Sunday, October 13, 2013

Revival's been a while. I recognize that there are many benefits to blogging, so I just need to get back on the horse. My interests are far more varied that information security now, so there will be additional topics covered here. Essentially, this is going to become my personal blog, and there will be InfoSec focused things being posted at

Short term goals for this new revival include one health/wellness/athletics related post per week, and one technology related post per week.

In an effort to defeat resistance, I will start now with a recap of my training week.

My training week typically ends on a Sunday. Today was kind of a "breakthrough" ride for me in two ways. First, I haven't done any serious group road rides all year. This was due to injuries early in the year and adjusting to fatherhood. So I rode with some guys who have been riding consistently all year. Second, I didn't eat any labeled foods. In an effort to refine my nutrition, I'm trying to stick to whole foods of the plant-based variety, as opposed to the typical sports drinks, gels, and bars that I had come to rely on.

Sundays ride, according to strava:

48.5 Miles
3:02:37 (moving time)
2,615ft of elevation gain
Avg power 175watts
Peak 20min power of 225watts

-herbal tea
-piece of dark chocolate, almond butter

48oz of water
A handful of brazil nuts
A handful of dates
Seasalt (dates & nuts were in a zip lock back, and were shaken up with the salt. The salt stuck to the dates. It was good).

Recovery smoothie / lunch:
-One giant kale leaf
-Half an avocado
-One beet
-One banana
-One scoop of plant-based protein powder
-Some ground chia seeds

I was certainly not fresh for this ride, due to Saturdays workout. This ride was not planned.

Saturday: kettlebell workout at home
Friday: 3 long dog walks (~8miles total)
Thursday: 1 hour trail run + dead lifts
Wednesday: 1 hour yoga
Tuesday: rest
Monday: 30min - Dead lifts, KB swings, shoulders. Easy to help beat the cold.
Sunday: unplanned rest. I had a cold, but I beat it pretty quick.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Friday, October 16, 2009

null byte injection

In this 2008 blog post, Portswigger says that null byte attacks against web applications are nothing new. It's almost 2010, and they're still nothin' new, but they sure can be fun!

During a recent web app assessment, I found one very similar to the example in Portswigger's post. I tampered with it a few times, but wasn't really sure if it was an exploitable condition or not.

I saw some requests containing a file name, similar to:

I began trying some basic attacks, like:

These attacks always resulted in the application cleanly handling the exception, and giving me a friendly error message in a HTTP 200 response. Not quite ready to give up, I decided to try the following:


This also generated an error, but this time it was a 500 Internal Server Error from the application container. This meant that the validation routine was not necessarily aware of my ../'s, but was probably concerned with the format of the file name. To be sure, I tried the following:

/servlet? /servlet?file=../

Both of the above requests generated the clean error message. Only when the string ended with _N.jpg, did I get a 500 error, which told me that the logic was:

1. Validate the file name extension is .JPG.
2. Validate that the file name is of the format image_N, where N is a random integer.
2. Try to read the JPEG from the file system.

This is great if you want to read JPEGs, but I had my heart set on arbitrary file access. So how do we by-pass the _N.JPG filter? I pressed the staples easy button on my desk and it injected a null byte like:


After a number of attempts to determine the directory depth of the file system, I was happy to see the contents of the passwd file in my browser.

Then things got interesting . . .

This application had been pen-tested before. It had also been scanned using a popular commercial static analysis tool, and had gotten a clean bill of health. So, let's just say that management was a little, um, curious about why this bug was still alive and well. And by curious, I actually mean furious.

So what went wrong? After the first pen-test, the blatant directory traversal bug was "fixed" with a new validation routine that scrutinized the end of the file name. This new routine was declared a validation routine in the static analysis tool, and any subsequent data flows that passed through it were considered safe. Game over. Hooray for tools!

