5Star CyberSecurity
Web Server Types of Attacks
Web Server Types of Attacks

1) Scanning – Tools, such as Nmap and SuperScan, can be used.

2) Banner grabbing – Identifies the server and version. Netcat and Telnet are useful here.

3) Attacking the web server – The script kiddies’ dream would be to find unpatched servers or discover a recently discussed vulnerability that hasn’t been patched yet.

4) Surveying the application – Because it’s more advanced than a direct web server attack, attacking the application could go unnoticed.

5) Attacking authentication – Weak forms of authentication might allow the attacker to beat authentication or guess commonly used passwords.

6) Exploiting the database – A tempting target for hackers looking to make a profit in identity or credit card theft.

The web browser sends HTTP requests to the Web server. The firewall captures this traffic and, typically, concentrates on analyzing the communication parameters of the traffic. It checks the destination port, the source and destination IP addresses, and similar other attributes. However, a firewall’s weakness lies in its inability to verify the data portion (e.g., requests) of the communication consistently. This allows the request to appear legitimate to the firewall. When it arrives at the Web server, it is serviced normally. However, the request may be malicious and exploit a server vulnerability, producing undesired results.

Buffer Overflow Attacks

Buffer overflow vulnerabilities stem from problems in string handling. Whenever a computer program tries copying a string or buffers into a buffer that is smaller than itself, an overflow is sometimes caused. If the destination buffer is overflowed sufficiently it will overwrite various crucial system data. In most situations an attacker can leverage this to takeover a specific program’s process, thereby acquiring the privileges that process or program has.

Parser Evasion Attacks

Insecure string parsing can allow attackers to remotely execute commands on the machine running the Web server. If the CGI script or Web server feature does not check for various characters in a string, an attacker can append commands to a normal value and have the commands executed on the vulnerable server.

Directory Traversal Attacks

In certain situations, various characters and symbols can be used to break out of the Web server’s root directory and access files on the rest of the file system. By checking for these characters and only allowing certain directories to be accessed, directory traversal attacks are prevented.

Cache Poisoning

Cache poisoning, also called domain name system (DNS) poisoning or DNS cache poisoning, is the corruption of an Internet server’s domain name system table by replacing an Internet address with that of another, rogue address. When a Web user seeks the page with that address, the request is redirected by the rogue entry in the table to a different address. At that point, a worm, spyware, Web browser hijacking program, or other malware can be downloaded to the user’s computer from the rogue location.

The impact of a maliciously constructed response can be magnified if it is cached either by a web cache used by multiple users or even the browser cache of a single user. If a response is cached in a shared web cache, such as those commonly found in proxy servers, then all users of that cache will continue to receive the malicious content until the cache entry is purged. Similarly, if the response is cached in the browser of an individual user, then that user will continue to receive the malicious content until the cache entry is purged, although only the user of the local browser instance will be affected.

Hidden Fields

Hidden fields are a poor coding practice that has been known and publicized for some time, although it still continues. It’s the practice of using hidden HTML fields as a sole mechanism for assigning a price or obscuring a value. This practice of security by obscurity can be easily overcome by just reviewing the code. The theory is that if end users cannot see it, it is safe from tampering.

Many sites use these hidden value fields to store the price of the product that is passed to the web application.

Web-Based Password Cracking

An unlimited number of tools are available for the attacker to attempt to break into web-based applications. If the site does not employ a lockout policy, it is only a matter of time and bandwidth before the attacker can gain entry. Password cracking doesn’t have to involve sophisticated tools; many times password guessing works well. It can be a tedious process, although human intuition can beat automated tools.

URL Obfuscation

It is possible to hide addresses in URLs so that they can bypass filters or other application defenses that have been put in place to block specific IP addresses. Although web browsers recognize URLs that contain hexadecimal or binary character representations, some web filtering applications don’t. Here is an example of an encoded binary IP address: http://8812120797/. Does it look confusing? This decimal address can be converted into a human-readable IP address. Convert the address into hexadecimal, divide it into four sets of two digits, and finally convert each set back into decimal to recover the IP address manually.


