The attacker-supplied code can perform a wide variety of actions, such as stealing the victim's session token or login credentials, performing arbitrary actions on the victim's behalf, and logging their keystrokes.
Users can be induced to issue the attacker's crafted request in various ways. For example, the attacker can send a victim a link containing a malicious URL in an email or instant message. They can submit the link to popular web sites that allow content authoring, for example in blog comments. And they can create an innocuous looking web site which causes anyone viewing it to make arbitrary cross-domain requests to the vulnerable application (using either the GET or the POST method).
The security impact of cross-site scripting vulnerabilities is dependent upon the nature of the vulnerable application, the kinds of data and functionality which it contains, and the other applications which belong to the same domain and organization. If the application is used only to display non-sensitive public content, with no authentication or access control functionality, then a cross-site scripting flaw may be considered low risk. However, if the same application resides on a domain which can access cookies for other more security-critical applications, then the vulnerability could be used to attack those other applications, and so may be considered high risk. Similarly, if the organization which owns the application is a likely target for phishing attacks, then the vulnerability could be leveraged to lend credibility to such attacks, by injecting Trojan functionality into the vulnerable application, and exploiting users' trust in the organization in order to capture credentials for other applications which it owns. In many kinds of application, such as those providing online banking functionality, cross-site scripting should always be considered high risk.
In most situations where user-controllable data is copied into application responses, cross-site scripting attacks can be prevented using two layers of defenses:
Input should be validated as strictly as possible on arrival, given the kind of content which it is expected to contain. For example, personal names should consist of alphabetical and a small range of typographical characters, and be relatively short; a year of birth should consist of exactly four numerals; email addresses should match a well-defined regular expression. Input which fails the validation should be rejected, not sanitized.
User input should be HTML-encoded at any point where it is copied into application responses. All HTML metacharacters, including < > " ' and =, should be replaced with the corresponding HTML entities (< > etc).
In cases where the application's functionality allows users to author content using a restricted subset of HTML tags and attributes (for example, blog comments which allow limited formatting and linking), it is necessary to parse the supplied HTML to validate that it does not use any dangerous syntax; this is a non-trivial task.
The value of REST URL parameter 1 is copied into the HTML document as plain text between tags. The payload c5fa4<script>alert(1)</script>77d4c85f88a was submitted in the REST URL parameter 1. This input was echoed unmodified in the application's response.
The value of REST URL parameter 3 is copied into the HTML document as plain text between tags. The payload b7054<script>alert(1)</script>215318d2d71 was submitted in the REST URL parameter 3. This input was echoed unmodified in the application's response.
The value of the element request parameter is copied into the HTML document as plain text between tags. The payload 4a9f1<img%20src%3da%20onerror%3dalert(1)>d7e87b7e606 was submitted in the element parameter. This input was echoed as 4a9f1<img src=a onerror=alert(1)>d7e87b7e606 in the application's response.
By default, cookies are scoped to the issuing domain and all subdomains. If you remove the explicit domain attribute from your Set-cookie directive, then the cookie will have this default scope, which is safe and appropriate in most situations. If you particularly need a cookie to be accessible by a parent domain, then you should thoroughly review the security of the applications residing on that domain and its subdomains, and confirm that you are willing to trust the people and systems which support those applications.
When an application includes a script from an external domain, this script is executed by the browser within the security context of the invoking application. The script can therefore do anything that the application's own scripts can do, such as accessing application data and performing actions within the context of the current user.
If you include a script from an external domain, then you are trusting that domain with the data and functionality of your application, and you are trusting the domain's own security to prevent an attacker from modifying the script to perform malicious actions within your application.
Scripts should not be included from untrusted domains. If you have a requirement which a third-party script appears to fulfill, then you should ideally copy the contents of that script onto your own domain and include it from there. If that is not possible (e.g. for licensing reasons) then you should consider reimplementing the script's functionality within your own code.
There is usually no good reason not to set the HttpOnly flag on all cookies. Unless you specifically require legitimate client-side scripts within your application to read or set a cookie's value, you should set the HttpOnly flag by including this attribute within the relevant Set-cookie directive.
You should be aware that the restrictions imposed by the HttpOnly flag can potentially be circumvented in some circumstances, and that numerous other serious attacks can be delivered by client-side script injection, aside from simple cookie stealing.
If a web response states that it contains HTML content but does not specify a character set, then the browser may analyze the HTML and attempt to determine which character set it appears to be using. Even if the majority of the HTML actually employs a standard character set such as UTF-8, the presence of non-standard characters anywhere in the response may cause the browser to interpret the content using a different character set. This can have unexpected results, and can lead to cross-site scripting vulnerabilities in which non-standard encodings like UTF-7 can be used to bypass the application's defensive filters.
In most cases, the absence of a charset directive does not constitute a security flaw, particularly if the response contains static content. You should review the contents of the response and the context in which it appears to determine whether any vulnerability exists.
For every response containing HTML content, the application should include within the Content-type header a directive specifying a standard recognized character set, for example charset=ISO-8859-1.
The response contains the following Content-type statement:
The response states that it contains HTML. However, it actually appears to contain JSON.
If a web response specifies an incorrect content type, then browsers may process the response in unexpected ways. If the specified content type is a renderable text-based format, then the browser will usually attempt to parse and render the response in that format. If the specified type is an image format, then the browser will usually detect the anomaly and will analyze the actual content and attempt to determine its MIME type. Either case can lead to unexpected results, and if the content contains any user-controllable data may lead to cross-site scripting or other client-side vulnerabilities.
In most cases, the presence of an incorrect content type statement does not constitute a security flaw, particularly if the response contains static content. You should review the contents of the response and the context in which it appears to determine whether any vulnerability exists.
For every response containing a message body, the application should include a single Content-type header which correctly and unambiguously states the MIME type of the content in the response body.