CAPEC-90: Reflection Attack in Authentication Protocol
Attack Pattern ID: 90
An attacker can abuse an authentication protocol susceptible to reflection attack in order to defeat it. Doing so allows the attacker illegitimate access to the target system, without possessing the requisite credentials. Reflection attacks are of great concern to authentication protocols that rely on a challenge-handshake or similar mechanism. An attacker can impersonate a legitimate user and can gain illegitimate access to the system by successfully mounting a reflection attack during authentication.
Likelihood Of Attack
The table(s) below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Meta Attack Pattern - A meta level attack pattern in CAPEC is a decidedly abstract characterization of a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. A meta attack pattern is often void of a specific technology or implementation and is meant to provide an understanding of a high level approach. A meta level attack pattern is a generalization of related group of standard level attack patterns. Meta level attack patterns are particularly useful for architecture and design level threat modeling exercises.
Standard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.
The attacker opens a connection to the target server and sends it a challenge
The server responds by returning the challenge encrypted with a shared secret as well as its own challenge to the attacker
Since the attacker does not possess the shared secret, he initiates a second connection to the server and sends it, as challenge, the challenge received from the server on the first connection
The server treats this as just another handshake and responds by encrypting the challenge and issuing its own to the attacker
The attacker now receives the encrypted challenge on the second connection and sends it as response to the server on the first connection, thereby successfully completing the handshake and authenticating to the server.
The attacker must have direct access to the target server in order to successfully mount a reflection attack. An intermediate entity, such as a router or proxy, that handles these exchanges on behalf of the attacker inhibits the attackers' ability to attack the authentication protocol.
The attacker needs to have knowledge of observing the protocol exchange and managing the required connections in order to issue and respond to challenges
All that the attacker requires is a means to observe and understand the protocol exchanges in order to reflect the challenges appropriately.
The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Bypass Protection Mechanism
The server must initiate the handshake by issuing the challenge. This ensures that the client has to respond before the exchange can move any further
The use of HMAC to hash the response from the server can also be used to thwart reflection. The server responds by returning its own challenge as well as hashing the client's challenge, its own challenge and the pre-shared secret. Requiring the client to respond with the HMAC of the two challenges ensures that only the possessor of a valid pre-shared secret can successfully hash in the two values.
Introducing a random nonce with each new connection ensures that the attacker cannot employ two connections to attack the authentication protocol
A single sign-on solution for a network uses a fixed pre-shared key with its clients to initiate the sign-on process in order to avoid eavesdropping on the initial exchanges.
An attacker can use a reflection attack to mimic a trusted client on the network to participate in the sign-on exchange.
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
OWASP Top Ten 2007 Category A7 - Broken Authentication and Session Management
CAPEC Content Team
The MITRE Corporation
CAPEC Content Team
The MITRE Corporation
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed:
July 31, 2018