Common Application Identifiers
Cookies
HTML source code
Tools
A list of general and well-known tools is presented below. There
are also a lot of other utilities, as well as framework-based finger-
printing tools.
WhatWeb
Website: http://www.morningstarsecurity.com/research/whatweb
Currently one of the best fingerprinting tools on the market. Includ-
ed in a default Kali Linux build. Language: Ruby Matches for finger-
printing are made with:
• Text strings (case sensitive)
• Regular expressions
• Google Hack Database queries (limited set of keywords)
• MD5 hashes
• URL recognition
• HTML tag patterns
• Custom ruby code for passive and aggressive operations
less, it is recommended to check the whole document since it can be
useful for other purposes such as inspection of other useful com-
ments and hidden fields.
Specific files and folders
Apart from information gathered from HTML sources, there is an-
other approach which greatly helps an attacker to determine the
application with high accuracy. Every application has its own spe-
cific file and folder structure on the server. It has been pointed out
that one can see the specific path from the HTML page source but
sometimes they are not explicitly presented there and still reside
on the server.
In order to uncover them a technique known as dirbusting is used.
Dirbusting is brute forcing a target with predictable folder and file
names and monitoring HTTP-responses to emumerate server
contents. This information can be used both for finding default
files and attacking them, and for fingerprinting the web applica-
tion. Dirbusting can be done in several ways, the example below
shows a successful dirbusting attack against a WordPress-pow-
ered target with the help of defined list and intruder functionality
of Burp Suite.
We can see that for some WordPress-specific folders (for in-
stance, /wp-includes/, /wp-admin/ and /wp-content/) HTTP-re-
ponses are 403 (Forbidden), 302 (Found, redirection to wp-login.
php) and 200 (OK) respectively. This is a good indicator that the
target is WordPress-powered. The same way it is possible to dir-
bust different application plugin folders and their versions. On
the screenshot below one can see a typical CHANGELOG file of a
Drupal plugin, which provides information on the application being
used and discloses a vulnerable plugin version.
Tip: before starting dirbusting, it is recommended to check the ro-
bots.txt file first. Sometimes application specific folders and other
sensitive information can be found there as well. An example of
such a robots.txt file is presented on a screenshot below.
phpBB
Wordpress
1C-Bitrix
AMPcms
Django CMS
DotNetNuke
e107
EPiServer
Graffiti CMS
Hotaru CMS
ImpressCMS
Indico
InstantCMS
Kentico CMS
MODx
TYPO3
Dynamicweb
LEPTON
Wix
VIVVO
phpbb3_
wp-settings
BITRIX_
AMP
django
DotNetNukeAnonymous
e107
EPiTrace, EPiServer
graffitibot
hotaru_mobile
ICMSession
MAKACSESSION
InstantCMS[logdate]
CMSPreferredCulture
SN4[12symb]
fe_typo_user
Dynamicweb
lep[some_numeric_value]+sessionid
Domain=.wix.com
VivvoSessionId
Wordpress
phpBB
Mediawiki
Joomla
Drupal
DotNetNuke
<meta name=”generator” content=”WordPress 3.9.2” />
<body id=”phpbb”
<meta name=”generator” content=”MediaWiki 1.21.9” />
<meta name=”generator” content=”Joomla! - Open Source Content Management” />
<meta name=”Generator” content=”Drupal 7 (http://drupal.org)” />
DNN Platform - http://www.dnnsoftware.com
Web Application Penetration Testing
46
Sample output is presented on a screenshot below:
BlindElephant
Website: https://community.qualys.com/community/blindelephant
This great tool works on the principle of static file checksum based
version difference thus providing a very high quality of fingerprinting.
Language: Python
Sample output of a successful fingerprint:
Wappalyzer
Website: http://wappalyzer.com
Wapplyzer is a Firefox Chrome plug-in. It works only on regular ex-
pression matching and doesn’t need anything other than the page to
be loaded on browser. It works completely at the browser level and
gives results in the form of icons. Although sometimes it has false
positives, this is very handy to have notion of what technologies were
used to construct a target website immediately after browsing a page.
Sample output of a plug-in is presented on a screenshot below.
pentester$ python BlindElephant.py http://my_target drupal
Loaded /Library/Python/2.7/site-packages/blindelephant/
dbs/drupal.pkl with 145 versions, 478 differentiating paths,
and 434 version groups.
Starting BlindElephant fingerprint for version of drupal at http://
my_target
Hit http://my_target/CHANGELOG.txt
File produced no match. Error: Retrieved file doesn’t match
known fingerprint. 527b085a3717bd691d47713dff74acf4
Hit http://my_target/INSTALL.txt
File produced no match. Error: Retrieved file doesn’t match
known fingerprint. 14dfc133e4101be6f0ef5c64566da4a4
Hit http://my_target/misc/drupal.js
Possible versions based on result: 7.12, 7.13, 7.14
Hit http://my_target/MAINTAINERS.txt
File produced no match. Error: Retrieved file doesn’t match
known fingerprint. 36b740941a19912f3fdbfcca7caa08ca
Hit http://my_target/themes/garland/style.css
Possible versions based on result: 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6, 7.7, 7.8,
7.9, 7.10, 7.11, 7.12, 7.13, 7.14
...
Fingerprinting resulted in:
7.14
Best Guess: 7.14
Web Application Penetration Testing
References
Whitepapers
• Saumil Shah: “An Introduction to HTTP fingerprinting” - http://www.
net-square.com/httprint_paper.html
• Anant Shrivastava : “Web Application Finger Printing” - http://anant-
shri.info/articles/web_app_finger_printing.html
Remediation
The general advice is to use several of the tools described above and
check logs to better understand what exactly helps an attacker to dis-
close the web framework. By performing multiple scans after changes
have been made to hide framework tracks, it’s possible to achieve a
better level of security and to make sure of the framework can not be
detected by automatic scans. Below are some specific recommenda-
tions by framework marker location and some additional interesting
approaches.
HTTP headers
Check the configuration and disable or obfuscate all HTTP-headers
that disclose information the technologies used. Here is an interest-
ing article about HTTP-headers obfuscation using Netscaler: http://
grahamhosking.blogspot.ru/2013/07/obfuscating-http-header-us-
ing-netscaler.html
Cookies
It is recommended to change cookie names by making changes in the
corresponding configuration files.
HTML source code
Manually check the contents of the HTML code and remove every-
thing that explicitly points to the framework.
General guidelines:
• Make sure there are no visual markers disclosing the framework
Remove any unnecessary comments (copyrights, bug information,
specific framework comments)
• Remove META and generator tags
Use the companies own css or js files and do not store those in a
47
framework-specific folders
Do not use default scripts on the page or obfuscate them if they
must be used.
Specific files and folders
General guidelines:
• Remove any unnecessary or unused files on the server. This implies
text files disclosing information about versions and installation too.
Restrict access to other files in order to achieve 404-response when
accessing them from outside. This can be done, for example, by mod-
ifying htaccess file and adding RewriteCond or RewriteRule there. An
example of such restriction for two common WordPress folders is pre-
sented below.
However, these are not the only ways to restrict access. In order to
automate this process, certain framework-specific plugins exist. One
example for WordPress is StealthLogin (http://wordpress.org/plugins/
stealth-login-page).
Additional approaches
General guidelines:
[1] Checksum management
The purpose of this approach is to beat checksum-based scanners
and not let them disclose files by their hashes. Generally, there are two
approaches in checksum management:
• Change the location of where those files are placed (i.e. move them
to another folder, or rename the existing folder)
Modify the contents - even slight modification results in a complete-
ly different hash sum, so adding a single byte in the end of the file
should not be a big problem.
[2] Controlled chaos
A funny and effective method that involves adding bogus files and
folders from other frameworks in order to fool scanners and confuse
an attacker. But be careful not to overwrite existing files and folders
and to break the current framework!
Map Application Architecture (OTG-INFO-010)
Summary
The complexity of interconnected and heterogeneous web server in-
frastructure can include hundreds of web applications and makes con-
figuration management and review a fundamental step in testing and
deploying every single application. In fact it takes only a single vulner-
ability to undermine the security of the entire infrastructure, and even
small and seemingly unimportant problems may evolve into severe
risks for another application on the same server.
To address these problems, it is of utmost importance to perform an
in-depth review of configuration and known security issues. Before
performing an in-depth review it is necessary to map the network and
application architecture. The different elements that make up the in-
frastructure need to be determined to understand how they interact
with a web application and how they affect security.
How to Test
Map the application architecture
The application architecture needs to be mapped through some test
to determine what different components are used to build the web
application. In small setups, such as a simple CGI-based application, a
single server might be used that runs the web server which executes
the C, Perl, or Shell CGIs application, and perhaps also the authentica-
tion mechanism.
On more complex setups, such as an online bank system, multiple
servers might be involved. These may include a reverse proxy, a front-
end web server, an application server and a database server or LDAP
server. Each of these servers will be used for different purposes and
might be even be divided in different networks with firewalls between
them. This creates different DMZs so that access to the web server
will not grant a remote user access to the authentication mechanism
itself, and so that compromises of the different elements of the archi-
tecture can be isolated so that they will not compromise the whole
architecture.
Getting knowledge of the application architecture can be easy if this
information is provided to the testing team by the application devel-
opers in document form or through interviews, but can also prove to
be very difficult if doing a blind penetration test.
In the latter case, a tester will first start with the assumption that
there is a simple setup (a single server). Then they will retrieve infor-
mation from other tests and derive the different elements, question
this assumption and extend the architecture map. The tester will start
by asking simple questions such as: “Is there a firewalling system pro-
tecting the web server?”. This question will be answered based on the
results of network scans targeted at the web server and the analy-
sis of whether the network ports of the web server are being filtered
in the network edge (no answer or ICMP unreachables are received)
or if the server is directly connected to the Internet (i.e. returns RST
packets for all non-listening ports). This analysis can be enhanced to
determine the type of firewall used based on network packet tests.
Is it a stateful firewall or is it an access list filter on a router? How is it
configured? Can it be bypassed?
Detecting a reverse proxy in front of the web server needs to be done
by the analysis of the web server banner, which might directly disclose
the existence of a reverse proxy (for example, if ‘WebSEAL’[1] is re-
turned). It can also be determined by obtaining the answers given by
the web server to requests and comparing them to the expected an-
swers. For example, some reverse proxies act as “intrusion prevention
systems” (or web-shields) by blocking known attacks targeted at the
web server. If the web server is known to answer with a 404 message
to a request that targets an unavailable page and returns a different
error message for some common web attacks like those done by CGI
scanners, it might be an indication of a reverse proxy (or an applica-
tion-level firewall) which is filtering the requests and returning a dif-
ferent error page than the one expected. Another example: if the web
server returns a set of available HTTP methods (including TRACE) but
the expected methods return errors then there is probably something
in between blocking them.
In some cases, even the protection system gives itself away:
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /wp-login\.php$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /wp-admin/$
RewriteRule $ /http://your_website [R=404,L]
GET /web-console/ServerInfo.jsp%00 HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.0 200
Pragma: no-cache
Web Application Penetration Testing
48
Example of the security server of Check Point Firewall-1 NG AI “pro-
tecting” a web server
Reverse proxies can also be introduced as proxy-caches to acceler-
ate the performance of back-end application servers. Detecting these
proxies can be done based on the server header. They can also be
detected by timing requests that should be cached by the server and
comparing the time taken to server the first request with subsequent
requests.
