XSS in Android Application

Cross-Site Scripting: Reflected

Since XSS vulnerabilities occur when an application includes malicious data in its output, one logical approach is to validate data immediately before it leaves the application. However, because web applications often have complex and intricate code for generating dynamic content, this method is prone to errors of omission (missing validation). An effective way to mitigate this risk is to also perform input validation for XSS.

Web applications must validate their input to prevent other vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, so augmenting an application’s existing input validation mechanism to include checks for XSS is generally relatively easy. Despite its value, input validation for XSS does not take the place of rigorous output validation. An application may accept input through a shared data store or other trusted source, and that data store may accept input from a source that does not perform adequate input validation. Therefore, the application cannot implicitly rely on the safety of this or any other data. This means the best way to prevent XSS vulnerabilities is to validate everything that enters the application and leaves the application destined for the user.

The most secure approach to validation for XSS is to create a whitelist of safe characters that are allowed to appear in HTTP content and accept input composed exclusively of characters in the approved set. For example, a valid username might only include alpha-numeric characters or a phone number might only include digits 0–9. However, this solution is often infeasible in web applications because many characters that have special meaning to the browser should still be considered valid input once they are encoded, such as a web design bulletin board that must accept HTML fragments from its users.

A more flexible, but less secure approach is known as blacklisting, which selectively rejects or escapes potentially dangerous characters before using the input. In order to form such a list, you first need to understand the set of characters that hold special meaning for web browsers. Although the HTML standard defines what characters have special meaning, many web browsers try to correct common mistakes in HTML and may treat other characters as special in certain contexts, which is why we do not encourage the use of blacklists as a means to prevent XSS. The CERT(R) Coordination Center at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University provides the following details about special characters in various contexts [1]:

In the content of a block-level element (in the middle of a paragraph of text):

- “<” is special because it introduces a tag.

- “&” is special because it introduces a character entity.

- “>” is special because some browsers treat it as special, on the assumption that the author of the page intended to include an opening “<”, but omitted it in error.

The following principles apply to attribute values:

- In attribute values enclosed with double quotes, the double quotes are special because they mark the end of the attribute value.

- In attribute values enclosed with single quote, the single quotes are special because they mark the end of the attribute value.

- In attribute values without any quotes, white-space characters, such as space and tab, are special.

- “&” is special when used with certain attributes, because it introduces a character entity.

In URLs, for example, a search engine might provide a link within the results page that the user can click to re-run the search. This can be implemented by encoding the search query inside the URL, which introduces additional special characters:

- Space, tab, and newline are special because they mark the end of the URL.

- “&” is special because it either introduces a character entity or separates CGI parameters.

- Non-ASCII characters (that is, everything above 128 in the ISO-8859–1 encoding) are not allowed in URLs, so they are considered to be special in this context.

- The “%” symbol must be filtered from input anywhere parameters encoded with HTTP escape sequences are decoded by server-side code. For example, “%” must be filtered if input such as “%68%65%6C%6C%6F” becomes “hello” when it appears on the web page in question.

Within the body of a <SCRIPT> </SCRIPT>:

- Semicolons, parentheses, curly braces, and new line characters should be filtered out in situations where text could be inserted directly into a pre-existing script tag.

Server-side scripts:

- Server-side scripts that convert any exclamation characters (!) in input to double-quote characters (“) on output might require additional filtering.

Other possibilities:

- If an attacker submits a request in UTF-7, the special character ‘<’ appears as ‘+ADw-’ and may bypass filtering. If the output is included in a page that does not explicitly specify an encoding format, then some browsers try to intelligently identify the encoding based on the content (in this case, UTF-7).

Once you identify the correct points in an application to perform validation for XSS attacks and what special characters the validation should consider, the next challenge is to identify how your validation handles special characters. If special characters are not considered valid input to the application, then you can reject any input that contains special characters as invalid. A second option in this situation is to remove special characters with filtering. However, filtering has the side effect of changing any visual representation of the filtered content and may be unacceptable in circumstances where the integrity of the input must be preserved for display.

If input containing special characters must be accepted and displayed accurately, validation must encode any special characters to remove their significance. A complete list of ISO 8859–1 encoded values for special characters is provided as part of the official HTML specification [2].

Many application servers attempt to limit an application’s exposure to cross-site scripting vulnerabilities by providing implementations for the functions responsible for setting certain specific HTTP response content that perform validation for the characters essential to a cross-site scripting attack. Do not rely on the server running your application to make it secure. When an application is developed there are no guarantees about what application servers it will run on during its lifetime. As standards and known exploits evolve, there are no guarantees that application servers will also stay in sync.

Explanation :

project : OWASP GoatDroid

Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities occur when:

1. Data enters a web application through an untrusted source. In the case of Reflected XSS, the untrusted source is typically a web request, while in the case of Persisted (also known as Stored) XSS it is typically a database or other back-end datastore.

In this case the data enters at setLongitude() in LatLong.java at line .

2. The data is included in dynamic content that is sent to a web user without being validated.

In this case the data is sent at in FGCheckinController.java at line .

The malicious content sent to the web browser often takes the form of a segment of JavaScript, but may also include HTML, Flash or any other type of code that the browser may execute. The variety of attacks based on XSS is almost limitless, but they commonly include transmitting private data like cookies or other session information to the attacker, redirecting the victim to web content controlled by the attacker, or performing other malicious operations on the user’s machine under the guise of the vulnerable site.

The method doCheckin() in FGCheckinController.java sends unvalidated data to a web browser on line 49, which can result in the browser executing malicious code.Sending unvalidated data to a web browser can result in the browser executing malicious code.

Extra Information :

The following code enables JavaScript in Android’s WebView (by default, JavaScript is disabled) and loads a page based on the value received from an Android intent.

If the value of url starts with javascript:, JavaScript code that follows will execute within the context of the web page inside WebView.

As the examples demonstrate, XSS vulnerabilities are caused by code that includes unvalidated data in an HTTP response. There are three vectors by which an XSS attack can reach a victim:

- As in Example 1, data is read directly from the HTTP request and reflected back in the HTTP response. Reflected XSS exploits occur when an attacker causes a user to supply dangerous content to a vulnerable web application, which is then reflected back to the user and executed by the web browser. The most common mechanism for delivering malicious content is to include it as a parameter in a URL that is posted publicly or e-mailed directly to victims. URLs constructed in this manner constitute the core of many phishing schemes, whereby an attacker convinces victims to visit a URL that refers to a vulnerable site. After the site reflects the attacker's content back to the user, the content is executed and proceeds to transfer private information, such as cookies that may include session information, from the user's machine to the attacker or perform other nefarious activities.

- As in Example 2, the application stores dangerous data in a database or other trusted data store. The dangerous data is subsequently read back into the application and included in dynamic content. Persistent XSS exploits occur when an attacker injects dangerous content into a data store that is later read and included in dynamic content. From an attacker's perspective, the optimal place to inject malicious content is in an area that is displayed to either many users or particularly interesting users. Interesting users typically have elevated privileges in the application or interact with sensitive data that is valuable to the attacker. If one of these users executes malicious content, the attacker may be able to perform privileged operations on behalf of the user or gain access to sensitive data belonging to the user.

  • As in Example 3, a source outside the application stores dangerous data in a database or other data store, and the dangerous data is subsequently read back into the application as trusted data and included in dynamic content.

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