Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

6/12/2018
01:00 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Hack Weaponizes the Web Cache

Researcher exploits design flaws in Web caching to take control of popular websites, frameworks - and the Mozilla Firefox browser infrastructure.

A newly discovered attack forces Web cache servers to deliver malicious content to website visitors – and also exposes a major security hole in Mozilla's Firefox browser infrastructure.

James Kettle, head of research at PortSwigger Web Security, exploited security weaknesses in the design of website infrastructure to hack the Web caches of major sites and platforms: a US government agency, a popular cloud platform provider, a hosting platform provider, a software product, a video game, an investment firm's investor information, and some online stores.

"It's sort of a design flaw in the way caching and websites work," Kettle says of the security issues. "It's not specific to any given technology or any given cache."

In his research, Kettle also stumbled on a flaw in an API used in Firefox's infrastructure that allowed him to take partial control of tens of millions of browsers using his cache-attack method. "I call it a low-fat botnet because I didn't have complete control over Firefox, but I had a bit of control," he says.

Kettle is holding back much of the secret sauce of the Web-caching hack as well as his Web targets until his Black Hat USA talk in August. But he does say that with his attack, he can force a cache into behaving in an unsavory way without directly targeting it.

It basically works like this: Kettle sends a request to the website with his payload. "The website then replies with something potentially dangerous ... and the cache takes that, so then anyone who visits after that gets hit by the exploit," he says.

Web caches sit in front of websites and serve up stored content rather than all of the delivery coming via the live website. Kettle says the complexity of those caches and content-delivery networks built around many of today's Web applications can actually leave them open to abuse.

Previous research in Web cache security has encompassed injecting headers, or tricking the cache into saving and sharing sensitive data, Kettle says. His attack differs because it forces the cache to serve up exploits to website visitors, he notes.

An attacker could use it to plant malware that steals passwords or payment-card information from a website when visitors came to the site. The attack could also be employed to deface a website or redirect a visitor to a malicious site.

Firefox Botnet
With Firefox, Kettle employed his cache-poisoning attack against the infrastructure behind the browser that checks for and sends application and plug-in updates as well as URLs of dangerous websites to block, for example. "I found by accident ... that I was able to use cache poisoning to effectively input" some limited commands to Firefox browser users worldwide, he says. "If you opened Firefox, I got control of it."  

Mozilla fixed the flaw within 24 hours of his reporting it, in a Jan. 25 update.

When Firefox starts up, it sends a request to the Mozilla infrastructure for updates and other information. "By using cache poisoning, I could control the response to that message," Kettle says. That could allow an attacker to install certain extensions and corral Firefox browsers into a botnet to wage distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, for example.

Kettle says abusing the Firefox flaw alone would be less useful to an attacker than chaining an attack with another exploit and gaining full control of the browsers.

As of this posting, Mozilla had not responded to a request for comment on Kettle's research.

At Black Hat Kettle plans to release the open-source utility he created for his research, an adapted Burp Suite tool that scans Web infrastructures for cache-poisoning weaknesses, he says.

Related Content:

Top industry experts will offer a range of information and insight on who the bad guys are – and why they might be targeting your enterprise. Click for more information

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.
CVE-2020-7222
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An issue was discovered in Amcrest Web Server 2.520.AC00.18.R 2017-06-29 WEB 3.2.1.453504. The login page responds with JavaScript when one tries to authenticate. An attacker who changes the result parameter (to true) in this JavaScript code can bypass authentication and achieve limited privileges (...