Another element that can be detected is network load balancers.
Typically, these systems will balance a given TCP/IP port to multiple
servers based on different algorithms (round-robin, web server load,
number of requests, etc.). Thus, the detection of this architecture ele-
ment needs to be done by examining multiple requests and compar-
ing results to determine if the requests are going to the same or differ-
ent web servers. For example, based on the Date header if the server
clocks are not synchronized. In some cases, the network load balance
process might inject new information in the headers that will make it
stand out distinctively, like the AlteonP cookie introduced by Nortel’s
Alteon WebSystems load balancer.
Application web servers are usually easy to detect. The request for
several resources is handled by the application server itself (not the
web server) and the response header will vary significantly (including
different or additional values in the answer header). Another way to
detect these is to see if the web server tries to set cookies which are
indicative of an application web server being used (such as the JSES-
SIONID provided by some J2EE servers), or to rewrite URLs automati-
cally to do session tracking.
Authentication back ends (such as LDAP directories, relational data-
bases, or RADIUS servers) however, are not as easy to detect from an
external point of view in an immediate way, since they will be hidden
by the application itself.
The use of a back end database can be determined simply by navigat-
ing an application. If there is highly dynamic content generated “on the
fly,” it is probably being extracted from some sort of database by the
application itself. Sometimes the way information is requested might
give insight to the existence of a database back-end. For example, an
online shopping application that uses numeric identifiers (‘id’) when
browsing the different articles in the shop. However, when doing a
blind application test, knowledge of the underlying database is usually
only available when a vulnerability surfaces in the application, such as
poor exception handling or susceptibility to SQL injection.
References
[1] WebSEAL, also known as Tivoli Authentication Manager, is a re-
verse proxy from IBM which is part of the Tivoli framework.
[2] There are some GUI-based administration tools for Apache (like
NetLoony) but they are not in widespread use yet.
Testing for configuration management
Understanding the deployed configuration of the server hosting the
web application is almost as important as the application securi-
ty testing itself. After all, an application chain is only as strong as its
weakest link. Application platforms are wide and varied, but some key
platform configuration errors can compromise the application in the
same way an unsecured application can compromise the server.
Test Network/Infrastructure Configuration
(OTG-CONFIG-001)
Summary
The intrinsic complexity of interconnected and heterogeneous web
server infrastructure, which can include hundreds of web applications,
makes configuration management and review a fundamental step in
testing and deploying every single application. It takes only a single
vulnerability to undermine the security of the entire infrastructure,
and even small and seemingly unimportant problems may evolve into
severe risks for another application on the same server. In order to
address these problems, it is of utmost importance to perform an in-
depth review of configuration and known security issues, after having
mapped the entire architecture.
Proper configuration management of the web server infrastructure is
very important in order to preserve the security of the application it-
self. If elements such as the web server software, the back-end data-
base servers, or the authentication servers are not properly reviewed
and secured, they might introduce undesired risks or introduce new
vulnerabilities that might compromise the application itself.
For example, a web server vulnerability that would allow a remote
attacker to disclose the source code of the application itself (a vul-
nerability that has arisen a number of times in both web servers or
application servers) could compromise the application, as anonymous
users could use the information disclosed in the source code to lever-
age attacks against the application or its users.
The following steps need to be taken to test the configuration man-
agement infrastructure:
• The different elements that make up the infrastructure need to
be determined in order to understand how they interact with a web
application and how they affect its security.
All the elements of the infrastructure need to be reviewed in order to
make sure that they don’t contain any known vulnerabilities.
A review needs to be made of the administrative tools used to
maintain all the different elements.
• The authentication systems, need to reviewed in order to assure
that they serve the needs of the application and that they cannot be
manipulated by external users to leverage access.
• A list of defined ports which are required for the application should
be maintained and kept under change control.
After having mapped the different elements that make up the infra-
structure (see Map Network and Application Architecture) it is possible
to review the configuration of each element founded and test for any
known vulnerabilities.
How to Test
Known Server Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities found in the different areas of the application architec-
ture, be it in the web server or in the back end database, can severe-
Cache-Control: no-cache
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 83
<TITLE>Error</TITLE>
<BODY>
<H1>Error</H1>
FW-1 at XXXXXX: Access denied.</BODY>
Web Application Penetration Testing
49
ly compromise the application itself. For example, consider a server
vulnerability that allows a remote, unauthenticated user to upload
files to the web server or even to replace files. This vulnerability could
compromise the application, since a rogue user may be able to replace
the application itself or introduce code that would affect the back end
servers, as its application code would be run just like any other appli-
cation.
Reviewing server vulnerabilities can be hard to do if the test needs to
be done through a blind penetration test. In these cases, vulnerabili-
ties need to be tested from a remote site, typically using an automated
tool. However, testing for some vulnerabilities can have unpredictable
results on the web server, and testing for others (like those directly
involved in denial of service attacks) might not be possible due to the
service downtime involved if the test was successful.
Some automated tools will flag vulnerabilities based on the web
server version retrieved. This leads to both false positives and false
negatives. On one hand, if the web server version has been removed
or obscured by the local site administrator the scan tool will not flag
the server as vulnerable even if it is. On the other hand, if the vendor
providing the software does not update the web server version when
vulnerabilities are fixed, the scan tool will flag vulnerabilities that do
not exist. The latter case is actually very common as some operating
system vendors back port patches of security vulnerabilities to the
software they provide in the operating system, but do not do a full up-
load to the latest software version. This happens in most GNU/Linux
distributions such as Debian, Red Hat or SuSE. In most cases, vulner-
ability scanning of an application architecture will only find vulnerabil-
ities associated with the “exposed” elements of the architecture (such
as the web server) and will usually be unable to find vulnerabilities
associated to elements which are not directly exposed, such as the
authentication back ends, the back end database, or reverse proxies
in use.
Finally, not all software vendors disclose vulnerabilities in a public way,
and therefore these weaknesses do not become registered within
publicly known vulnerability databases[2]. This information is only
disclosed to customers or published through fixes that do not have
accompanying advisories. This reduces the usefulness of vulnerability
scanning tools. Typically, vulnerability coverage of these tools will be
very good for common products (such as the Apache web server, Mi-
crosoft’s Internet Information Server, or IBM’s Lotus Domino) but will
be lacking for lesser known products.
This is why reviewing vulnerabilities is best done when the tester is
provided with internal information of the software used, including ver-
sions and releases used and patches applied to the software. With this
information, the tester can retrieve the information from the vendor
itself and analyze what vulnerabilities might be present in the archi-
tecture and how they can affect the application itself. When possible,
these vulnerabilities can be tested to determine their real effects and
to detect if there might be any external elements (such as intrusion
detection or prevention systems) that might reduce or negate the
possibility of successful exploitation. Testers might even determine,
through a configuration review, that the vulnerability is not even pres-
ent, since it affects a software component that is not in use.
It is also worthwhile to note that vendors will sometimes silently fix
vulnerabilities and make the fixes available with new software releas-
es. Different vendors will have different release cycles that determine
Web Application Penetration Testing
the support they might provide for older releases. A tester with de-
tailed information of the software versions used by the architecture
can analyse the risk associated to the use of old software releases
that might be unsupported in the short term or are already unsup-
ported. This is critical, since if a vulnerability were to surface in an old
software version that is no longer supported, the systems personnel
might not be directly aware of it. No patches will be ever made avail-
able for it and advisories might not list that version as vulnerable as it
is no longer supported. Even in the event that they are aware that the
vulnerability is present and the system is vulnerable, they will need to
do a full upgrade to a new software release, which might introduce
significant downtime in the application architecture or might force
the application to be re-coded due to incompatibilities with the latest
software version.
Administrative tools
Any web server infrastructure requires the existence of administrative
tools to maintain and update the information used by the application.
This information includes static content (web pages, graphic files),
application source code, user authentication databases, etc. Adminis-
trative tools will differ depending on the site, technology, or software
used. For example, some web servers will be managed using admin-
istrative interfaces which are, themselves, web servers (such as the
iPlanet web server) or will be administrated by plain text configuration
files (in the Apache case[3]) or use operating-system GUI tools (when
using Microsoft’s IIS server or ASP.Net).
In most cases the server configuration will be handled using different
file maintenance tools used by the web server, which are managed
through FTP servers, WebDAV, network file systems (NFS, CIFS) or
other mechanisms. Obviously, the operating system of the elements
that make up the application architecture will also be managed using
other tools. Applications may also have administrative interfaces em-
bedded in them that are used to manage the application data itself
(users, content, etc.).
After having mapped the administrative interfaces used to manage
the different parts of the architecture it is important to review them
since if an attacker gains access to any of them he can then compro-
mise or damage the application architecture. To do this it is important
to:
Determine the mechanisms that control access to these interfaces
and their associated susceptibilities. This information may be available
online.
• Change the default username and password.
Some companies choose not to manage all aspects of their web
server applications, but may have other parties managing the con-
tent delivered by the web application. This external company might
either provide only parts of the content (news updates or promotions)
or might manage the web server completely (including content and
code). It is common to find administrative interfaces available from the
Internet in these situations, since using the Internet is cheaper than
providing a dedicated line that will connect the external company to
the application infrastructure through a management-only interface.
In this situation, it is very important to test if the administrative inter-
faces can be vulnerable to attacks.
References
[1] WebSEAL, also known as Tivoli Authentication Manager, is a re-
50
verse proxy from IBM which is part of the Tivoli framework.
[2] Such as Symantec’s Bugtraq, ISS’ X-Force, or NIST’s National Vul-
nerability Database (NVD).
[3] There are some GUI-based administration tools for Apache (like
NetLoony) but they are not in widespread use yet.
Test Application Platform Configuration
(OTG-CONFIG-002)
Summary
Proper configuration of the single elements that make up an applica-
tion architecture is important in order to prevent mistakes that might
compromise the security of the whole architecture.
Configuration review and testing is a critical task in creating and main-
taining an architecture. This is because many different systems will be
usually provided with generic configurations that might not be suited
to the task they will perform on the specific site they’re installed on.
While the typical web and application server installation will contain
a lot of functionality (like application examples, documentation, test
pages) what is not essential should be removed before deployment to
avoid post-install exploitation.
How to Test
Black Box Testing
Sample and known files and directories
Many web servers and application servers provide, in a default instal-
lation, sample applications and files that are provided for the benefit
of the developer and in order to test that the server is working prop-
erly right after installation. However, many default web server appli-
cations have been later known to be vulnerable. This was the case, for
example, for CVE-1999-0449 (Denial of Service in IIS when the Exair
sample site had been installed), CAN-2002-1744 (Directory traversal
vulnerability in CodeBrws.asp in Microsoft IIS 5.0), CAN-2002-1630
(Use of sendmail.jsp in Oracle 9iAS), or CAN-2003-1172 (Directory
traversal in the view-source sample in Apache’s Cocoon).
CGI scanners include a detailed list of known files and directory sam-
ples that are provided by different web or application servers and
might be a fast way to determine if these files are present. However,
the only way to be really sure is to do a full review of the contents of
the web server or application server and determine of whether they
are related to the application itself or not.
