HTTP Message Splitting, Smuggling and Other Animals

OWAS P AppSe c Europ e
May 2006

Amit Klein, OWASP-Israel steering committee member/leader Board member, WASC

Copyright © 2006 - The OWASP Foundation Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The OWASP Foundation

Introduction ([1])

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Peripheral Web Attacks
“Classic” web attacks – focus on server (web) and its backend (app, DB). Acknowledge the existence of a browser…
Server attacks (Nimda, CodeRed) Application attacks Back-end/DB attacks (SQL injection, *-injection) Session hijacking, XSS

Peripheral web attacks (2004-) – focus on what’s between the server and the client – how introducing HTTP enabled intermediaries makes the system less secure. [A note about virtual hosting]
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(HTTP-enabled) Intermediary – an HTTP enabled device/filter/thingy that processes the traffic between the browser and the web server at the HTTP level. Peripheral web attack – an attack against a system that contains at least one HTTP-enabled intermediary, which is made possible due to the introduction of this intermediary. The attack makes use of the data stream (not the control stream).

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HTTP Enabled Intermediaries
Cache server (on-site) Cache server (client side) SSL accelerator (SSL termination) Load balancer Reverse proxy server (on-site) Forward/transparent proxy server (client side) IDS/HTTP-aware firewall Web Application Firewall (WAF) (the browser’s cache) …

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Root problems
Application (insecure code) Liberal HTTP Parsing HTTP connection sharing – breaks some inherent assumptions, “inherent trust” Acting upon HTTP messages at large Caching – less control over the site content as seen by the browser, no “reset”/”versioning”. Serious amplification (time, clients)

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The HRS Quartet

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The HRS Quartet Adagio: HTTP Response Splitting
Web cache poisoning

Larghetto: HTTP Request Smuggling Allegro: HTTP Request Splitting Vivace: HTTP Response Smuggling

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Terminology HTTP … Splitting – forcing an originator of HTTP messages to emit 2 (or more) valid (RFC-compliant) messages instead of one. HTTP … Smuggling – [forcing] an originator of HTTP messages to emit a stream of data that can be interpreted in more than one way, usually due to noncompliancy to the RFC.

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The HRS Quartet: Part I – Adagio: HTTP Response Splitting ([2])

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The basic idea The security hole – an application that:
Embeds user data in HTTP response headers (e.g. Location, Set-Cookie) Does so without sanitizing data

This enables the attacker to force the server into sending (on the wire) data that is interpreted as messages.

2 HTTP response

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 ASP page (say
<% Response.Redirect " lang=" & Request.QueryString("lang") %>

 Normal request:

 Normal Response:
HTTP/1.0 302 Redirect Location: Connection: Keep-Alive Content-Length: 0

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Example (contd.)
 Attack request %0d%0aContent-Length:%200%0d%0a%0d%0aHTTP/1.0%20200%20OK%0d%0aContentType:%20text/html%0a%0aContent-Length:%2020%0d%0a%0d%0a<html>Gotcha! </html>

 Response (actually, 2 responses and some change):
HTTP/1.0 302 Redirect Location: Connection: Keep-Alive Content-Length: 0 HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Content-Length: 20 <html>Gotcha</html>Connection: Keep-Alive Content-Length: 0

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Web Cache Poisoning
 Let’s change into a “Gotcha!” page.  Participants:
 Web site (with the vulnerability)  Cache proxy server  Attacker

 Attack idea:
 The attacker sends two requests:
1. HTTP response splitter 2. An innocent request for

 The proxy server will match the first request to the first response, and the second (“innocent”) request to the second response (the “Gotcha!” page), thus caching the attacker’s contents.

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Web Cache Poisoning -> Attack Flow Sequence
Attacker 1st attacker request (response splitter) Cache-Proxy 1st attacker request (response splitter) Web Server

302 302 2nd attacker request (innocent /index.html) 2nd attacker request (innocent /index.html) 200 (Gotcha!) 200 (Gotcha!) 200 (Welcome)
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Crossing Wires
Response Hijacking, temporary defacement Slide 15 revisited (see next slide) Doesn’t require caching Requires “connection sharing” (two clients to one server) in the proxy server Theoretic results

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Crossing Wires -> Attack Flow Sequence
Victim Attacker 1st attacker request (response splitter) Proxy Web Server 1st attacker request (response splitter) 302 302 200 (Gotcha!)

request /account?id=victim

200 (Gotcha!)

request /index.html

request /index.html 200 (Victim’s account data)

200 (Victim’s account data)

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Attacks round-up
We have seen: Web cache poisoning Response hijacking Temporary defacement (server side XSS++) Additionally, there are (check the paper - [2]) XSS for IE in 3xx scenario (attacks related to virtual hosting)

