Feeds

Denial, exposure and online security

Five top tips

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Web applications have huge attack surfaces. Most sites have hundreds of URLs, and each function has plenty of parameters, form fields, cookies, and headers for attackers to play with.

One simple way to make your web application more secure is to minimize your attack surface. Let's look at five simple ways to do this.

Tighten up your URL space

The first step is to lock down your webserver, application server, application configuration, and code tree to be sure that you're not supporting any URLs that you didn't expect.

You should also check your application for functions, backup files, temporary files, and test code that wasn't intentionally deployed. Just because they're not linked in the user interface, doesn't mean an attacker can't find and exploit them. Also, be sure you're not supporting all file extensions - just the specific ones you expect.

Ditch those hidden fields

Hidden fields are form values that aren't displayed to the user. When the user submits a form, the hidden fields are submitted just like any other form field. Attackers can easily change hidden field values to anything they want with browser tools like TamperData or WebDeveloper. Hidden fields are frequently quite vulnerable to attack because they're often overlooked when implementing validation.

You could use normal input validation techniques to check the hidden field, but the best way to check is to do a direct comparison with the value that you just set in the web page. Of course, if you can do this, there's really no point in having the hidden fields at all, so consider just getting rid of them and reducing your attack surface.

Don't expose your privates

Most applications use parameters or form fields that reference data on the server by its name or ID. Attackers love to try to access unauthorized data by tampering with these "direct" references. For example, imagine a URL that references a file on the server:

http://www.example.com/banking/fetchReport?fn=03102008.xl

Attackers will immediately attempt to manipulate the filename to access other files on the host. If the code takes the "fn" parameter and appends it to a filepath, the attacker might try sending the following to gain access to the host's password file:

 "?fn=../../../../etc/password%00"

The %00 at the end of the URL will be decoded by the container into a null byte that terminates the string, leaving only the attackers path in the parameter. There are hundreds of attack variants, so don't try to filter out attacks.

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.