Comment review
It is very common, and even recommended, for programmers to in-
clude detailed comments on their source code in order to allow for
other programmers to better understand why a given decision was
taken in coding a given function. Programmers usually add comments
when developing large web-based applications. However, comments
included inline in HTML code might reveal internal information that
should not be available to an attacker. Sometimes, even source code
is commented out since a functionality is no longer required, but this
comment is leaked out to the HTML pages returned to the users un-
intentionally.
Comment review should be done in order to determine if any infor-
mation is being leaked through comments. This review can only be
thoroughly done through an analysis of the web server static and dy-
namic content and through file searches. It can be useful to browse
the site either in an automatic or guided fashion and store all the con-
tent retrieved. This retrieved content can then be searched in order to
Web Application Penetration Testing
analyse any HTML comments available in the code.
Gray Box Testing
Configuration review
The web server or application server configuration takes an import-
ant role in protecting the contents of the site and it must be carefully
reviewed in order to spot common configuration mistakes. Obviously,
the recommended configuration varies depending on the site policy,
and the functionality that should be provided by the server software.
In most cases, however, configuration guidelines (either provided by
the software vendor or external parties) should be followed to deter-
mine if the server has been properly secured.
It is impossible to generically say how a server should be configured,
however, some common guidelines should be taken into account:
• Only enable server modules (ISAPI extensions in the case of IIS) that
are needed for the application. This reduces the attack surface since
the server is reduced in size and complexity as software modules
are disabled. It also prevents vulnerabilities that might appear in the
vendor software from affecting the site if they are only present in
modules that have been already disabled.
• Handle server errors (40x or 50x) with custom-made pages instead
of with the default web server pages. Specifically make sure that any
application errors will not be returned to the end-user and that no
code is leaked through these errors since it will help an attacker. It is
actually very common to forget this point since developers do need
this information in pre-production environments.
• Make sure that the server software runs with minimized privileges
in the operating system. This prevents an error in the server software
from directly compromising the whole system, although an attacker
could elevate privileges once running code as the web server.
• Make sure the server software properly logs both legitimate access
and errors.
Make sure that the server is configured to properly handle overloads
and prevent Denial of Service attacks. Ensure that the server has
been performance-tuned properly.
• Never grant non-administrative identities (with the exception of NT
SERVICE\WMSvc) access to applicationHost.config, redirection.
config, and administration.config (either Read or Write access). This
includes Network Service, IIS_IUSRS, IUSR, or any custom identity
used by IIS application pools. IIS worker processes are not meant to
access any of these files directly.
• Never share out applicationHost.config, redirection.config, and
administration.config on the network. When using Shared
Configuration, prefer to export applicationHost.config to another
location (see the section titled “Setting Permissions for Shared
Configuration).
Keep in mind that all users can read .NET Framework machine.config
and root web.config files by default. Do not store sensitive
information in these files if it should be for administrator eyes only.
• Encrypt sensitive information that should be read by the IIS worker
processes only and not by other users on the machine.
• Do not grant Write access to the identity that the Web server uses
to access the shared applicationHost.config. This identity should
have only Read access.
• Use a separate identity to publish applicationHost.config to the
share. Do not use this identity for configuring access to the shared
configuration on the Web servers.
• Use a strong password when exporting the encryption keys for use
with shared -configuration.
51
• Maintain restricted access to the share containing the shared
configuration and encryption keys. If this share is compromised, an
attacker will be able to read and write any IIS configuration for your
Web servers, redirect traffic from your Web site to malicious sources,
and in some cases gain control of all web servers by loading arbitrary
code into IIS worker processes.
• Consider protecting this share with firewall rules and IPsec policies
to allow only the member web servers to connect.
Logging
Logging is an important asset of the security of an application ar-
chitecture, since it can be used to detect flaws in applications (users
constantly trying to retrieve a file that does not really exist) as well as
sustained attacks from rogue users. Logs are typically properly gener-
ated by web and other server software. It is not common to find appli-
cations that properly log their actions to a log and, when they do, the
main intention of the application logs is to produce debugging output
that could be used by the programmer to analyze a particular error.
In both cases (server and application logs) several issues should be
tested and analysed based on the log contents:
• Do the logs contain sensitive information?
• Are the logs stored in a dedicated server?
• Can log usage generate a Denial of Service condition?
• How are they rotated? Are logs kept for the sufficient time?
• How are logs reviewed? Can administrators use these reviews to
detect targeted attacks?
• How are log backups preserved?
• Is the data being logged data validated (min/max length, chars etc)
prior to being logged?
Sensitive information in logs
Some applications might, for example, use GET requests to forward
form data which will be seen in the server logs. This means that serv-
er logs might contain sensitive information (such as usernames as
passwords, or bank account details). This sensitive information can be
misused by an attacker if they obtained the logs, for example, through
administrative interfaces or known web server vulnerabilities or mis-
configuration (like the well-known server-status misconfiguration in
Apache-based HTTP servers ).
Event logs will often contain data that is useful to an attacker (infor-
mation leakage) or can be used directly in exploits:
• Debug information
• Stack traces
• Usernames
• System component names
• Internal IP addresses
• Less sensitive personal data (e.g. email addresses, postal addresses
and telephone numbers associated with named individuals)
• Business data
Also, in some jurisdictions, storing some sensitive information in log
files, such as personal data, might oblige the enterprise to apply the
data protection laws that they would apply to their back-end data-
bases to log files too. And failure to do so, even unknowingly, might
carry penalties under the data protection laws that apply.
A wider list of sensitive information is:
• Application source code
• Session identification values
• Access tokens
• Sensitive personal data and some forms of personally identifiable
information (PII)
• Authentication passwords
• Database connection strings
• Encryption keys
• Bank account or payment card holder data
• Data of a higher security classification than the logging system is
allowed to store
• Commercially-sensitive information
• Information it is illegal to collect in the relevant jurisdiction
• Information a user has opted out of collection, or not consented to
e.g. use of do not track, or where consent to collect has expired
Log location
Typically servers will generate local logs of their actions and errors,
consuming the disk of the system the server is running on. However,
if the server is compromised its logs can be wiped out by the intruder
to clean up all the traces of its attack and methods. If this were to
happen the system administrator would have no knowledge of how
the attack occurred or where the attack source was located. Actually,
most attacker tool kits include a log zapper that is capable of clean-
ing up any logs that hold given information (like the IP address of the
attacker) and are routinely used in attacker’s system-level root kits.
Consequently, it is wiser to keep logs in a separate location and not in
the web server itself. This also makes it easier to aggregate logs from
different sources that refer to the same application (such as those
of a web server farm) and it also makes it easier to do log analysis
(which can be CPU intensive) without affecting the server itself.
Log storage
Logs can introduce a Denial of Service condition if they are not prop-
erly stored. Any attacker with sufficient resources could be able to
produce a sufficient number of requests that would fill up the allocat-
ed space to log files, if they are not specifically prevented from doing
so. However, if the server is not properly configured, the log files will
be stored in the same disk partition as the one used for the operating
system software or the application itself. This means that if the disk
were to be filled up the operating system or the application might fail
because it is unable to write on disk.
Typically in UNIX systems logs will be located in /var (although some
server installations might reside in /opt or /usr/local) and it is import-
ant to make sure that the directories in which logs are stored are in a
separate partition. In some cases, and in order to prevent the system
logs from being affected, the log directory of the server software it-
self (such as /var/log/apache in the Apache web server) should be
stored in a dedicated partition.
This is not to say that logs should be allowed to grow to fill up the file
system they reside in. Growth of server logs should be monitored in
order to detect this condition since it may be indicative of an attack.
Testing this condition is as easy, and as dangerous in production envi-
ronments, as firing off a sufficient and sustained number of requests
to see if these requests are logged and if there is a possibility to fill
up the log partition through these requests. In some environments
where QUERY_STRING parameters are also logged regardless of
whether they are produced through GET or POST requests, big que-
Web Application Penetration Testing
52
ries can be simulated that will fill up the logs faster since, typically, a
single request will cause only a small amount of data to be logged,
such as date and time, source IP address, URI request, and server re-
sult.
Log rotation
Most servers (but few custom applications) will rotate logs in order
to prevent them from filling up the file system they reside on. The
assumption when rotating logs is that the information in them is only
necessary for a limited amount of time.
This feature should be tested in order to ensure that:
• Logs are kept for the time defined in the security policy, not more
and not less.
Logs are compressed once rotated (this is a convenience, since it will
mean that more logs will be stored for the same available disk space).
• File system permission of rotated log files are the same (or stricter)
that those of the log files itself. For example, web servers will need
to write to the logs they use but they don’t actually need to write
to rotated logs, which means that the permissions of the files can
be changed upon rotation to prevent the web server process from
modifying these.
Some servers might rotate logs when they reach a given size. If this
happens, it must be ensured that an attacker cannot force logs to ro-
tate in order to hide his tracks.
Log Access Control
Event log information should never be visible to end users. Even web
administrators should not be able to see such logs since it breaks
separation of duty controls. Ensure that any access control schema
that is used to protect access to raw logs and any applications pro-
viding capabilities to view or search the logs is not linked with access
control schemas for other application user roles. Neither should any
log data be viewable by unauthenticated users.
Log review
Review of logs can be used for more than extraction of usage statis-
tics of files in the web servers (which is typically what most log-based
application will focus on), but also to determine if attacks take place
at the web server.
In order to analyze web server attacks the error log files of the server
need to be analyzed. Review should concentrate on:
• 40x (not found) error messages. A large amount of these from the
same source might be indicative of a CGI scanner tool being used
against the web server
• 50x (server error) messages. These can be an indication of an
attacker abusing parts of the application which fail unexpectedly.
For example, the first phases of a SQL injection attack will produce
these error message when the SQL query is not properly constructed
and its execution fails on the back end database.
Log statistics or analysis should not be generated, nor stored, in the
same server that produces the logs. Otherwise, an attacker might,
through a web server vulnerability or improper configuration, gain ac-
cess to them and retrieve similar information as would be disclosed by
log files themselves.
References
[1] Apache
• Apache Security, by Ivan Ristic, O’reilly, March 2005.
Apache Security Secrets: Revealed (Again), Mark Cox, November
2003 - http://www.awe.com/mark/apcon2003/
Apache Security Secrets: Revealed, ApacheCon 2002, Las Vegas,
Mark J Cox, October 2002 - http://www.awe.com/mark/apcon2002
Performance Tuning - http://httpd.apache.org/docs/misc/
perf-tuning.html
[2] Lotus Domino
• Lotus Security Handbook, William Tworek et al., April 2004, avail-
able in the IBM Redbooks collection
• Lotus Domino Security, an X-force white-paper, Internet Security
Systems, December 2002
• Hackproofing Lotus Domino Web Server, David Litchfield, October
2001,
NGSSoftware Insight Security Research, available at http://www.
nextgenss.com
[3] Microsoft IIS
IIS 6.0 Security, by Rohyt Belani, Michael Muckin, - http://www.
securityfocus.com/print/infocus/1765
IIS 7.0 Securing Configuration - http://technet.microsoft.com/en-
us/library/dd163536.aspx
Securing Your Web Server (Patterns and Practices), Microsoft Cor-
poration, January 2004
IIS Security and Programming Countermeasures, by Jason Coombs
From Blueprint to Fortress: A Guide to Securing IIS 5.0, by John
Davis, Microsoft Corporation, June 2001
Secure Internet Information Services 5 Checklist, by Michael How-
ard, Microsoft Corporation, June 2000
“INFO: Using URLScan on IIS” - http://support.microsoft.com/de-
fault.aspx?scid=307608
[4] Red Hat’s (formerly Netscape’s) iPlanet
Guide to the Secure Configuration and Administration of iPlanet
Web Server, Enterprise Edition 4.1, by James M Hayes, The Net-
work Applications Team of the Systems and Network Attack Center
(SNAC), NSA, January 2001
[5] WebSphere
IBM WebSphere V5.0 Security, WebSphere Handbook Series, by
Peter Kovari et al., IBM, December 2002.