Lessons Learned

Behind every tool is the person who wrote it, and the person operating it. These people are just as likely to make mistakes as the developer who wrote the target application. Once again, we're reminded that there is no silver security bullet. Tools help, but it comes down to proper education, process, and people to actually find and fix bugs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mainlining new lines: feel the burn

Since the blog has been pretty stale for the last couple of months, I've decided to try and spice things up with a couple of war stories from recent web app pen tests. No XSS bugs here. I'm talking about complete, CPU melting, rack busting pwnage and destruction, shock and awe, all delivered over HTTP. OK, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but at least they won't be XSS bugs. Besides, if you own the box, who needs XSS?

Command Execution in Ruby on Rails app

This RoR application was accepting a user supplied URL which got passed to an external application via IO.popen(). If I could inject a back-tick or escape from the quoted string being passed to popen(), I could execute arbitrary commands. My problem was that these basic injection attacks were failing because the devs did a decent job of validating input. Part of the validation approach relied on passing the user supplied data to Ruby's URI.parse() function. The parse() function would raise an exception any time I injected a "malicious" character, and the script would stop executing before calling popen().

I knew I had to find some sort of filter bypass bug in URI.parse() if I wanted any pwnage, so I fired up irb and after a few manual fuzzing attempts I had it:

nullbyte:~ mikezusman$ ruby -v
ruby 1.9.1p243 (2009-07-16 revision 24175) [i386-darwin9.8.0]
nullbyte:~ mikezusman$ irb
>> require 'uri'
=> true
>> require 'cgi'
=> true
>> u1 = ""
=> ""
>> u2 = "`ls`"
=> "`ls`"
>> u3 = "`ls%0A`"
=> "`ls%0A`"
>> URI.parse(u1)
=> #

>> URI.parse(u2)
URI::InvalidURIError: bad URI(is not URI?):`ls`
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:436:in `split'
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:485:in `parse'
from (irb):7
from :0
>> URI.parse(u3)
URI::InvalidURIError: bad URI(is not URI?):`ls%0A`
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:436:in `split'
from /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/lib/ruby/1.8/uri/common.rb:485:in `parse'
from (irb):8
from :0
>> URI.parse(CGI::unescape(u3))
=> #

>> x = URI.parse(CGI::unescape(u3))
=> #

Injecting a URL encoded version (%0A) of a new line (\n) would get my URL encoded back-tick (%60) through the URI.parse() function unscathed. After the successful call to parse(), the data was passed to popen() and my commands would be executed. My attack looked like:

Lessons Learned

Relying on the result of a call to a third party routine doesn't necessarily equate to "input validation." However, used differently, URI.parse() could have very easily helped to prevent this bug. URI.parse() returns a new object whose members could be used to construct a safe string to be passed to popen().
This would work because everything after the %0A gets dropped:

>> d = ""
=> ""
>> r = URI.parse(CGI::unescape(d))
=> #

>> r.path
=> "/"
>> new_arg = "#{r.scheme}://#{}#{r.path}"
=> ""

If you relied on the above as "input validation", you just would have gotten lucky that the function chopped off everything after the new line. Some times luck is enough. But when dealing with user data being passed to a system command, a little extra scrutiny can go a long way towards protecting your application. URI.parse() makes it easier for us to enforce additional validation checks by letting us look at each piece of the URI (protocol/scheme, host, path).

When fetching user supplied URI's, this sort of fine grained input validation is something we should be doing anyway. For example, simply parsing the URI would not block an attack against the local host, since is valid. We might also want to make sure that the protocol is http|https (not ftp, for example) and that our application isn't being used to scan the network on the inside of the firewall (by blacklisting internal IPs and host names).

Moral of the Story

Just like many other bugs, this one could have been prevented with better input validation. Even if you think you're doing a good job validating your input, remember that not all input validation routines are created equal. Stay tuned for my next post, where we'll explore the short comings of relying on static analysis tools to catch similar bugs.

