Home > CAPEC List > CAPEC-50: Password Recovery Exploitation (Version 3.2)  

CAPEC-50: Password Recovery Exploitation

Attack Pattern ID: 50
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
An attacker may take advantage of the application feature to help users recover their forgotten passwords in order to gain access into the system with the same privileges as the original user. Generally password recovery schemes tend to be weak and insecure. Most of them use only one security question . For instance, mother's maiden name tends to be a fairly popular one. Unfortunately in many cases this information is not very hard to find, especially if the attacker knows the legitimate user. These generic security questions are also re-used across many applications, thus making them even more insecure. An attacker could for instance overhear a coworker talking to a bank representative at the work place and supplying their mother's maiden name for verification purposes. An attacker can then try to log in into one of the victim's accounts, click on "forgot password" and there is a good chance that the security question there will be to provide mother's maiden name. A weak password recovery scheme totally undermines the effectiveness of a strong password scheme.
+ Likelihood Of Attack


+ Typical Severity


+ Relationships

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.

ChildOfMeta Attack PatternMeta 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.212Functionality Misuse

The table below shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.

+ Execution Flow
  1. Understand the password recovery mechanism and how it works.
  1. Find a weakness in the password recovery mechanism and exploit it. For instance, a weakness may be that a standard single security question is used with an easy to determine answer.
+ Prerequisites
The system allows users to recover their passwords and gain access back into the system.
Password recovery mechanism has been designed or implemented insecurely.
Password recovery mechanism relies only on something the user knows and not something the user has.
No third party intervention is required to use the password recovery mechanism.
+ Skills Required
[Level: Low]
Brute force attack
[Level: Medium]
Social engineering and more sophisticated technical attacks.
+ Resources Required
For a brute force attack one would need a machine with sufficient CPU, RAM and HD.
+ Indicators
Many incorrect attempts to answer the security question.
+ Consequences

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.

Access Control
Gain Privileges
+ Mitigations
Use multiple security questions (e.g. have three and make the user answer two of them correctly). Let the user select their own security questions or provide them with choices of questions that are not generic.
E-mail the temporary password to the registered e-mail address of the user rather than letting the user reset the password online.
Ensure that your password recovery functionality is not vulnerable to an injection style attack.
+ Example Instances
An attacker clicks on the "forgot password" and is presented with a single security question. The question is regarding the name of the first dog of the user. The system does not limit the number of attempts to provide the dog's name. An attacker goes through a list of 100 most popular dog names and finds the right name, thus getting the ability to reset the password and access the system.

phpBanner Exchange is a PHP script (using the mySQL database) that facilitates the running of a banner exchange without extensive knowledge of PHP or mySQL.

A SQL injection was discovered in the password recovery module of the system that allows recovering an arbitrary user's password and taking over his account. The problem is due to faulty input sanitization in the phpBannerExchange, specifically the e-mail address of the user which is requested by the password recovery module.

The e-mail address requested by the password recovery module on the resetpw.php page. That e-mail address is validated with the following regular expression:

(\.[a-z]{2,3})$", $email)){

A bug in the implementation of eregi() allows to pass additional character using a null byte "\0". Since eregi() is implemented in C, the variable $email is treated as a zero-terminated string. All characters following the Null Byte will not be recognized by the regular expression. So an e-mail address can be provided that includes the special character " ' " to break the SQL query below (and it will not be rejected by the regular expression because of the null byte trick). So a SQL injection becomes possible:

$get_info=mysql_query("select * from banneruser where
email='$email' ");

This query will return a non-zero result set even though the email supplied (attacker's email) is not in the database.

Then a new password for the user is generated and sent to the $email address, an e-mail address controlled by the attacker. An attacker can then log in into the system.

See also: CVE-2006-3013
+ References
[REF-429] "Advisory: Unauthorized password recovery in phpBannerExchange". RedTeam Pentesting GmbH. 2006. <http://www.redteam-pentesting.de/advisories/rt-sa-2006-005.txt>.
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2014-06-23CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: September 30, 2019