IBM WebSphere V4.0 Advanced Edition Security, by Peter Kovari
et al., IBM, March 2002.
[6] General
• Logging Cheat Sheet, OWASP
• SP 800-92 Guide to Computer Security Log Management, NIST
PCI DSS v2.0 Requirement 10 and PA-DSS v2.0 Requirement 4,
PCI Security Standards Council
[7] Generic:
• CERT Security Improvement Modules: Securing Public Web Serv-
ers - http://www.cert.org/security-improvement/
• Apache Security Configuration Document, InterSect Alliance -
http://www.intersectalliance.com/projects/ApacheConfig/index.
html
“How To: Use IISLockdown.exe” - http://msdn.microsoft.com/li-
brary/en-us/secmod/html/secmod113.asp
Test File Extensions Handling for Sensitive
Information (OTG-CONFIG-003)
Summary
File extensions are commonly used in web servers to easily determine
which technologies, languages and plugins must be used to fulfill the
web request. While this behavior is consistent with RFCs and Web
Web Application Penetration Testing
53
Standards, using standard file extensions provides the penetration
tester useful information about the underlying technologies used in
a web appliance and greatly simplifies the task of determining the
attack scenario to be used on particular technologies. In addition,
mis-configuration of web servers could easily reveal confidential in-
formation about access credentials.
Extension checking is often used to validate files to be uploaded,
which can lead to unexpected results because the content is not what
is expected, or because of unexpected OS file name handling.
Determining how web servers handle requests corresponding to files
having different extensions may help in understanding web server be-
havior depending on the kind of files that are accessed. For example,
it can help to understand which file extensions are returned as text or
plain versus those that cause execution on the server side. The latter
are indicative of technologies, languages or plugins that are used by
web servers or application servers, and may provide additional insight
on how the web application is engineered. For example, a “.pl” exten-
sion is usually associated with server-side Perl support. However, the
file extension alone may be deceptive and not fully conclusive. For ex-
ample, Perl server-side resources might be renamed to conceal the
fact that they are indeed Perl related. See the next section on “web
server components” for more on identifying server side technologies
and components.
How to Test
Forced browsing
Submit http[s] requests involving different file extensions and verify
how they are handled. The verification should be on a per web direc-
tory basis. Verify directories that allow script execution. Web server
directories can be identified by vulnerability scanners, which look for
the presence of well-known directories. In addition, mirroring the web
site structure allows the tester to reconstruct the tree of web directo-
ries served by the application.
If the web application architecture is load-balanced, it is important to
assess all of the web servers. This may or may not be easy, depend-
ing on the configuration of the balancing infrastructure. In an infra-
structure with redundant components there may be slight variations
in the configuration of individual web or application servers. This may
happen if the web architecture employs heterogeneous technologies
(think of a set of IIS and Apache web servers in a load-balancing con-
figuration, which may introduce slight asymmetric behavior between
them, and possibly different vulnerabilities).
‘Example:
The tester has identified the existence of a file named connection.inc.
Trying to access it directly gives back its contents, which are:
The tester determines the existence of a MySQL DBMS back end, and
the (weak) credentials used by the web application to access it.
The following file extensions should never be returned by a web serv-
er, since they are related to files which may contain sensitive informa-
tion or to files for which there is no reason to be served.
• .asa
• .inc
The following file extensions are related to files which, when accessed,
are either displayed or downloaded by the browser. Therefore, files
with these extensions must be checked to verify that they are indeed
supposed to be served (and are not leftovers), and that they do not
contain sensitive information.
• .zip, .tar, .gz, .tgz, .rar, ...: (Compressed) archive files
• .java: No reason to provide access to Java source files
• .txt: Text files
• .pdf: PDF documents
• .doc, .rtf, .xls, .ppt, ...: Office documents
.bak, .old and other extensions indicative of backup files (for example:
~ for Emacs backup files)
The list given above details only a few examples, since file extensions
are too many to be comprehensively treated here. Refer to http://filext.
com/ for a more thorough database of extensions.
To identify files having a given extensions a mix of techniques can be
employed. THese techniques can include Vulnerability Scanners, spi-
dering and mirroring tools, manually inspecting the application (this
overcomes limitations in automatic spidering), querying search en-
gines (see Testing: Spidering and googling). See also Testing for Old,
Backup and Unreferenced Files which deals with the security issues
related to “forgotten” files.
File Upload
Windows 8.3 legacy file handling can sometimes be used to defeat file
upload filters
Gray Box testing
Performing white box testing against file extensions handling
amounts to checking the configurations of web servers or application
servers taking part in the web application architecture, and verifying
how they are instructed to serve different file extensions.
If the web application relies on a load-balanced, heterogeneous infra-
structure, determine whether this may introduce different behavior.
Tools
Vulnerability scanners, such as Nessus and Nikto check for the ex-
<?
mysql_connect(“127.0.0.1”, “root”, “”)
or die(“Could not connect”);
?>
Web Application Penetration Testing
Usage Examples:
file.phtml gets processed as PHP code
FILE~1.PHT is served, but not processed by the PHP ISAPI han-
dler
shell.phPWND can be uploaded
SHELL~1.PHP will be expanded and returned by the OS shell,
then processed by the PHP ISAPI handler
54
istence of well-known web directories. They may allow the tester
to download the web site structure, which is helpful when trying to
determine the configuration of web directories and how individual file
extensions are served. Other tools that can be used for this purpose
include:
• wget - http://www.gnu.org/software/wget
• curl - http://curl.haxx.se
• google for “web mirroring tools”.
Review Old, Backup and Unreferenced Files for
Sensitive Information (OTG-CONFIG-004)
Summary
While most of the files within a web server are directly handled by the
server itself, it isn’t uncommon to find unreferenced or forgotten files
that can be used to obtain important information about the infrastruc-
ture or the credentials.
Most common scenarios include the presence of renamed old ver-
sions of modified files, inclusion files that are loaded into the language
of choice and can be downloaded as source, or even automatic or
manual backups in form of compressed archives. Backup files can also
be generated automatically by the underlying file system the applica-
tion is hosted on, a feature usually referred to as “snapshots”.
All these files may grant the tester access to inner workings, back
doors, administrative interfaces, or even credentials to connect to the
administrative interface or the database server.
An important source of vulnerability lies in files which have nothing to
do with the application, but are created as a consequence of editing
application files, or after creating on-the-fly backup copies, or by leav-
ing in the web tree old files or unreferenced files.Performing in-place
editing or other administrative actions on production web servers may
inadvertently leave backup copies, either generated automatically by
the editor while editing files, or by the administrator who is zipping a
set of files to create a backup.
It is easy to forget such files and this may pose a serious security
threat to the application. That happens because backup copies may be
generated with file extensions differing from those of the original files.
A .tar, .zip or .gz archive that we generate (and forget...) has obviously
a different extension, and the same happens with automatic copies
created by many editors (for example, emacs generates a backup copy
named file~ when editing file). Making a copy by hand may produce the
same effect (think of copying file to file.old). The underlying file system
the application is on could be making “snapshots” of your application
at different points in time without your knowledge, which may also be
accessible via the web, posing a similar but different “backup file” style
threat to your application.
As a result, these activities generate files that are not needed by the
application and may be handled differently than the original file by
the web server. For example, if we make a copy of login.asp named
login.asp.old, we are allowing users to download the source code of
login.asp. This is because login.asp.old will be typically served as text
or plain, rather than being executed because of its extension. In oth-
er words, accessing login.asp causes the execution of the server-side
code of login.asp, while accessing login.asp.old causes the content of
login.asp.old (which is, again, server-side code) to be plainly returned
to the user and displayed in the browser. This may pose security risks,
Web Application Penetration Testing
since sensitive information may be revealed.
Generally, exposing server side code is a bad idea. Not only are you
unnecessarily exposing business logic, but you may be unknowingly
revealing application-related information which may help an attacker
(path names, data structures, etc.). Not to mention the fact that there
are too many scripts with embedded username and password in clear
text (which is a careless and very dangerous practice).
Other causes of unreferenced files are due to design or configuration
choices when they allow diverse kind of application-related files such
as data files, configuration files, log files, to be stored in file system
directories that can be accessed by the web server. These files have
normally no reason to be in a file system space that could be accessed
via web, since they should be accessed only at the application level,
by the application itself (and not by the casual user browsing around).
Threats
Old, backup and unreferenced files present various threats to the se-
curity of a web application:
• Unreferenced files may disclose sensitive information that can
facilitate a focused attack against the application; for example include
files containing database credentials, configuration files containing
references to other hidden content, absolute file paths, etc.
• Unreferenced pages may contain powerful functionality that can be
used to attack the application; for example an administration page
that is not linked from published content but can be accessed by any
user who knows where to find it.
Old and backup files may contain vulnerabilities that have been fixed
in more recent versions; for example viewdoc.old.jsp may contain a
directory traversal vulnerability that has been fixed in viewdoc.jsp
but can still be exploited by anyone who finds the old version.
• Backup files may disclose the source code for pages designed to
execute on the server; for example requesting viewdoc.bak may
return the source code for viewdoc.jsp, which can be reviewed for
vulnerabilities that may be difficult to find by making blind requests
to the executable page. While this threat obviously applies to scripted
languages, such as Perl, PHP, ASP, shell scripts, JSP, etc., it is not
limited to them, as shown in the example provided in the next bullet.
• Backup archives may contain copies of all files within (or even
outside) the webroot. This allows an attacker to quickly enumerate
the entire application, including unreferenced pages, source code,
include files, etc. For example, if you forget a file named myservlets.
jar.old file containing (a backup copy of) your servlet implementation
classes, you are exposing a lot of sensitive information which is
susceptible to decompilation and reverse engineering.
• In some cases copying or editing a file does not modify the file
extension, but modifies the file name. This happens for example in
Windows environments, where file copying operations generate file
names prefixed with “Copy of “ or localized versions of this string.
Since the file extension is left unchanged, this is not a case where
an executable file is returned as plain text by the web server, and
therefore not a case of source code disclosure. However, these
files too are dangerous because there is a chance that they include
obsolete and incorrect logic that, when invoked, could trigger
application errors, which might yield valuable information to an
attacker, if diagnostic message display is enabled.
• Log files may contain sensitive information about the activities
of application users, for example sensitive data passed in URL
parameters, session IDs, URLs visited (which may disclose additional
55
unreferenced content), etc. Other log files (e.g. ftp logs) may contain
sensitive information about the maintenance of the application by
system administrators.