Update 10/22/2009
@emerose filed this bug report.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

BlackHat 2009 and Defcon 17: EV SSL MITM Demo

For the second year in a row I had BlackHat live demo issues. Shame on me.

Fortunately, the demo worked at Defcon. Had it not worked, however, I was prepared with a video thanks to Camtasia.

You can view the video here.

The demonstration shows a MITM using a regular SSL certificate (Domain Validated) to intercept data sent to a site protected with an Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate. Since the browser treats the high-assurance EV certificate the same as a low-assurance DV certificate, the user is never warned about any connection downgrade. All they might notice is the "flicker" of the green EV badge.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Insecure Cookies and You: Perfect Together

Who uses the secure cookie flag? Web developers who don't want their user's cookies being leaked out over non-SSL protected sockets. These developers realize that protecting user credentials on the wire is only half the battle. If an attacker can sniff a user's cookie off the wire when it's sent in plain text, who cares if the credentials are protected? The attacker still gets access to the application.

Who doesn't use the secure flag? Yahoo! Mail. Microsoft Live Mail. GMail and Google apps. All of these sites, and many others, protect the transmission of credentials using HTTPS. Unfortunately, immediately after you authenticate to one of these sites and get a valid session cookie, the browser is redirected to a plain text HTTP interface of the site. Google at least gives users the option of protecting their entire session with SSL. Others do not. If these companies start setting the secure flag on their cookies, their sites will break.

The "Secure" cookie flag is just a patch for a poorly implemented browser Same Origin Policy. Essentially, it allows a web application to opt-in to a strict interpretation of SOP on the client side that will prevent cookies from being leaked over insecure protocols. Why do we have to do extra work to be secure?

I propose a new cookie flag, called the "insecure" flag. Use of the insecure flag would allow web sites that don't care about protecting session cookies to opt-out of a strict interpretation of SOP, thus exposing their session cookies to the world and allowing their applications to work. If you want to protect your users' credentials over HTTPS, but then expose their sessions over HTTP, this will be the flag for you!

Imagine that. Secure by default. No extra work to do things right. What a concept!

Ah, wishful thinking :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NYS CSCIC Conference

Last week I presented at the NYS cyber security conference in Albany. My talk was about attacks that leverage publicly available information, such as data indexed in search engines and/or stored in social networks. I also showed how this data can be used in highly targeted spear phishing attacks. My spear phishing demo used my netextender ssl vpn exploit, since it is usually trivial to find a companies SSL VPN gateway. Once you find the ssl vpn gateway, some passive recon of the system can reveal a tremendous attack surface on the victim (client) machine.

At the end, I touched on some problems with commercial PKI, but I didn't really get into it. I'm saving that for some up coming blog posts. I got some great feedback at the end, and also met a bunch of cool folks. Thanks for listening. Slides are available here.

I couldn't stick around for both days of talks, but I managed to see the two key notes on day one. The second one was by Phil Reitinger, Deputy Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

/me lets his fingers recover from typing that title

During his talk, Mr. Reitinger offered up five priorities for the US as we move forward with our new cyber security initiatives. I'm paraphrasing here, and I didn't take great notes. That's because I'm just some dude with a blog, and not a journalist.

1. We need to build our capacity. DHS needs people. We also need to work with academia to build programs that churn out people with the right skills and knowledge.

2. Establish relationships between public and private sector. Mr. Reitinger joked about the infinite loop of meetings where public & private sector folks agree that they are both willing to share data - starting at the next meeting.

3. Develop (and follow) a standard incident response & recovery plan.

4. Streamline Identity Management. In addition to managing user identities, he also mentioned something to the effect of "being able to better identify who we're connecting to." Maybe this means we'll eventually get something better than SSL site validation.

5. Metrics. Specifically, he mentioned software quality metrics. One thing that keeps popping into my head is the fact that the airforce got a locked-down version of XP. How did the air force quantify the improved security? And when will everyone else benefit?