Cross-site scripting (XSS) enables attackers to inject client-side script into Web pages viewed by other users. A cross-site scripting vulnerability may be used by attackers to bypass access controls such as the same-origin policy. Cross-site scripting carried out on websites accounted for roughly 84% of all security vulnerabilities documented by Symantec as of 2007. Their effect may range from a petty nuisance to a significant security risk, depending on the sensitivity of the data handled by the vulnerable site and the nature of any security mitigation implemented by the site’s owner.

Security on the web is based on a variety of mechanisms, including an underlying concept of trust known as the same-origin policy. This essentially states that if the content from one site (such as https://mybank.example1.com) is granted permission to access resources on the system, then any content from that site will share these permissions, while content from another site (https://othersite.example2.com) will have to be granted permissions separately.

Cross-site scripting uses known vulnerabilities in web-based applications, their servers, or plug-in systems on which they rely. Exploiting one of these, attackers fold malicious content into the content being delivered from the compromised site. When the resulting combined content arrives at the client-side web browser, it has all been delivered from the trusted source, and thus operates under the permissions granted to that system. By finding ways of injecting malicious scripts into web pages, an attacker can gain elevated access privileges to sensitive page content, session cookies, and a variety of other information maintained by the browser on behalf of the user. Cross-site scripting attacks are therefore a special case of code injection.

The term “Cross-Site Scripting” was introduced by Microsoft in the year 2000. The expression “Cross-Site Scripting” originally referred to the act of loading the attacked, third-party web application from an unrelated attack site, in a manner that executes a fragment of JavaScript prepared by the attacker in the security context of the targeted domain (a reflected or non-persistent XSS vulnerability). The definition gradually expanded to encompass other modes of code injection, including persistent and non-JavaScript vectors (including ActiveX, Java, VBScript, Flash, or even HTML scripts), causing some confusion to newcomers to the field of information security.

XSS vulnerabilities have been reported and exploited since the 1990s. Prominent sites affected in the past include the social-networking sites Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Orkut. In recent years, cross-site scripting flaws surpassed buffer overflows to become the most common publicly reported security vulnerability, with some researchers in 2007 viewing as many as 68% of websites as likely open to XSS attacks.


Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is a type of attack that occurs when a malicious Web site, email, blog, instant message, or program causes a user’s Web browser to perform an unwanted action on a trusted site for which the user is currently authenticated. The impact of a successful cross-site request forgery attack is limited to the capabilities exposed by the vulnerable application. For example, this attack could result in a transfer of funds, changing a password, or purchasing an item in the user’s context. In effect, CSRF attacks are used by an attacker to make a target system perform a function (funds Transfer, form submission, etc.) via the target’s browser without the knowledge of the target user, at least until the unauthorized function has been committed.

Remote File Inclusion

Remote File Inclusion (RFI) is a type of vulnerability most often found on websites. It allows an attacker to include a remote file, usually through a script on the webserver. The vulnerability occurs due to the use of user-supplied input without proper validation.

Local File Inclusion

Local File Inclusion (LFI) is similar to a Remote File Inclusion vulnerability except instead of including remote files, only local files i.e. files on the current server can be included. The vulnerability is also due to the use of user-supplied input without proper validation.

Session Hijacking

Session Hijacking, sometimes also known as cookie hijacking is the exploitation of a valid computer session—sometimes also called a session key—to gain unauthorized access to information or services in a computer system. In particular, it is used to refer to the theft of a magic cookie used to authenticate a user to a remote server. It has particular relevance to web developers, as the HTTP cookies used to maintain a session on many websites can be easily stolen by an attacker using an intermediary computer or with access to the saved cookies on the victim’s computer.

A popular method is using source-routed IP packets. This allows an attacker at point B on the network to participate in a conversation between A and C by encouraging the IP packets to pass through B’s machine.

If source routing is turned off, the attacker can use “blind” hijacking, whereby it guesses the responses of the two machines. Thus, the attacker can send a command, but can never see the response. However, a common command would be to set a password allowing access from somewhere else on the net.

An attacker can also be “inline” between A and C using a sniffing program to watch the conversation. This is known as a “man-in-the-middle attack”.