• File system snapshots may contain copies of the code that contain
vulnerabilities that have been fixed in more recent versions. For
example /.snapshot/monthly.1/view.php may contain a directory
traversal vulnerability that has been fixed in /view.php but can still
be exploited by anyone who finds the old version.
How to Test
Black Box Testing
Testing for unreferenced files uses both automated and manual tech-
niques, and typically involves a combination of the following:
Inference from the naming scheme used for published content
Enumerate all of the application’s pages and functionality. This can be
done manually using a browser, or using an application spidering tool.
Most applications use a recognizable naming scheme, and organize
resources into pages and directories using words that describe their
function. From the naming scheme used for published content, it is of-
ten possible to infer the name and location of unreferenced pages. For
example, if a page viewuser.asp is found, then look also for edituser.
asp, adduser.asp and deleteuser.asp. If a directory /app/user is found,
then look also for /app/admin and /app/manager.
Other clues in published content
Many web applications leave clues in published content that can lead
to the discovery of hidden pages and functionality. These clues often
appear in the source code of HTML and JavaScript files. The source
code for all published content should be manually reviewed to identify
clues about other pages and functionality. For example:
Programmers’ comments and commented-out sections of source
code may refer to hidden content:
JavaScript may contain page links that are only rendered within the
user’s GUI under certain circumstances:
HTML pages may contain FORMs that have been hidden by disabling
the SUBMIT element:
<!-- <A HREF=”uploadfile.jsp”>Upload a document to the serv-
er</A> -->
<!-- Link removed while bugs in uploadfile.jsp are fixed -->
var adminUser=false;
:
if (adminUser) menu.add (new menuItem (“Maintain users”, “/
admin/useradmin.jsp”));
<FORM action=”forgotPassword.jsp” method=”post”>
<INPUT type=”hidden” name=”userID” value=”123”>
<!-- <INPUT type=”submit” value=”Forgot Password”> -->
</FORM>
User-agent: *
Disallow: /Admin
Disallow: /uploads
Disallow: /backup
Disallow: /~jbloggs
Disallow: /include
#!/bin/bash
server=www.targetapp.com
port=80
while read url
do
echo -ne “$url\t”
echo -e “GET /$url HTTP/1.0\nHost: $server\n” | netcat $server
$port | head -1
done | tee outputfile
Web Application Penetration Testing
Another source of clues about unreferenced directories is the /robots.
txt file used to provide instructions to web robots:
Blind guessing
In its simplest form, this involves running a list of common file
names through a request engine in an attempt to guess files and
directories that exist on the server. The following netcat wrapper
script will read a wordlist from stdin and perform a basic guessing
attack:
Depending upon the server, GET may be replaced with HEAD for
faster results. The output file specified can be grepped for “inter-
esting” response codes. The response code 200 (OK) usually in-
dicates that a valid resource has been found (provided the server
does not deliver a custom “not found” page using the 200 code).
But also look out for 301 (Moved), 302 (Found), 401 (Unautho-
rized), 403 (Forbidden) and 500 (Internal error), which may also
indicate resources or directories that are worthy of further inves-
tigation.
The basic guessing attack should be run against the webroot, and
also against all directories that have been identified through other
enumeration techniques. More advanced/effective guessing at-
tacks can be performed as follows:
• Identify the file extensions in use within known areas of the
application (e.g. jsp, aspx, html), and use a basic wordlist
appended with each of these extensions (or use a longer list of
common extensions if resources permit).
• For each file identified through other enumeration techniques,
create a custom wordlist derived from that filename. Get a list
of common file extensions (including ~, bak, txt, src, dev, old, inc,
orig, copy, tmp, etc.) and use each extension before, after, and
instead of, the extension of the actual file name.
Note: Windows file copying operations generate file names pre-
fixed with “Copy of “ or localized versions of this string, hence they
do not change file extensions. While “Copy of ” files typically do
56
Web Application Penetration Testing
Gray Box Testing
Performing gray box testing against old and backup files requires ex-
amining the files contained in the directories belonging to the set of
web directories served by the web server(s) of the web application
infrastructure. Theoretically the examination should be performed by
hand to be thorough. However, since in most cases copies of files or
backup files tend to be created by using the same naming conven-
tions, the search can be easily scripted. For example, editors leave be-
hind backup copies by naming them with a recognizable extension or
ending and humans tend to leave behind files with a “.old” or similar
predictable extensions. A good strategy is that of periodically schedul-
ing a background job checking for files with extensions likely to identi-
fy them as copy or backup files, and performing manual checks as well
on a longer time basis.
Tools
• Vulnerability assessment tools tend to include checks to spot web
directories having standard names (such as “admin”, “test”, “backup”,
etc.), and to report any web directory which allows indexing. If you
can’t get any directory listing, you should try to check for likely backup
extensions. Check for example Nessus (http://www.nessus.org),
Nikto2(http://www.cirt.net/code/nikto.shtml) or its new derivative
Wikto (http://www.sensepost.com/research/wikto/), which also
supports Google hacking based strategies.
• Web spider tools: wget (http://www.gnu.org/software/wget/,
http://www.interlog.com/~tcharron/wgetwin.html); Sam Spade
(http://www.samspade.org); Spike proxy includes a web site crawler
function (http://www.immunitysec.com/spikeproxy.html); Xenu
(http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html); curl (http://curl.haxx.
se). Some of them are also included in standard Linux distributions.
• Web development tools usually include facilities to identify broken
links and unreferenced files.
Remediation
To guarantee an effective protection strategy, testing should be com-
pounded by a security policy which clearly forbids dangerous practic-
es, such as:
• Editing files in-place on the web server or application server file
systems. This is a particular bad habit, since it is likely to unwillingly
generate backup files by the editors. It is amazing to see how often
this is done, even in large organizations. If you absolutely need to
edit files on a production system, do ensure that you don’t leave
behind anything which is not explicitly intended, and consider that
you are doing it at your own risk.
• Check carefully any other activity performed on file systems
exposed by the web server, such as spot administration activities.
For example, if you occasionally need to take a snapshot of a couple
of directories (which you should not do on a production system), you
not disclose source code when accessed, they might yield valu-
able information in case they cause errors when invoked.
Information obtained through server vulnerabilities and mis-
configuration
The most obvious way in which a misconfigured server may dis-
close unreferenced pages is through directory listing. Request all
enumerated directories to identify any which provide a directory
listing.
Numerous vulnerabilities have been found in individual web serv-
ers which allow an attacker to enumerate unreferenced content,
for example:
• Apache ?M=D directory listing vulnerability.
• Various IIS script source disclosure vulnerabilities.
• IIS WebDAV directory listing vulnerabilities.
Use of publicly available information
Pages and functionality in Internet-facing web applications that
are not referenced from within the application itself may be refer-
enced from other public domain sources. There are various sourc-
es of these references:
Pages that used to be referenced may still appear in the archives
of Internet search engines. For example, 1998results.asp may
no longer be linked from a company’s website, but may remain
on the server and in search engine databases. This old script may
contain vulnerabilities that could be used to compromise the
entire site. The site: Google search operator may be used to run
a query only against the domain of choice, such as in: site:www.
example.com. Using search engines in this way has lead to a
broad array of techniques which you may find useful and that
are described in the Google Hacking section of this Guide. Check
it to hone your testing skills via Google. Backup files are not likely
to be referenced by any other files and therefore may have not
been indexed by Google, but if they lie in browsable directories
the search engine might know about them.
• In addition, Google and Yahoo keep cached versions of pages
found by their robots. Even if 1998results.asp has been removed
from the target server, a version of its output may still be stored
by these search engines. The cached version may contain
references to, or clues about, additional hidden content that still
remains on the server.
• Content that is not referenced from within a target application
may be linked to by third-party websites. For example, an
application which processes online payments on behalf of third-
party traders may contain a variety of bespoke functionality
which can (normally) only be found by following links within the
web sites of its customers.
File name filter bypass
Because blacklist filters are based on regular expressions, one can
sometimes take advantage of obscure OS file name expansion
features in which work in ways the developer didn’t expect. The
tester can sometimes exploit differences in ways that file names
are parsed by the application, web server, and underlying OS and
it’s file name conventions.
Example: Windows 8.3 filename expansion “c:\program files” be-
comes “C:\PROGRA~1”
– Remove incompatible characters
– Convert spaces to underscores
- Take the first six characters of the basename
– Add “~<digit>” which is used to distinguish files with names
using the same six initial characters
- This convention changes after the first 3 cname ollisions
– Truncate file extension to three characters
- Make all the characters uppercase
57
may be tempted to zip them first. Be careful not to forget behind
those archive files.
• Appropriate configuration management policies should help not to
leave around obsolete and unreferenced files.
Applications should be designed not to create (or rely on) files stored
under the web directory trees served by the web server. Data files,
log files, configuration files, etc. should be stored in directories
not accessible by the web server, to counter the possibility of
information disclosure (not to mention data modification if web
directory permissions allow writing).
• File system snapshots should not be accessible via the web if the
document root is on a file system using this technology. Configure
your web server to deny access to such directories, for example
under apache a location directive such this should be used:
Enumerate Infrastructure and Application Admin
Interfaces (OTG-CONFIG-005)
Summary
Administrator interfaces may be present in the application or on the
application server to allow certain users to undertake privileged ac-
tivities on the site. Tests should be undertaken to reveal if and how
this privileged functionality can be accessed by an unauthorized or
standard user.
An application may require an administrator interface to enable a priv-
ileged user to access functionality that may make changes to how the
site functions. Such changes may include:
• user account provisioning
• site design and layout
• data manipulation
• configuration changes
In many instances, such interfaces do not have sufficient controls to
protect them from unauthorized access. Testing is aimed at discover-
ing these administrator interfaces and accessing functionality intend-
ed for the privileged users.
How to Test
Black Box Testing
The following section describes vectors that may be used to test for
the presence of administrative interfaces. These techniques may also
be used to test for related issues including privilege escalation, and are
described elsewhere in this guide(for example Testing for bypassing
authorization schema (OTG-AUTHZ-002) and Testing for Insecure Di-
rect Object References (OTG-AUTHZ-004) in greater detail.
• Directory and file enumeration. An administrative interface may be
present but not visibly available to the tester. Attempting to guess
the path of the administrative interface may be as simple as
requesting: /admin or /administrator etc.. or in some scenarios can
be revealed within seconds using Google dorks.
• There are many tools available to perform brute forcing of server
<Location ~ “.snapshot”>
Order deny,allow
Deny from all
</Location>
<input type=”hidden” name=”admin” value=”no”>
Cookie: session_cookie; useradmin=0
Web Application Penetration Testing
contents, see the tools section below for more information. * A
tester may have to also identify the file name of the administration
page. Forcibly browsing to the identified page may provide access to
the interface.
• Comments and links in source code. Many sites use common code
that is loaded for all site users. By examining all source sent to the
client, links to administrator functionality may be discovered and
should be investigated.
• Reviewing server and application documentation. If the application
server or application is deployed in its default configuration it may
be possible to access the administration interface using information
described in configuration or help documentation. Default password
lists should be consulted if an administrative interface is found and
credentials are required.
• Publicly available information. Many applications such as wordpress
have default administrative interfaces .
• Alternative server port. Administration interfaces may be seen on
a different port on the host than the main application. For example,
Apache Tomcat’s Administration interface can often be seen on port
8080.
