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

04:31 PM
Connect Directly

'Waldo' Finds Ways To Abuse HTML5 WebSockets

Black Hat USA researchers to release free hacking tool and demonstrate how new communication channel could be used for XSS, denial-of-service, and hiding malicious or unauthorized traffic

With new features come new risks, and HTML5 is no exception: Its WebSocket feature opens the door for a wide range of abuses by attackers, researchers will demonstrate next week at Black Hat USA.

Click here for more of Dark Reading's Black Hat articles.

Sergey Shekyan and Vaagn Toukharian also will release a hacking tool called Waldo for researchers to test for WebSocket vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors. WebSocket is basically a faster, more efficient way for browsers and Web servers to communicate (bidirectionally); it supports real-time applications, such as customer-support chat features and online gaming, for example. Most major browsers support it.

The problem is that today's firewalls, next-generation firewalls, unified threat management (UTM), and IDS/IPS products are not WebSocket-aware, the researchers say. In other words, they can't detect WebSocket traffic: "Nobody monitors it: We think that's the scariest part," says Shekyan, who is a senior software engineer.

WebSocket could be used for anonymized, TOR-type peer-to-peer communication, for example, as well as a platform for attacks, such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and denial-of-service, the researchers say. The good news is that WebSocket so far is deployed in a small percentage of websites today, only around 1 percent, according to their research.

Waldo is a simple tool based on the Websocketpp server that shows how easy it is to abuse WebSocket on both the client and server side as a malicious communication channel, they say. It currently runs on OS X and most flavors of Linux.

"Our tool is doing malicious things, like delivering commands to a compromised browser to steal cookies and keystrokes, copy documents, and then send them back to us," Shekyan says.

[ HTML5 could help spur SQL injection attacks on client machines, experts say. See New HTML Version Comes With Security Risks Of Its Own. ]

An attacker could launch a XSS exploit against a website to hijack its customer-support chat application, for instance. Many of these chat apps are supplied by a third party. "It's using SSL, and everything seems fine. But the main page is not from the same Web server as the one serving up the chat, and it's using plain HTTP," Shekyan says. An attacker then could execute a man-in-the-middle attack and modify the main page, intercept traffic from the browser, and pose as the customer service rep online, requesting the customer's personal information.

Toukharian, who is a developer for Qualys' Web application scanner, says it's not the WebSocket protocol that's vulnerable: It's the way organizations are implementing it. "All XSS and other vulnerabilities and man-in-the-middle WebSocket connections are weaker from the client side. The problem here is the security design of the entire Web app," he says.

From the client side, an attacker could DoS a server from a single browser because WebSocket supports 1,000 concurrent sessions. "A number of simultaneous browser connections can be opened, which can be a problem," Toukharian says.

The researchers say perimeter security vendors don't consider WebSocket a major threat for now.

They plan to share with Black Hat attendees new data they are gathering on WebSocket use around the Net. "We're going to provide statistics on who's using it ... if it's going over SSL or plain text" and other usage trends, Shekyan says.

While adoption is fairly low today, WebSocket is attractive due to its persistent connection, low overhead, and faster performance, so the concern is that this could become a hot attack vector once adoption rises. And if such attacks are under way today, they wouldn't be detectable from today's security tools, the researchers say.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

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
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Leak Week: Billions of Sensitive Files Exposed Online
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/10/2019
Intel Issues Fix for 'Plundervolt' SGX Flaw
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
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
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
There is an improper authentication vulnerability in Huawei smartphones (Y9, Honor 8X, Honor 9 Lite, Honor 9i, Y6 Pro). The applock does not perform a sufficient authentication in a rare condition. Successful exploit could allow the attacker to use the application locked by applock in an instant.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
Some Huawei smart phones have a null pointer dereference vulnerability. An attacker crafts specific packets and sends to the affected product to exploit this vulnerability. Successful exploitation may cause the affected phone to be abnormal.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
There is an information disclosure vulnerability in certain Huawei smartphones (Mate 10;Mate 10 Pro;Honor V10;Changxiang 7S;P-smart;Changxiang 8 Plus;Y9 2018;Honor 9 Lite;Honor 9i;Mate 9). The software does not properly handle certain information of applications locked by applock in a rare condition...
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Huawei CloudUSM-EUA V600R006C10;V600R019C00 have an information leak vulnerability. Due to improper configuration, the attacker may cause information leak by successful exploitation.
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Certain Huawei products (AP2000;IPS Module;NGFW Module;NIP6300;NIP6600;NIP6800;S5700;SVN5600;SVN5800;SVN5800-C;SeMG9811;Secospace AntiDDoS8000;Secospace USG6300;Secospace USG6500;Secospace USG6600;USG6000V;eSpace U1981) have an out-of-bounds read vulnerability. An attacker who logs in to the board m...