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Application level – do not pass “bad” data to the framework (i.e., sanitize CRs and LFs). Framework (ASP, JSP, PHP, …) level – do not embed “bad” data into HTTP response headers. Intermediaries (proxy servers, etc.):
Enforce causality (request before response) PSH bit? (see [7]) Avoid connection sharing

Site owners
SSL only site (still leaves browser cache and post SSL termination uncovered)

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The HRS Quartet: Part II – Larghetto: HTTP Request Smuggling ([3])

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Basic Idea + Example POST request with double Content-Length header RFC says “thou shalt not”. Liberalism says “let’s try to understand this”. SunONE server (6.1 SP1) takes the first header. SunONE proxy (3.6 SP4) takes the last header.
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Web cache poisoning (example)
Goal: cache server will cache the content of /poison.html for the resource /welcome.html POST http://SITE/foobar.html HTTP/1.1 ... Content-Length: 0 Content-Length: 44
Proxy: 1. /foobar.html 2. /welcome.html Server: 1. /foobar.html 2. /poison.html

GET /poison.html HTTP/1.1 Host: SITE Bla: GET http://SITE/welcome.html HTTP/1.1

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Example result
Proxy sees a second request to /welcome.html, and will cache the second response. Web server sees a second request to /poison.html, so the second response would be the contents of /poison.html. The proxy will cache the contents of /poison.html for the URL /welcome.html Net result – the cache is (partially) poisoned

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Partial poisoning Unlike “HTTP Response splitting”, there’s no full control over the poisonous payload:
Poison must already exist on the server Poison must be cacheable

But think blogs, forums, talkbacks, guestbooks, personal pages, ….

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And it’s not just double Content-Length…  Many (battle proven) anomalies
 Double Content-Length  Transfer-Encoding and Content-Length  CRLF+CR+CRLF  GET with Content-Length  CRLF+SP+CRLF  IIS 48KB body bug/feature ([4])  Many more…

 Many pairs of vulnerable devices
 Apache with everything…  IIS with everything…  Many more…
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Attack vectors We have seen Partial cache poisoning Additionally, there are (check the paper [3]) IPS/IDS/Firewall/WAF bypassing Other tricks similar to HTTP Response Splitting

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Solution HTTP-enabled intermediary vendors
Be strict in what you accept ;-)
 Ideally: do not “fix” bad data – kill it… (feasible?)  Otherwise: “fix” bad data

Avoid connection sharing

SSL only site Patch

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The HRS Quartet: Part III – Allegro: HTTP Request Splitting ([9], [12])

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 Goal:
 (part I) Forging “difficult” headers (e.g. Referer)
 Importance: subverts “defenses” that rely on Referer, e.g. suggestions for CSRF protection, anti-leaching, etc.

 (part I) Scanning (e.g. internal networks)
 Importance: ability to access content of “off site” pages

 (part II) General XSS  (part II) “local defacement” (browser cache poisoning)

 Usual suspect: XmlHttpRequest
 Restricted by same origin security policy (enforced by the browser).

 Now if there’s a proxy (or virtual server)…
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Attack (Referer spoofing, scanning)
    Using XmlHttpRequest Sending more 2+ requests instead of one “Under the radar” of the browser Example
 IE’s XmlHttpRequest object doesn’t allow SP in the method. But HT (\t) is allowed, and so are CR (\r) and LF (\n)  The following JS code crafts 2 requests (to the proxy) where IE thinks it’s sending only one  Code resides in, yet accesses

var x = new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP");"GET\t\tHTTP /1.0\r\nHost:\\r\nReferer:\t .site/somepath?somequery\r\n\r\nGET\thttp://nosuchhost/\tHTTP /1.0\r\nFoobar:","",false); x.send();

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Attack (XSS, browser cache poisoning)
 Example (IE+Squid forward proxy)

var x = new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP");"GET\t my.html\tHTTP/1.1\r\nHost:\ \r\nConnection:\tKeepAlive\r\n\r\nGET","/payload.html",false); x.send();"");
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Solution Browser vendors
Strict sanitation/validation of the various XmlHttpRequest fields (method, URL, headers)

SSL only site

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The HRS Quartet: Part IV – Vivace: HTTP Response Smuggling ([11])

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Quick tour Basic setup: HTTP Response Splitting Goal: bypass “anti HTTP Response Splitting” restrictions by crafting nonstandard responses
Will only work on a portion of the HTTPenabled entities – those that parse those nonstandard responses in a “friendly” manner.

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Example – bypassing PHP 5.1.2 (and 4.4.2) anti HTTP Response Splitting defense  Newest PHP releases impose heavy restrictions on LF-infested data sent to header()
 LF is only allowed when followed by a SP/HT (HTTP header continuation syntax)

 No more …%0d%0a%0d%0a… exploits  Enters HTTP Response Smuggling  Using CR only (not CRLF).
 Non compliance with the RFCs.  Still, SunONE 4.0 proxy/cache server happily accepts this and normalizes it.