Parameter tampering. A GET or POST parameter or a cookie variable
may be required to enable the administrator functionality. Clues to
this include the presence of hidden fields such as:
or in a cookie:
Once an administrative interface has been discovered, a combination
of the above techniques may be used to attempt to bypass authenti-
cation. If this fails, the tester may wish to attempt a brute force attack.
In such an instance the tester should be aware of the potential for ad-
ministrative account lockout if such functionality is present.
Gray Box Testing
A more detailed examination of the server and application compo-
nents should be undertaken to ensure hardening (i.e. administrator
pages are not accessible to everyone through the use of IP filtering
or other controls), and where applicable, verification that all compo-
nents do not use default credentials or configurations.
Source code should be reviewed to ensure that the authorization and
authentication model ensures clear separation of duties between
normal users and site administrators. User interface functions shared
between normal and administrator users should be reviewed to en-
sure clear separation between the drawing of such components and
information leakage from such shared functionality.
Tools
Dirbuster This currently inactive OWASP project is still a great tool for
brute forcing directories and files on the server.
• THC-HYDRA is a tool that allows brute-forcing of many interfaces,
including form-based HTTP authentication.
• A brute forcer is much better when it uses a good dictionary, for
58
example the netsparker dictionary.
References
Default Password list: http://www.governmentsecurity.org/articles/
DefaultLoginsandPasswordsforNetworkedDevices.php
• Default Password list: http://www.cirt.net/passwords
Test HTTP Methods (OTG-CONFIG-006)
Summary
HTTP offers a number of methods that can be used to perform ac-
tions on the web server. Many of theses methods are designed to aid
developers in deploying and testing HTTP applications. These HTTP
methods can be used for nefarious purposes if the web server is mis-
configured. Additionally, Cross Site Tracing (XST), a form of cross site
scripting using the server’s HTTP TRACE method, is examined.
While GET and POST are by far the most common methods that are
used to access information provided by a web server, the Hypertext
Transfer Protocol (HTTP) allows several other (and somewhat less
known) methods. RFC 2616 (which describes HTTP version 1.1 which
is the standard today) defines the following eight methods:
• HEAD
• GET
• POST
• PUT
• DELETE
• TRACE
• OPTIONS
• CONNECT
Some of these methods can potentially pose a security risk for a web
application, as they allow an attacker to modify the files stored on the
web server and, in some scenarios, steal the credentials of legitimate
users. More specifically, the methods that should be disabled are the
following:
PUT: This method allows a client to upload new files on the web
server. An attacker can exploit it by uploading malicious files (e.g.: an
asp file that executes commands by invoking cmd.exe), or by simply
using the victim’s server as a file repository.
DELETE: This method allows a client to delete a file on the web
server. An attacker can exploit it as a very simple and direct way to
deface a web site or to mount a DoS attack.
CONNECT: This method could allow a client to use the web server
as a proxy.
TRACE: This method simply echoes back to the client whatever
string has been sent to the server, and is used mainly for debugging
purposes. This method, originally assumed harmless, can be used to
mount an attack known as Cross Site Tracing, which has been dis-
covered by Jeremiah Grossman (see links at the bottom of the page).
If an application needs one or more of these methods, such as REST
Web Services (which may require PUT or DELETE), it is important to
check that their usage is properly limited to trusted users and safe
conditions.
Arbitrary HTTP Methods
Arshan Dabirsiaghi (see links) discovered that many web application
frameworks allowed well chosen or arbitrary HTTP methods to by-
pass an environment level access control check:
• Many frameworks and languages treat “HEAD” as a “GET” request,
albeit one without any body in the response. If a security constraint
was set on “GET” requests such that only “authenticatedUsers”
could access GET requests for a particular servlet or resource,
it would be bypassed for the “HEAD” version. This allowed
unauthorized blind submission of any privileged GET request.
• Some frameworks allowed arbitrary HTTP methods such as “JEFF”
or “CATS” to be used without limitation. These were treated as if
a “GET” method was issued, and were found not to be subject to
method role based access control checks on a number of languages
and frameworks, again allowing unauthorized blind submission of
privileged GET requests.
In many cases, code which explicitly checked for a “GET” or “POST”
method would be safe.
How to Test
Discover the Supported Methods
To perform this test, the tester needs some way to figure out which
HTTP methods are supported by the web server that is being exam-
ined. The OPTIONS HTTP method provides the tester with the most
direct and effective way to do that. RFC 2616 states that, “The OP-
TIONS method represents a request for information about the com-
munication options available on the request/response chain identi-
fied by the Request-URI”.
The testing method is extremely straightforward and we only need to
fire up netcat (or telnet):
As we can see in the example, OPTIONS provides a list of the meth-
ods that are supported by the web server, and in this case we can
see that TRACE method is enabled. The danger that is posed by this
method is illustrated in the following section
Test XST Potential
Note: in order to understand the logic and the goals of this attack
one must be familiar with Cross Site Scripting attacks.
The TRACE method, while apparently harmless, can be successfully
leveraged in some scenarios to steal legitimate users’ credentials.
This attack technique was discovered by Jeremiah Grossman in
2003, in an attempt to bypass the HTTPOnly tag that Microsoft in-
troduced in Internet Explorer 6 SP1 to protect cookies from being
accessed by JavaScript. As a matter of fact, one of the most recur-
ring attack patterns in Cross Site Scripting is to access the docu-
ment.cookie object and send it to a web server controlled by the
Web Application Penetration Testing
$ nc www.victim.com 80
OPTIONS / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.victim.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2006 08:00:29 GMT
Connection: close
Allow: GET, HEAD, POST, TRACE, OPTIONS
Content-Length: 0
59
attacker so that he or she can hijack the victim’s session. Tagging a
cookie as httpOnly forbids JavaScript from accessing it, protecting it
from being sent to a third party. However, the TRACE method can
be used to bypass this protection and access the cookie even in this
scenario.
As mentioned before, TRACE simply returns any string that is sent
to the web server. In order to verify its presence (or to double-check
the results of the OPTIONS request shown above), the tester can
proceed as shown in the following example:
The response body is exactly a copy of our original request, mean-
ing that the target allows this method. Now, where is the danger
lurking? If the tester instructs a browser to issue a TRACE request
to the web server, and this browser has a cookie for that domain,
the cookie will be automatically included in the request headers,
and will therefore be echoed back in the resulting response. At
that point, the cookie string will be accessible by JavaScript and
it will be finally possible to send it to a third party even when the
cookie is tagged as httpOnly.
There are multiple ways to make a browser issue a TRACE request,
such as the XMLHTTP ActiveX control in Internet Explorer and XM-
LDOM in Mozilla and Netscape. However, for security reasons the
browser is allowed to start a connection only to the domain where
the hostile script resides. This is a mitigating factor, as the attack-
er needs to combine the TRACE method with another vulnerability
in order to mount the attack.
An attacker has two ways to successfully launch a Cross Site Trac-
ing attack:
Leveraging another server-side vulnerability: the attacker injects
the hostile JavaScript snippet that contains the TRACE request
in the vulnerable application, as in a normal Cross Site Scripting
attack
• Leveraging a client-side vulnerability: the attacker creates a
malicious website that contains the hostile JavaScript snippet
and exploits some cross-domain vulnerability of the browser
of the victim, in order to make the JavaScript code successfully
perform a connection to the site that supports the TRACE
method and that originated the cookie that the attacker is trying
to steal.
More detailed information, together with code samples, can be
found in the original whitepaper written by Jeremiah Grossman.
$ nc www.victim.com 80
TRACE / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.victim.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2006 08:01:48 GMT
Connection: close
Content-Type: message/http
Content-Length: 39
TRACE / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.victim.com
$ nc www.example.com 80
HEAD /admin HTTP/1.1
Host: www.example.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 22:44:11 GMT
Server: Apache
Set-Cookie: PHPSESSID=pKi...; path=/; HttpOnly
Expires: Thu, 19 Nov 1981 08:52:00 GMT
Cache-Control: no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate, post-
check=0, pre-check=0
Web Application Penetration Testing
Testing for arbitrary HTTP methods
Find a page to visit that has a security constraint such that it
would normally force a 302 redirect to a log in page or forces a log
in directly. The test URL in this example works like this, as do many
web applications. However, if a tester obtains a “200” response
that is not a log in page, it is possible to bypass authentication and
thus authorization.
If the framework or firewall or application does not support the
“JEFF” method, it should issue an error page (or preferably a 405
Not Allowed or 501 Not implemented error page). If it services the
request, it is vulnerable to this issue.
If the tester feels that the system is vulnerable to this issue, they
should issue CSRF-like attacks to exploit the issue more fully:
• FOOBAR /admin/createUser.php?member=myAdmin
• JEFF/admin/changePw.php?member=myAdmin&passwd=
foo123&confirm=foo123
• CATS /admin/groupEdit.php?group=Admins&member=myAd
min&action=add
With some luck, using the above three commands - modified to
suit the application under test and testing requirements - a new
user would be created, a password assigned, and made an admin-
istrator.
Testing for HEAD access control bypass
Find a page to visit that has a security constraint such that it
would normally force a 302 redirect to a log in page or forces a log
in directly. The test URL in this example works like this, as do many
web applications. However, if the tester obtains a “200” response
that is not a login page, it is possible to bypass authentication and
thus authorization.
$ nc www.example.com 80
JEFF / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.example.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 22:38:40 GMT
Server: Apache
Set-Cookie: PHPSESSID=K53QW...
60
If the tester gets a “405 Method not allowed” or “501 Method
Unimplemented”, the target (application/framework/language/
system/firewall) is working correctly. If a “200” response code
comes back, and the response contains no body, it’s likely that the
application has processed the request without authentication or
authorization and further testing is warranted.
If the tester thinks that the system is vulnerable to this issue, they
should issue CSRF-like attacks to exploit the issue more fully:
• HEAD /admin/createUser.php?member=myAdmin
• HEAD /admin/changePw.php?member=myAdmin&passwd=
foo123&confirm=foo123
• HEAD /admin/groupEdit.php?group=Admins&member=myAd
min&action=add
With some luck, using the above three commands - modified to
suit the application under test and testing requirements - a new
user would be created, a password assigned, and made an admin-
istrator, all using blind request submission.
Tools
• NetCat - http://nc110.sourceforge.net
• cURL - http://curl.haxx.se/
References
Whitepapers
• RFC 2616: “Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1”
• RFC 2109 and RFC 2965: HTTP State Management
Mechanism”
• Jeremiah Grossman: “Cross Site Tracing (XST)” -
http://www.cgisecurity.com/whitehat-mirror/WH-WhitePaper_
XST_ebook.pdf
• Amit Klein: “XS(T) attack variants which can, in some cases,
eliminate the need for TRACE” - http://www.securityfocus.com/
archive/107/308433
• Arshan Dabirsiaghi: “Bypassing VBAAC with HTTP Verb
Tampering” - http://static.swpag.info/download/Bypassing_
VBAAC_with_HTTP_Verb_Tampering.pdf
Test HTTP Strict Transport Security
(OTG-CONFIG-007)
Summary
The HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) header is a mechanism
that web sites have to communicate to the web browsers that all
traffic exchanged with a given domain must always be sent over
Web Application Penetration Testing
https, this will help protect the information from being passed
over unencrypted requests.
