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CAPEC-107: Cross Site Tracing

Cross Site Tracing
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 107
Abstraction: Detailed
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

Cross Site Tracing (XST) enables an adversary to steal the victim's session cookie and possibly other authentication credentials transmitted in the header of the HTTP request when the victim's browser communicates to destination system's web server. The adversary first gets a malicious script to run in the victim's browser that induces the browser to initiate an HTTP TRACE request to the web server. If the destination web server allows HTTP TRACE requests, it will proceed to return a response to the victim's web browser that contains the original HTTP request in its body. The function of HTTP TRACE, as defined by the HTTP specification, is to echo the request that the web server receives from the client back to the client. Since the HTTP header of the original request had the victim's session cookie in it, that session cookie can now be picked off the HTTP TRACE response and sent to the adversary's malicious site. XST becomes relevant when direct access to the session cookie via the "document.cookie" object is disabled with the use of httpOnly attribute which ensures that the cookie can be transmitted in HTTP requests but cannot be accessed in other ways. Using SSL does not protect against XST.

If the system with which the victim is interacting is susceptible to XSS, an adversary can exploit that weakness directly to get his or her malicious script to issue an HTTP TRACE request to the destination system's web server. In the absence of an XSS weakness on the site with which the victim is interacting, an adversary can get the script to come from the site that he controls and get it to execute in the victim's browser (if he can trick the victim's into visiting his malicious website or clicking on the link that he supplies). However, in that case, due to the same origin policy protection mechanism in the browser, the adversary's malicious script cannot directly issue an HTTP TRACE request to the destination system's web server because the malicious script did not originate at that domain. An adversary will then need to find a way to exploit another weakness that would enable him or her to get around the same origin policy protection.

+ Attack Steps
  1. Determine if HTTP Trace is enabled: Determine if HTTP Trace is enabled at the web server with which the victim has a an active session

    An adversary may issue an HTTP Trace request to the target web server and observe if the response arrives with the original request in the body of the response.

  1. Identify mechanism to launch HTTP Trace request: The adversary attempts to force the victim to issue an HTTP Trace request to the targeted application.

    The adversary probes for cross-site scripting vulnerabilities to force the victim into issuing an HTTP Trace request.

  1. Create a malicious script that pings the web server with HTTP TRACE request: Create a malicious script that will induce the victim's browser to issue an HTTP TRACE request to the destination system's web server. The script will further intercept the response from the web server, pick up sensitive information out of it, and forward to the site controlled by the adversary.

    The adversary's malicious script circumvents the httpOnly cookie attribute that prevents from hijacking the victim's session cookie directly using document.cookie and instead leverages the HTTP TRACE to catch this information from the header of the HTTP request once it is echoed back from the web server in the body of the HTTP TRACE response.

  2. Execute malicious HTTP Trace launching script: The adversary leverages a vulnerability to force the victim to execute the malicious HTTP Trace launching script

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • HTTP TRACE is enabled on the web server

  • The destination system is susceptible to XSS or an adversary can leverage some other weakness to bypass the same origin policy

  • Scripting is enabled in the client's browser

  • HTTP is used as the communication protocol between the server and the client

+ Typical Severity

Very High

+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: Medium

+ Methods of Attack
  • Protocol Manipulation
  • Injection
+ Examples-Instances


An adversary determines that a particular system is vulnerable to reflected cross-site scripting (XSS) and endeavors to leverage this weakness to steal the victim's authentication cookie. An adversary realizes that since httpOnly attribute is set on the user's cookie, it is not possible to steal it directly with his malicious script. Instead, the adversary has their script use XMLHTTP ActiveX control in the victim's IE browser to issue an HTTP TRACE to the target system's server which has HTTP TRACE enabled. The original HTTP TRACE request contains the session cookie and so does the echoed response. The adversary picks the session cookie from the body of HTTP TRACE response and ships it to the adversary. The adversary then uses the newly acquired victim's session cookie to impersonate the victim in the target system.

+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Medium

Understanding of the HTTP protocol and an ability to craft a malicious script

+ Resources Required

None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack.

+ Probing Techniques

Send HTTP TRACE requests to the destination web server to see if it responds

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Administrators should disable support for HTTP TRACE at the destination's web server. Vendors should disable TRACE by default.

Patch web browser against known security origin policy bypass exploits.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Read memory
Read application data
Gain privileges / assume identity
Modify application data
+ Relevant Security Requirements

Turn off HTTP TRACE on the web server (if not needed)

+ Purposes
  • Exploitation
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: HighIntegrity Impact: HighAvailability Impact: Medium
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ References
[R.107.1] Jeremiah Grossman. "Cross-Site Tracing (XST)". WhiteHat Security. 2003. <http://www.cgisecurity.com/whitehat-mirror/WH-WhitePaper_XST_ebook.pdf>.
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2017-05-01Updated Related_Attack_PatternsInternal
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2017-08-04Updated Attack_Phases, Attack_Prerequisites, Description Summary, Examples-Instances, Resources_RequiredInternal

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2017