 Net effect: HTTP Response Splitting (with all its impact) is still possible, provided that the cache/proxy server accepts CR.  See other tricks in the paper ([11])
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Application programmers
Sanitize data going to HTTP headers against CR and LF.

Web server/framework vendors
Stricter filtering (no CRs, no LFs)

HTTP-enabled intermediaries
Reject non RFC-compliant responses

Site owners
SSL only site

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Domain Contamination ([10])

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Basic scenario
 You’re hacked
 Defacement  Web cache poisoning  Domain hijacking  Cyber-squatting (no hacking really)

 Goal: effectively extending the defacement condition “forever”, esp. after the attack is “reversed”.  By carefully designing the attack, the attacker can cause defaced pages to be cached for very long time.  Cached pages can Interact with real content (same domain!) Interact with (and direct the victim to ) the attacker’s site

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Solution Don’t get hacked ;-) Use SSL only (addresses some vectors, not all) No simple solution:
Need to extend the cache “protocol”/headers? Other suggestions in [10]

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Cross Site Tracing in proxy servers ([6])

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Cross-Site Tracing (XST) Strikes Back
 Original XST ([5]) uses TRACE response from the web server. Since 2003, TRACE is usually turned off in web servers.  Goal: given XSS condition, extend it to cover HttpOnly cookies and HTTP basic authentication credentials (a-la the original XST)  TRACE is also supported by proxy servers.  Used with Max-Forwards to “debug” proxy paths.  Max-Forwards: 0  The proxy response is just as good…  Better yet: the server never sees what (doesn’t) hit it…
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Solution HTTP-enabled intermediaries
Disallow TRACE

Browser vendors
Disallow TRACE as a method in XmlHttpRequest. Disallow any non-alphanumeric method in XmlHttpRequest.

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NTLM HTTP Authentication and proxies don’t mix ([8])

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NTLM HTTP Authentication and connection sharing
NTLM HTTP authentication is connection oriented – the first HTTP request on the TCP connection is authenticated, and the rest don’t need authentication. Goal: piggyback an authenticated connection of a legitimate user. Connection sharing scenario = big problem Microsoft silently added “via” detection, killing the connection-orientedness. But Via is not sent by all proxy servers. Chain of proxies

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Solution Site owners
Abandon NTLM HTTP Auth

Proxy vendors
Don’t share connections Send VIA by default

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Root problems revisited
Application (insecure code)
HTTP Response Splitting, HTTP Response Smuggling Browser “bugs”: XST++, HTTP Request Splitting

Liberal HTTP Parsing
HTTP Request Smuggling, HTTP Response Smuggling

HTTP connection sharing
HTTP Response Splitting, NTLM HTTP Auth problem

Acting upon HTTP messages at large

HRS (all four), Domain Contamination

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Common solutions
Application level (programmers, browser vendors)
Programmers: Sanitation Browser vendors: Browser “bugs” – trivial sanitation…

Liberal HTTP Parsing (vendors)
Drop (or fix) non-RFC-compliant requests

HTTP connection sharing (vendors)

Use SSL (site owners)
SSL only websites are transparent to outside-theperimeter intermediaries, except the browser cache
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 HTTP-enabled intermediaries enable new classes of attacks  Previously “safe” features are now root causes
 Writing to HTTP headers  Connection sharing  Liberal HTTP parsing  Some HTTP features in intermediaries (e.g. TRACE)  Caching

 Site owners have less control
 HTTP intermediaries outside the perimeter  Non-trivial analysis: interaction between intermediaries, server and browser  Vulnerability assessment is never comprehensive  Mitigation

 Tip of the iceberg?

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[1] “Meanwhile, on the other side of the web server” (Amit Klein, June 2005) [2] “Divide and Conquer - HTTP Response Splitting, Web Cache Poisoning Attacks, and Other Topics” (Amit Klein, March 2004) [3] “HTTP Request Smuggling” (Chaim Linhart, Amit Klein, Ronen Heled, Steve Orrin, June 2005) [4] “HTTP Request Smuggling - ERRATA (the IIS 48K buffer phenomenon)” (Amit Klein, September 2005) [5] “Cross-Site Tracing (XST)” (Jeremiah Grossman, January 2003) [6] “XST Strikes Back” (Amit Klein, January 2006) [7] “Detecting and Preventing HTTP Response Splitting and HTTP Request Smuggling Attacks at the TCP Level” (Amit Klein, August 2005) [8] “NTLM HTTP Authentication is Insecure by Design” (Amit Klein, July 2005) [9] “Exploiting the XmlHttpRequest object in IE - Referrer spoofing, and a lot more...” (Amit Klein, September 2005) [10] “Domain Contamination” (Amit Klein, January 2006) [11] “HTTP Response Smuggling” (Amit Klein, March 2006) [12] “IE + some popular forward proxy servers = XSS, defacement (browser cache poisoning)” (Amit Klein, May 2006)

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