Considering the importance of this security measure it is import-
ant to verify that the web site is using this HTTP header, in order to
ensure that all the data travels encrypted from the web browser
to the server.
The HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) feature lets a web
application to inform the browser, through the use of a special
response header, that it should never establish a connection to
the the specified domain servers using HTTP. Instead it should
automatically establish all connection requests to access the site
through HTTPS.
The HTTP strict transport security header uses two directives:
• max-age: to indicate the number of seconds that the browser
should automatically convert all HTTP requests to HTTPS.
• includeSubDomains: to indicate that all web application’s sub-
domains must use HTTPS.
Here’s an example of the HSTS header implementation:
The use of this header by web applications must be checked to
find if the following security issues could be produced:
• Attackers sniffing the network traffic and accessing
the information transferred through an unencrypted channel.
• Attackers exploiting a man in the middle attack because of the
problem of accepting certificates that are not trusted.
Users who mistakenly entered an address in the browser putting
HTTP instead of HTTPS, or users who click on a link in a web
application which mistakenly indicated the http protocol.
How to Test
Testing for the presence of HSTS header can be done by checking
for the existence of the HSTS header in the server’s response in an
interception proxy, or by using curl as follows:
Result expected:
References
• OWASP HTTP Strict Transport Security - https://www.owasp.
org/index.php/HTTP_Strict_Transport_Security
• OWASP Appsec Tutorial Series - Episode 4: Strict Transport
Security - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEV3HOuM_Vw
• HSTS Specification: http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6797
Pragma: no-cache
Set-Cookie: adminOnlyCookie1=...; expires=Tue, 18-Aug-
2009 22:44:31 GMT; domain=www.example.com
Set-Cookie: adminOnlyCookie2=...; expires=Mon, 18-Aug-
2008 22:54:31 GMT; domain=www.example.com
Set-Cookie: adminOnlyCookie3=...; expires=Sun, 19-Aug-
2007 22:44:30 GMT; domain=www.example.com
Content-Language: EN
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=60000;
includeSubDomains
$ curl -s -D- https://domain.com/ | grep Strict
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=...
61
• Generating server responses that may be treated as cross-
domain policy files.
Using file upload functionality to upload files that may be treated
as cross-domain policy files.
Impact of abusing cross-domain access
• Defeat CSRF protections.
• Read data restricted or otherwise protected by cross-origin pol-
icies.
How to Test
Testing for RIA policy files weakness:
To test for RIA policy file weakness the tester should try to retrieve
the policy files crossdomain.xml and clientaccesspolicy.xml from
the application’s root, and from every folder found.
For example, if the application’s URL is http://www.owasp.org, the
tester should try to download the files http://www.owasp.org/
crossdomain.xml and http://www.owasp.org/clientaccesspolicy.
xml.
After retrieving all the policy files, the permissions allowed should
be be checked under the least privilege principle. Requests should
only come from the domains, ports, or protocols that are neces-
sary. Overly permissive policies should be avoided. Policies with
“*” in them should be closely examined.
Example:
Result Expected:
• A list of policy files found.
• A weak settings in the policies.
Tools
• Nikto
• OWASP Zed Attack Proxy Project
• W3af
References
Whitepapers
• UCSD: “Analyzing the Crossdomain Policies of Flash
Applications” - http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~hovav/dist/
crossdomain.pdf
• Adobe: “Cross-domain policy file specification” -
http://www.adobe.com/devnet/articles/crossdomain_policy_
file_spec.html
• Adobe: “Cross-domain policy file usage recommendations
for Flash Player” - http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flashplayer/
articles/cross_domain_policy.html
• Oracle: “Cross-Domain XML Support” -
http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/
plugin2-142482.html#CROSSDOMAINXML
• MSDN: “Making a Service Available Across Domain Boundaries”
Test RIA cross domain policy (OTG-CONFIG-008)
Summary
Rich Internet Applications (RIA) have adopted Adobe’s crossdo-
main.xml policy files to allow for controlled cross domain access to
data and service consumption using technologies such as Oracle
Java, Silverlight, and Adobe Flash. Therefore, a domain can grant
remote access to its services from a different domain. Howev-
er, often the policy files that describe the access restrictions are
poorly configured. Poor configuration of the policy files enables
Cross-site Request Forgery attacks, and may allow third parties
to access sensitive data meant for the user.
What are cross-domain policy files?
A cross-domain policy file specifies the permissions that a web
client such as Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, etc. use to access
data across different domains. For Silverlight, Microsoft adopted a
subset of the Adobe’s crossdomain.xml, and additionally created
it’s own cross-domain policy file: clientaccesspolicy.xml.
Whenever a web client detects that a resource has to be request-
ed from other domain, it will first look for a policy file in the target
domain to determine if performing cross-domain requests, in-
cluding headers, and socket-based connections are allowed.
Master policy files are located at the domain’s root. A client may
be instructed to load a different policy file but it will always check
the master policy file first to ensure that the master policy file per-
mits the requested policy file.
Crossdomain.xml vs. Clientaccesspolicy.xml
|ªMost RIA applications support crossdomain.xml. However in the
case of Silverlight, it will only work if the crossdomain.xml spec-
ifies that access is allowed from any domain. For more granular
control with Silverlight, clientaccesspolicy.xml must be used.
Policy files grant several types of permissions:
• Accepted policy files (Master policy files can disable or restrict
specific policy files)
• Sockets permissions
• Header permissions
• HTTP/HTTPS access permissions
• Allowing access based on cryptographic credentials
An example of an overly permissive policy file:
How can cross domain policy files can be abused?
• Overly permissive cross-domain policies.
<?xml version=”1.0”?>
<!DOCTYPE cross-domain-policy SYSTEM
“http://www.adobe.com/xml/dtds/cross-domain-policy.dtd”>
<cross-domain-policy>
<site-control permitted-cross-domain-policies=”all”/>
<allow-access-from domain=”*” secure=”false”/>
<allow-http-request-headers-from domain=”*” headers=”*”
secure=”false”/>
</cross-domain-policy>
<cross-domain-policy>
<allow-access-from domain=”*” />
</cross-domain-policy>
Web Application Penetration Testing
62
- http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc197955(v=vs.95).
aspx
• MSDN: “Network Security Access Restrictions in Silverlight” -
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc645032(v=vs.95).
aspx
• Stefan Esser: “Poking new holes with Flash Crossdomain Policy
Files” http://www.hardened-php.net/library/poking_new_
holes_with_flash_crossdomain_policy_files.html
• Jeremiah Grossman: “Crossdomain.xml Invites Cross-site
Mayhem” http://jeremiahgrossman.blogspot.com/2008/05/
crossdomainxml-invites-cross-site.html
• Google Doctype: “Introduction to Flash security “ - http://code.
google.com/p/doctype-mirror/wiki/ArticleFlashSecurity
Test Role Definitions (OTG-IDENT-001)
Summary
It is common in modern enterprises to define system roles to
manage users and authorization to system resources. In most
system implementations it is expected that at least two roles ex-
ist, administrators and regular users. The first representing a role
that permits access to privileged and sensitive functionality and
information, the second representing a role that permits access
to regular business functionality and information. Well developed
roles should align with business processes which are supported
by the application.
It is important to remember that cold, hard authorization isn’t the
only way to manage access to system objects. In more trusted
environments where confidentiality is not critical, softer controls
such as application workflow and audit logging can support data
integrity requirements while not restricting user access to func-
tionality or creating complex role structures that are difficult to
manage. Its important to consider the Goldilocks principle when
role engineering, in that defining too few, broad roles (thereby ex-
posing access to functionality users don’t require) is as bad as too
many, tightly tailored roles (thereby restricting access to function-
ality users do require).
Test objectives
Validate the system roles defined within the application sufficient-
ly define and separate each system and business role to manage
appropriate access to system functionality and information.
How to test
Either with or without the help of the system developers or ad-
ministrators, develop an role versus permission matrix. The matrix
should enumerate all the roles that can be provisioned and explore
the permissions that are allowed to be applied to the objects in-
cluding any constraints. If a matrix is provided with the application
it should be validated by the tester, if it doesn’t exist, the tester
should generate it and determine whether the matrix satisfies the
desired access policy for the application.
Example
Role
Administrator
Manager
Permission
Read
Read
Object
Customer
records
Customer
records
Constraints
Only records related
to business unit
Web Application Penetration Testing
RoStaff
Customer
Read
Read
Customer
records
Customer
records
Only records associated with
customers assigned by Manager
Only own record
A real world example of role definitions can be found in the Word-
Press roles documentation [1]. WordPress has six default roles
ranging from Super Admin to a Subscriber.
Tools
While the most thorough and accurate approach to completing
this test is to conduct it manually, spidering tools [2] are also use-
ful. Log on with each role in turn and spider the application (don’t
forget to exclude the logout link from the spidering).
References
Role Engineering for Enterprise Security Management, E Coyne
& J Davis, 2007
• Role engineering and RBAC standards
Remediation
Remediation of the issues can take the following forms:
• Role Engineering
• Mapping of business roles to system roles
• Separation of Duties
Test User Registration Process
(OTG-IDENT-002)
Summary
Some websites offer a user registration process that automates (or
semi-automates) the provisioning of system access to users. The
identity requirements for access vary from positive identification to
none at all, depending on the security requirements of the system.
Many public applications completely automate the registration and
provisioning process because the size of the user base makes it im-
possible to manage manually. However, many corporate applications
will provision users manually, so this test case may not apply.
Test objectives
[1] Verify that the identity requirements for user registration are
aligned with business and security requirements.
[2] Validate the registration process.
How to test
Verify that the identity requirements for user registration are aligned
with business and security requirements:
[1] Can anyone register for access?
[2] Are registrations vetted by a human prior to provisioning, or are
they automatically granted if the criteria are met?
[3] Can the same person or identity register multiple times?
[4] Can users register for different roles or permissions?
[5] What proof of identity is required for a registration to be success-
ful?
[6] Are registered identities verified?
Validate the registration process:
[1] Can identity information be easily forged or faked?
[2] Can the exchange of identity information be manipulated during
registration?
63
Is there any verification, vetting and authorization of de-provisioning
requests?
• Can an administrator provision other administrators or just users?
Can an administrator or other user provision accounts with privileges
greater than their own?
• Can an administrator or user de-provision themselves?
How are the files or resources owned by the de-provisioned user
managed? Are they deleted? Is access transferred?
Example
In WordPress, only a user’s name and email address are required to
provision the user, as shown below:
De-provisioning of users requires the administrator to select the users
to be de-provisioned, select Delete from the dropdown menu (circled)
and then applying this action. The administrator is then presented
with a dialog box asking what to do with the user’s posts (delete or
transfer them).
Tools
While the most thorough and accurate approach to completing this
test is to conduct it manually, HTTP proxy tools could be also useful.
Testing for Account Enumeration and Guessable
User Account (OTG-IDENT-004)
Summary
The scope of this test is to verify if it is possible to collect a set
of valid usernames by interacting with the authentication mech-
anism of the application. This test will be useful for brute force
testing, in which the tester verifies if, given a valid username, it is
possible to find the corresponding password.
Often, web applications reveal when a username exists on sys-
tem, either as a consequence of mis-configuration or as a design
Example
In the WordPress example below, the only identification require-
ment is an email address that is accessible to the registrant.
