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CAPEC-87: Forceful Browsing

Forceful Browsing
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 87
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

An attacker employs forceful browsing to access portions of a website that are otherwise unreachable through direct URL entry.

Usually, a front controller or similar design pattern is employed to protect access to portions of a web application.

Forceful browsing enables an attacker to access information, perform privileged operations and otherwise reach sections of the web application that have been improperly protected.

+ Attack Steps
  1. Spider: Using an automated tool, an attacker follows all public links on a web site. He records all the links he finds.

    Use a spidering tool to follow and record all links

    Use a proxy tool to record all links visited during a manual traversal of the web application.

  1. Attempt well-known or guessable resource locations: Using an automated tool, an attacker requests a variety of well-known URLs that correspond to administrative, debugging, or other useful internal actions. He records all the positive responses from the server.

    Use a spidering tool to follow and record attempts on well-known URLs

    Use a proxy tool to record all links visited during a manual traversal of attempts on well-known URLs.

  1. Use unauthorized resources: By visiting the unprotected resource, the attacker makes use of unauthorized functionality.

    Access unprotected functions and execute them.

  2. View unauthorized data: The attacker discovers and views unprotected sensitive data.

    Direct request of protected pages that directly access database back-ends. (e.g., list.jsp, accounts.jsp, status.jsp, etc.)

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • The forcibly browseable pages or accessible resources must be discoverable and improperly protected.

+ Typical Severity


+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: Very High

A number of automated crawlers as well as other tools are available that generally perform a good job at looking for forcefully browseable pages

+ Methods of Attack
  • Brute Force
+ Examples-Instances


A bulletin board application provides an administrative interface at admin.aspx when the user logging in belongs to the administrators group.

An attacker can access the admin.aspx interface by making a direct request to the page. Not having access to the interface appropriately protected allows the attacker to perform administrative functions without having to authenticate himself in that role.

+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Low

Forcibly browseable pages can be discovered by using a number of automated tools. Doing the same manually is tedious but by no means difficult

+ Resources Required

None: No specialized resources are required to execute this type of attack. A directory listing is helpful, but not a requirement.

+ Probing Techniques

Following all the links recursively reveals resources that are available

Having a directory listing also points to the available pages and resources in the application that may be forcibly browseable.

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Authenticate request to every resource. In addition, every page or resource must ensure that the request it is handling has been made in an authorized context.

Forceful browsing can also be made difficult to a large extent by not hard-coding names of application pages or resources. This way, the attacker cannot figure out, from the application alone, the resources available from the present context.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Read files or directories
Bypass protection mechanism
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2015-12-07Updated Related_Attack_PatternsInternal
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2017-08-04Updated Related_Attack_Patterns, Resources_RequiredInternal

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: August 04, 2017