There are four main methods used to perpetrate a session hijack. These are:

Session fixation, where the attacker sets a user’s session id to one known to him, for example by sending the user an email with a link that contains a particular session id. The attacker now only has to wait until the user logs in. Session sidejacking, where the attacker uses packet sniffing to read network traffic between two parties to steal the session cookie. Many websites use SSL encryption for login pages to prevent attackers from seeing the password but do not use encryption for the rest of the site once authenticated. This allows attackers that can read the network traffic to intercept all the data that is submitted to the server or web pages viewed by the client. Since this data includes the session cookie, it allows him to impersonate the victim, even if the password itself is not compromised. Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots are particularly vulnerable, as anyone sharing the network will generally be able to read most of the web traffic between other nodes and the access point. Alternatively, an attacker with physical access can simply attempt to steal the session key by, for example, obtaining the file or memory contents of the appropriate part of either the user’s computer or the server. Cross-site scripting, where the attacker tricks the user’s computer into running code that is treated as trustworthy because it appears to belong to the server, allowing the attacker to obtain a copy of the cookie or perform other operations. Exploits Firesheep –

In October 2010, a Mozilla Firefox extension called Firesheep was released that made it easy for session hijackers to attack users of unencrypted public Wi-Fi. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and any that the user adds to their preferences allow the Firesheep user to easily access private information from cookies and threaten the public Wi-Fi user’s personal property. Only months later, Facebook and Twitter responded by offering (and later requiring) HTTP Secure throughout.

WhatsApp sniffer –

An app named “WhatsApp Sniffer” was made available on Google Play in May 2012, able to display messages from other WhatsApp users connected to the same network as the app user. At that time WhatsApp used an XMPP infrastructure with unencrypted, plain-text communication.

DroidSheep –

DroidSheep is a simple Android tool for web session hijacking (sidejacking). It listens for HTTP packets sent via a wireless (802.11) network connection and extracts the session id from these packets in order to reuse them. DroidSheep can capture sessions using the libpcap library and supports:

OPEN Networks, WEP encrypted networks, and WPA/WPA2 encrypted networks (PSK only) This software uses libpcap and arpspoof. The apk was made available on Google Play but it has been taken down by Google. The source is available here

CookieCadger –

CookieCadger is a Java app that automates sidejacking and replay of insecure HTTP GET requests.

Cookie Cadger helps identify information leakage from applications that utilize insecure HTTP GET requests. Web providers have started stepping up to the plate since Firesheep was released in 2010. Today, most major websites can provide SSL/TLS during all transactions, preventing cookie data from leaking over wired Ethernet or insecure Wi-Fi. Cookie Cadger is the first open-source pen-testing tool ever made for intercepting and replaying specific insecure HTTP GET requests into a browser. Cookie Cadger is a graphical utility that harnesses the power of the Wireshark suite and Java to provide a fully cross-platform, entirely open-source utility that can monitor wired Ethernet, insecure Wi-Fi, or load a packet capture file for offline analysis. Cookie Cadger has been used to highlight the weaknesses of youth team sharing sites such as Shutterfly (used by AYSO soccer league) and TeamSnap.

The binary and source can be downloaded here Prevention

Methods to prevent session hijacking include:

Encryption of the data traffic passed between the parties by using SSL/TLS; in particular the session key (though ideally all traffic for the entire session). This technique is widely relied-upon by web-based banks and other e-commerce services because it completely prevents sniffing-style attacks. However, it could still be possible to perform some other kind of session hijack. In response, scientists from the Radboud University Nijmegen proposed 2013 a way to prevent session hijacking by correlating the application session with the SSL/TLS credentials

Use of a long random number or string as the session key. This reduces the risk that an attacker could simply guess a valid session key through trial and error or brute force attacks.

Regenerating the session id after a successful login. This prevents session fixation because the attacker does not know the session id of the user after s/he has logged in. Some services make secondary checks against the identity of the user. For example, a web server could check with each request made that the IP address of the user matched the one last used during that session. This does not prevent attacks by somebody who shares the same IP address, however, and could be frustrating for users whose IP address is liable to change during a browsing session.

Alternatively, some services will change the value of the cookie with each and every request. This dramatically reduces the window in which an attacker can operate and makes it easy to identify whether an attack has taken place, but can cause other technical problems (for example, two legitimate, closely timed requests from the same client can lead to a token check error on the server).

Users may also wish to log out of websites whenever they are finished using them. However, this will not protect against attacks such as Firesheep.