The value of the name request parameter is copied into the HTML document as plain text between tags. The payload defbc<x%20style%3dx%3aexpression(alert(1))>4a37e91db64 was submitted in the name parameter. This input was echoed as defbc<x style=x:expression(alert(1))>4a37e91db64 in the application's response.
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 organisation. 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 organisation 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 organisation 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 sanitised.
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.
GET /serve/fb/pdc?cat=&name=landingdefbc<x%20style%3dx%3aexpression(alert(1))>4a37e91db64&sid=2002 HTTP/1.1 Host: pixel.fetchback.com Proxy-Connection: keep-alive Referer: http://www.nfl.com/ Accept: application/xml,application/xhtml+xml,text/html;q=0.9,text/plain;q=0.8,image/png,*/*;q=0.5 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/9.0.597.98 Safari/534.13 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate,sdch Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.8 Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.3
The application's responses appear to depend systematically on the presence or absence of the Referer header in requests. This behaviour does not necessarily constitute a security vulnerability, and you should investigate the nature of and reason for the differential responses to determine whether a vulnerability is present.
Common explanations for Referer-dependent responses include:
Referer-based access controls, where the application assumes that if you have arrived from one privileged location then you are authorised to access another privileged location. These controls can be trivially defeated by supplying an accepted Referer header in requests for the vulnerable function.
Attempts to prevent cross-site request forgery attacks by verifying that requests to perform privileged actions originated from within the application itself and not from some external location. Such defenses are not robust - methods have existed through which an attacker can forge or mask the Referer header contained within a target user's requests, by leveraging client-side technologies such as Flash and other techniques.
Delivery of Referer-tailored content, such as welcome messages to visitors from specific domains, search-engine optimisation (SEO) techniques, and other ways of tailoring the user's experience. Such behaviours often have no security impact; however, unsafe processing of the Referer header may introduce vulnerabilities such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting. If parts of the document (such as META keywords) are updated based on search engine queries contained in the Referer header, then the application may be vulnerable to persistent code injection attacks, in which search terms are manipulated to cause malicious content to appear in responses served to other application users.
The Referer header is not a robust foundation on which to build any security measures, such as access controls or defenses against cross-site request forgery. Any such measures should be replaced with more secure alternatives that are not vulnerable to Referer spoofing.
If the contents of responses is updated based on Referer data, then the same defenses against malicious input should be employed here as for any other kinds of user-supplied data.
GET /serve/fb/pdc?cat=&name=landing&sid=2002 HTTP/1.1 Host: pixel.fetchback.com Proxy-Connection: keep-alive Referer: http://www.nfl.com/ Accept: application/xml,application/xhtml+xml,text/html;q=0.9,text/plain;q=0.8,image/png,*/*;q=0.5 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/9.0.597.98 Safari/534.13 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate,sdch Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.8 Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.3
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.
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.