An attacker crafts malicious web links and distributes them (via web pages, email, etc.), typically in a targeted manner, hoping to induce users to click on the link and execute the malicious action against some third-party application. If successful, the action embedded in the malicious link will be processed and accepted by the targeted application with the users' privilege level. This type of attack leverages the persistence and implicit trust placed in user session cookies by many web applications today. In such an architecture, once the user authenticates to an application and a session cookie is created on the user's system, all following transactions for that session are authenticated using that cookie including potential actions initiated by an attacker and simply "riding" the existing session cookie.
Term: Session Riding
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.
Detailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.
Explore target website: The attacker first explores the target website to determine pieces of functionality that are of interest to him (e.g. money transfers). The attacker will need a legitimate user account on the target website. It would help to have two accounts.
Use web application debugging tool such as WebScarab, Tamper Data or TamperIE to analyze the information exchanged between the client and the server
Use network sniffing tool such as Wireshark to analyze the information exchanged between the client and the server
View HTML source of web pages that contain links or buttons that perform actions of interest.
Create a link that when clicked on, will execute the interesting functionality.: The attacker needs to create a link that will execute some interesting functionality such as transfer money, change a password, etc.
Create a GET request containing all required parameters (e.g. https://www.somebank.com/members/transfer.asp?to=012345678901&amt=10000)
Create a form that will submit a POST request (e.g. <form method="POST" action="https://www.somebank.com/members/transfer.asp"><input type="hidden" Name="to" value="012345678901"/><input type="hidden" Name="amt" value="10000"/><input type="submit" src="clickhere.jpg"/></form>
Convince user to click on link: Finally, the attacker needs to convince a user that is logged into the target website to click on a link to execute the CSRF attack.
Execute a phishing attack and send the user an e-mail convincing him to click on a link.
Execute a stored XSS attack on a website to permanently embed the malicious link into the website.
Execute a stored XSS attack on a website where an XMLHTTPRequest object will automatically execute the attack as soon as a user visits the page. This removes the step of convincing a user to click on a link.
Include the malicious link on the attackers' own website where the user may have to click on the link, or where an XMLHTTPRequest object may automatically execute the attack when a user visits the site.
The attacker needs to figure out the exact invocation of the targeted malicious action and then craft a link that performs the said action. Having the user click on such a link is often accomplished by sending an email or posting such a link to a bulletin board or the likes.
All the attacker needs is the exact representation of requests to be made to the application and to be able to get the malicious link across to a victim.
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.
Use cryptographic tokens to associate a request with a specific action. The token can be regenerated at every request so that if a request with an invalid token is encountered, it can be reliably discarded. The token is considered invalid if it arrived with a request other than the action it was supposed to be associated with.
Although less reliable, the use of the optional HTTP Referrer header can also be used to determine whether an incoming request was actually one that the user is authorized for, in the current context.
Additionally, the user can also be prompted to confirm an action every time an action concerning potentially sensitive data is invoked. This way, even if the attacker manages to get the user to click on a malicious link and request the desired action, the user has a chance to recover by denying confirmation. This solution is also implicitly tied to using a second factor of authentication before performing such actions.
In general, every request must be checked for the appropriate authentication token as well as authorization in the current session context.
While a user is logged into his bank account, an attacker can send an email with some potentially interesting content and require the user to click on a link in the email.
The link points to or contains an attacker setup script, probably even within an iFrame, that mimics an actual user form submission to perform a malicious activity, such as transferring funds from the victim's account.
The attacker can have the script embedded in, or targeted by, the link perform any arbitrary action as the authenticated user. When this script is executed, the targeted application authenticates and accepts the actions based on the victims existing session cookie.
See also: Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in util.pl in @Mail WebMail 4.51 allows remote attackers to modify arbitrary settings and perform unauthorized actions as an arbitrary user, as demonstrated using a settings action in the SRC attribute of an IMG element in an HTML e-mail.
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