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CAPEC-54: Query System for Information

Query System for Information
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 54
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

An adversary, aware of an application's location (and possibly authorized to use the application), probes an application's structure and evaluates its robustness by submitting requests and examining responses. Often, this is accomplished by sending variants of expected queries in the hope that these modified queries might return information beyond what the expected set of queries would provide.

+ Attack Steps
  1. Determine user-controllable parameters of the application

  1. Inject each parameter with content that causes an error condition to manifest

  2. Modify the content of each parameter according to observed error conditions

  3. Repeat above steps with enough parameters until the application has been sufficiently mapped out to launch desired attack (for example, Blind SQL Injection)

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • This class of attacks does not strictly require authorized access to the application. As Attackers use this attack process to classify, map, and identify vulnerable aspects of an application, it simply requires hypotheses to be verified, interaction with the application, and time to conduct trial-and-error activities.

+ Typical Severity


+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: High

+ Methods of Attack
  • Injection
  • Brute Force
+ Examples-Instances


Blind SQL injection is an example of this technique, applied to successful exploit.

Related Vulnerabilities


Attacker sends bad data at various servlets in a J2EE system, records returned exception stack traces, and maps application functionality.

In addition, this technique allows attackers to correlate those servlets used with the underlying open source packages (and potentially version numbers) that provide them.

+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Medium

Although fuzzing parameters is not difficult, and often possible with automated fuzzers, interpreting the error conditions and modifying the parameters so as to move further in the process of mapping the application requires detailed knowledge of target platform, the languages and packages used as well as software design.

+ Resources Required

The Attacker needs the ability to probe application functionality and provide it erroneous directives or data without triggering intrusion detection schemes or making enough of an impact on application logging that steps are taken against the attacker.

The Attack does not need special hardware, software, skills, or access.

+ Indicators-Warnings of Attack

Repeated errors generated by the same piece of code are an indication, although it requires careful monitoring of the application and its associated error logs, if any.

+ Obfuscation Techniques

To defeat correlation, the attacker may try changing the origin IP addresses or client browser identification strings or start a new session from where he left off; any technique aimed at defeating the use of certain identification parameters for correlation goes a small way in obfuscating the attack.

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Application designers can construct a 'code book' for error messages. When using a code book, application error messages aren't generated in string or stack trace form, but are cataloged and replaced with a unique (often integer-based) value 'coding' for the error. Such a technique will require helpdesk and hosting personnel to use a 'code book' or similar mapping to decode application errors/logs in order to respond to them normally.

Application designers can wrap application functionality (preferably through the underlying framework) in an output encoding scheme that obscures or cleanses error messages to prevent such attacks. Such a technique is often used in conjunction with the above 'code book' suggestion.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Read application data
Read memory
+ Injection Vector

User-controllable input

+ Payload

Content, based on application context, crafted to elicit error conditions from the application

+ Activation Zone

Error Handling mechanism within the application

+ Payload Activation Impact

The impact of activation is an error condition that, hopefully for the attacker, reveals sufficient information to further map the application.

+ Relevant Security Requirements

Custom error pages must be used to handle exceptions such that they do not reveal any information about the architecture of the application or the database.

Employ application-level safeguards to filter data and handle exceptions gracefully.

+ Purposes
  • Reconnaissance
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: MediumIntegrity Impact: MediumAvailability Impact: Low
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ References
[R.54.1] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-20 - Input Validation. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. 2007. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/20.html>.
[R.54.2] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-390 - Improper Error Handling. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. 2007. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/390.html>.
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2015-11-09Updated Description SummaryInternal
Previous Entry Names
DatePrevious Entry Name
2015-11-09Probe Application Error Reporting

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: August 04, 2017