In contrast, in the Google example below the identification require-
ments include name, date of birth, country, mobile phone number,
email address and CAPTCHA response. While only two of these can be
verified (email address and mobile number), the identification require-
ments are stricter than WordPress.
Tools
A HTTP proxy can be a useful tool to test this control.
References
User Registration Design
Remediation
Implement identification and verification requirements that corre-
spond to the security requirements of the information the credentials
protect.
Test Account Provisioning Process
(OTG-IDENT-003)
Summary
The provisioning of accounts presents an opportunity for an attacker
to create a valid account without application of the proper identifica-
tion and authorization process.
Test objectives
Verify which accounts may provision other accounts and of what type.
How to test
Determine which roles are able to provision users and what sort of
accounts they can provision.
Is there any verification, vetting and authorization of provisioning
requests?
Web Application Penetration Testing
64
decision. For example, sometimes, when we submit wrong cre-
dentials, we receive a message that states that either the user-
name is present on the system or the provided password is wrong.
The information obtained can be used by an attacker to gain a list
of users on system. This information can be used to attack the
web application, for example, through a brute force or default us-
ername and password attack.
The tester should interact with the authentication mechanism
of the application to understand if sending particular requests
causes the application to answer in different manners. This issue
exists because the information released from web application or
web server when the user provide a valid username is different
than when they use an invalid one.
In some cases, a message is received that reveals if the provided
credentials are wrong because an invalid username or an invalid
password was used. Sometimes, testers can enumerate the exist-
ing users by sending a username and an empty password.
How to Test
In black box testing, the tester knows nothing about the specific
application, username, application logic, error messages on log in
page, or password recovery facilities. If the application is vulnera-
ble, the tester receives a response message that reveals, directly
or indirectly, some information useful for enumerating users.
HTTP Response message
Testing for Valid user/right password
Record the server answer when you submit a valid user ID and
valid password.
Result Expected:
Using WebScarab, notice the information retrieved from this suc-
cessful authentication (HTTP 200 Response, length of the re-
sponse).
Testing for valid user with wrong password
Now, the tester should try to insert a valid user ID and a wrong
password and record the error message generated by the appli-
cation.
Result Expected:
The browser should display a message similar to the following
one:
or something like:
against any message that reveals the existence of user, for in-
stance, message similar to:
Using WebScarab, notice the information retrieved from this un-
successful authentication attempt (HTTP 200 Response, length of
the response).
Testing for a nonexistent username
Now, the tester should try to insert an invalid user ID and a wrong
password and record the server answer (the tester should be con-
fident that the username is not valid in the application). Record the
error message and the server answer.
Result Expected:
If the tester enters a nonexistent user ID, they can receive a mes-
sage similar to:
or message like the following one:
Generally the application should respond with the same error
message and length to the different incorrect requests. If the re-
sponses are not the same, the tester should investigate and find
out the key that creates a difference between the two responses.
For example:
• Client request: Valid user/wrong password -->
Server answer:’The password is not correct’
• Client request: Wrong user/wrong password -->
Server answer:’User not recognized’
The above responses let the client understand that for the first
request they have a valid user name. So they can interact with the
application requesting a set of possible user IDs and observing the
answer.
Looking at the second server response, the tester understand in
the same way that they don’t hold a valid username. So they can
interact in the same manner and create a list of valid user ID look-
ing at the server answers.
Other ways to enumerate users
Testers can enumerate users in several ways, such as:
- Analyzing the error code received on login pages
Some web application release a specific error code or message
that we can analyze.
Web Application Penetration Testing
Login for User foo: invalid password
Login failed for User foo: invalid Account
65
tion) a vulnerable application might return a message that re-
veals if a username exists or not.
For example, message similar to the following:
- Friendly 404 Error Message
When we request a user within the directory that does not exist,
we don’t always receive 404 error code. Instead, we may receive
“200 ok” with an image, in this case we can assume that when
we receive the specific image the user does not exist. This logic
can be applied to other web server response; the trick is a good
analysis of web server and web application messages.
Guessing Users
In some cases the user IDs are created with specific policies of
administrator or company. For example we can view a user with
a user ID created in sequential order:
CN000100
CN000101
….
Sometimes the usernames are created with a REALM alias and
then a sequential numbers:
R1001 – user 001 for REALM1
R2001 – user 001 for REALM2
In the above sample we can create simple shell scripts that com-
pose user IDs and submit a request with tool like wget to auto-
mate a web query to discern valid user IDs. To create a script we
can also use Perl and CURL.
Other possibilities are: - user IDs associated with credit card
numbers, or in general numbers with a pattern. - user IDs asso-
ciated with real names, e.g. if Freddie Mercury has a user ID of
“fmercury, then you might guess Roger Taylor to have the user
ID of “rtaylor.
Again, we can guess a username from the information received
from an LDAP query or from Google information gathering, for
example, from a specific domain. Google can help to find domain
users through specific queries or through a simple shell script or
tool.
Attention: by enumerating user accounts, you risk locking out
accounts after a predefined number of failed probes (based
on application policy). Also, sometimes, your IP address can be
banned by dynamic rules on the application firewall or Intrusion
Prevention System.
Gray Box testing
Testing for Authentication error messages
Verify that the application answers in the same manner for ev-
- Analyzing URLs and URLs re-directions
For example:
As is seen above, when a tester provides a user ID and password
to the web application, they see a message indication that an er-
ror has occurred in the URL. In the first case they have provided a
bad user ID and bad password. In the second, a good user ID and
a bad password, so they can identify a valid user ID.
- URI Probing
Sometimes a web server responds differently if it receives a re-
quest for an existing directory or not. For instance in some por-
tals every user is associated with a directory. If testers try to ac-
cess an existing directory they could receive a web server error.
A very common error that is received from web server is:
and
Example
In the first case the user exists, but the tester cannot view the
web page, in second case instead the user “account2” does not
exist. By collecting this information testers can enumerate the
users.
- Analyzing Web page Titles
Testers can receive useful information on Title of web page,
where they can obtain a specific error code or messages that re-
veal if the problems are with the username or password.
For instance, if a user cannot authenticate to an application and
receives a web page whose title is similar to:
- Analyzing a message received from a recovery facility
When we use a recovery facility (i.e. a forgotten password func-
403 Forbidden error code
404 Not found error code
Invalid username: e-mail address is not valid or the specified
user was not found.
Valid username: Your password has been successfully sent to
the email address you registered with.
http://www.foo.com/err.jsp?User=baduser&Error=0
http://www.foo.com/err.jsp?User=gooduser&Error=2
Invalid user
Invalid authentication
http://www.foo.com/account1 - we receive from web server:
403 Forbidden
http://www.foo.com/account2 - we receive from web server:
404 file Not Found
Web Application Penetration Testing
66
ery client request that produces a failed authentication. For this
issue the Black Box testing and Gray Box testing have the same
concept based on the analysis of messages or error codes re-
ceived from web application.
Result Expected:
The application should answer in the same manner for every
failed attempt of authentication.
For Example:
Tools
• WebScarab: OWASP_WebScarab_Project
• CURL: http://curl.haxx.se/
• PERL: http://www.perl.org
Sun Java Access & Identity Manager users enumeration tool:
http://www.aboutsecurity.net
References
Marco Mella, Sun Java Access & Identity Manager Users enu-
meration: http://www.aboutsecurity.net
Username Enumeration Vulnerabilities: http://www.gnuciti-
zen.org/blog/username-enumeration-vulnerabilities
Remediation
Ensure the application returns consistent generic error messag-
es in response to invalid account name, password or other user
credentials entered during the log in process.
Ensure default system accounts and test accounts are deleted
prior to releasing the system into production (or exposing it to an
untrusted network).
Testing for Weak or unenforced username policy
(OTG-IDENT-005)
Summary
User account names are often highly structured (e.g. Joe Bloggs
account name is jbloggs and Fred Nurks account name is fnurks)
and valid account names can easily be guessed.
Test objectives
Determine whether a consistent account name structure ren-
ders the application vulnerable to account enumeration. Deter-
mine whether the application’s error messages permit account
enumeration.
How to test
• Determine the structure of account names.
• Evaluate the application’s response to valid and invalid account
names.
• Use different responses to valid and invalid account names to
enumerate valid account names.
• Use account name dictionaries to enumerate valid account
names.
Remediation
Ensure the application returns consistent generic error messag-
es in response to invalid account name, password or other user
Credentials submitted are not valid
Web Application Penetration Testing
credentials entered during the log in process.
Authentication Testing
Authentication (Greek: αυθεντικός = real or genuine, from ‘au-
thentes’ = author ) is the act of establishing or confirming some-
thing (or someone) as authentic, that is, that claims made by or
about the thing are true. Authenticating an object may mean con-
firming its provenance, whereas authenticating a person often
consists of verifying her identity. Authentication depends upon
one or more authentication factors.
In computer security, authentication is the process of attempting
to verify the digital identity of the sender of a communication. A
common example of such a process is the log on process. Testing
the authentication schema means understanding how the au-
thentication process works and using that information to circum-
vent the authentication mechanism.
Testing for Credentials Transported over
an Encrypted Channel (OTG-AUTHN-001)
Summary
Testing for credentials transport means verifying that the user’s
authentication data are transferred via an encrypted channel to
avoid being intercepted by malicious users. The analysis focuses
simply on trying to understand if the data travels unencrypted
from the web browser to the server, or if the web application
takes the appropriate security measures using a protocol like
HTTPS. The HTTPS protocol is built on TLS/SSL to encrypt the
data that is transmitted and to ensure that user is being sent
towards the desired site.
Clearly, the fact that traffic is encrypted does not necessarily
mean that it’s completely safe. The security also depends on the
encryption algorithm used and the robustness of the keys that
the application is using, but this particular topic will not be ad-
dressed in this section.
For a more detailed discussion on testing the safety of TLS/SSL
channels refer to the chapter Testing for Weak SSL/TLS. Here,
the tester will just try to understand if the data that users put
in to web forms in order to log in to a web site, are transmitted
using secure protocols that protect them from an attacker.
Nowadays, the most common example of this issue is the log in
page of a web application. The tester should verify that user’s
credentials are transmitted via an encrypted channel. In order to
log in to a web site, the user usually has to fill a simple form that
transmits the inserted data to the web application with the POST
method. What is less obvious is that this data can be passed us-
ing the HTTP protocol, which transmits the data in a non-secure,
clear text form, or using the HTTPS protocol, which encrypts the
data during the transmission. To further complicate things, there
is the possibility that the site has the login page accessible via
HTTP (making us believe that the transmission is insecure), but
then it actually sends data via HTTPS. This test is done to be sure
that an attacker cannot retrieve sensitive information by simply
sniffing the network with a sniffer tool.
How to Test
Black Box testing
In the following examples we will use WebScarab in order to cap-
67
We can see that the request is addressed to www.example.
com:443/cgi-bin/login.cgi using the HTTPS protocol. This en-
sures that our credentials are sent using an encrypted channel
and that the credentials are not readable by a malicious user us-
ing a sniffer.
Example 3: sending data with POST method via HTTPS on a
page reachable via HTTP
Now, imagine having a web page reachable via HTTP and that
only data sent from the authentication form are transmitted via
HTTP