Should We Blame The Diet Coke Smuggler?


Everyone use user-controlled parameters. This is, as far as I concerned, the easiest way to create an effective http negotiation process. It means that in order to ease the interaction process between the site and the user, the site allows the user to tell him about essentials parameters that are needed for the next interaction. Even while this post is being written, after I’ll click ‘Publish’ a lot of POST parameters will be sent to the server and will be processed.

As you might have already guessed, today’s case-study will highlight the huge disadvantage of allowing users to ‘tell you what to do’.

Basically, I don’t believe in POST or GET. I know its sound funny or stupid, but when I see that so many security breaches were launched using a GET or a POST requests, I cannot live with that comfortably. I know that GET and POST are ‘just the messenger’ and it will be like blaming an innocent person who was used to smuggle diet Coke into a movie theater.

But I think that we all forgot one important thing – GET and POST are not alone. HTTP, especially on its latest version (and the next version) supports other request types. Like what? PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS. Those requests were made for a reason, and almost none of the latest players on the dev market are using them. Why? Because its not easy, and its not ‘widely used’. That idiotic term I heard a few days ago on a developer conference I participated. People kept explaining that a certain technology should not be used because “it is not widely used, and therefore there is not enough support or security research and maintenance”. And again – why exactly shouldn’t I use a unique software that no one else does? Why should I count on our security community to alert me whenever a software I’m using is breached?

As for HTTP requests, GET and POST are what I call ‘deprecated’. Too much companies and too much software use GET and POST requests with dozens of parameters to ‘get things done’. This is exactly the reason why XSSes vulnerabilities, along with IDORs and CSRFs, are being successfully executed – Websites use too much parameters and the developers, at some point, aren’t able to track the software’s behavior under certain conditions – from a general use by a client to an aggressive security research by professionals. That’s just the way it is. Another reason for security breaches is that websites count that the user will return them the parameters they expect, and if the user returns only a few parameters, some server side actions that are being executed by the missing parameters are not being executed, resulting in a security vulnerability.

Now, should we cry and bury GET and POST? No, of course that there is a way to keep using GET and POST and still be safe. All you have to do is to not blame the diet Coke smuggler, and to follow these 5 rules:

  1. Minimize the number of parameters that are being used. More parameters = more security breaches possibilities.
  2. Know exactly the purpose of each parameter.
  3. Know exactly what type of data each parameter should hold.
  4. Know what happens when each parameter is given the wrong type of data, or is MIA.
  5. And the most important thing – use all of the parameters! I can’t count the number of times a security breach was successfully launched because of a lack of using all the parameters. In fact, I’m writing these days another case-study about a Facebook security vulnerability just about that.

As for a finish, I’ll just drop this tiny note: FogMarks is looking nowdays for some new challenges. If you think you can interest us with something, simply DM us on Twitter (and make sure your’e following us) or send us an email on contact@fogmarks.com.

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