An attacker leverages the security functionality of the system aimed at thwarting potential attacks to launch a denial of service attack against a legitimate system user. Many systems, for instance, implement a password throttling mechanism that locks an account after a certain number of incorrect log in attempts. An attacker can leverage this throttling mechanism to lock a legitimate user out of their own account. The weakness that is being leveraged by an attacker is the very security feature that has been put in place to counteract attacks.
Likelihood Of Attack
The table below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, 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.
Investigate account lockout behavior of system: Investigate the security features present in the system that may trigger an account lockout
Analyze system documentation to find list of events that could potentially cause account lockout
Obtain user account in system and attempt to lock it out by sending malformed or incorrect data repeatedly
Determine another user's login ID, and attempt to brute force the password (or other credentials) for it a predetermined number of times, or until the system provides an indication that the account is locked out.
Obtain list of user accounts to lock out: Generate a list of valid user accounts to lock out
Obtain list of authorized users using another attack pattern, such as SQL Injection.
Attempt to create accounts if possible; system should indicate if a user ID is already taken.
Attempt to brute force user IDs if system reveals whether a given user ID is valid or not upon failed login attempts.
Lock Out Accounts: Perform lockout procedure for all accounts that the attacker wants to lock out.
For each user ID to be locked out, perform the lockout procedure discovered in the first step.
The system has a lockout mechanism.
An attacker must be able to reproduce behavior that would result in an account being locked.
No programming skills or computer knowledge is needed. An attacker can easily use this attack pattern following the Execution Flow above.
Computer with access to the login portion of the target system
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.
Implement intelligent password throttling mechanisms such as those which take IP address into account, in addition to the login name.
When implementing security features, consider how they can be misused and made to turn on themselves.
A famous example of this type an attack is the eBay attack. eBay always displays the user id of the highest bidder. In the final minutes of the auction, one of the bidders could try to log in as the highest bidder three times. After three incorrect log in attempts, eBay password throttling would kick in and lock out the highest bidder's account for some time. An attacker could then make their own bid and their victim would not have a chance to place the counter bid because they would be locked out. Thus an attacker could win the auction.
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.
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed:
September 30, 2019