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OAuth ‘masterclass’ crowned top web hacking technique of 2022

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Adam Bannister

10 February 2023 at 14:56 UTC

Updated: 10 February 2023 at 15:36 UTC

Single sign-on and request smuggling to the fore in another stellar year for web security research

OAuth dirty dancing SSO 'masterclass' crowned top web hacking technique of 2022

Detectify founder Frans Rosén has topped PortSwigger’s top 10 web hacking techniques of 2022 with ‘Account hijacking using dirty dancing in sign-in OAuth-flows’.

Published in July, the research was hailed as “a masterclass in chaining OAuth quirks with low-impact URL-leak gadgets including promiscuous postMessages, third-party XSS, and URL storage” by PortSwigger director of research James Kettle in a blog post announcing the results on Wednesday (February 8).

“Many of these bugs would previously have been dismissed as having no significant security impact, so they’ve had years to proliferate,” Kettle added.

DON’T MISS Top 10 web hacking techniques of 2022

The researcher praised Rosén for producing an “outstanding piece of research that we expect to yield fruit for years to come”.

Rosén told The Daily Swig: “I am really thankful and humble ending up on first place among so many great researchers and their awesome posts during the year.

“One thing that I did different this year was to start digging into a subject without even having a single bug to start with. It was only just an idea of a potential concept.

READ MORE ‘Dirty dancing’ in OAuth: Researcher discloses how cyber-attacks can lead to account hijacking

“Thanks again to PortSwigger for highlighting the people in the industry publicly disclosing their findings and methodologies – that’s in my opinion one of the best ways to move the industry forward.”

Rosén was declared the winner by a panel of his peers comprising Nicolas Grégoire, Soroush Dalili, Filedescriptor, and Kettle.

A new frontier in HTTP request smuggling

Kettle himself claimed silver medal for the second year in a row, as well as sixth place for separate, HTTP header injection research showcased at Black Hat USA (note: panellists could not vote for their own research).

After claiming second place in the 2021 rankings with ‘HTTP/2: The Sequel is Always Worse’, this time the researcher impressed by leveraging novel HTTP request smuggling vectors to compromise targets including Amazon and Apache “and ultimately taking the attack client-side into victim’s browsers”.

RELATED Browser-Powered Desync Attacks: A New Frontier in HTTP Request Smuggling

Described as “seriously technically challenging” research, ‘Browser-Powered Desync Attacks’ prompted one judge to enthuse: “The creativity from desync worm (reminiscence of XSS worm) to client-side desync is off the chart”.

Kettle envisages request smuggling’s multi-year run of being a rich source of novel threats to continue until “until HTTP/1 has been fully stamped out”.

Memcache injection and Zimbra

In third place, Google’s Simon Scannell found a memcached injection vulnerability in business webmail platform Zimbra that allowed attackers to poison an unsuspecting victim’s cache and steal cleartext credentials.

READ MORE Business email platform Zimbra patches memcached injection flaw that imperils user credentials

Kettle said the research, which also deployed request smuggling, demonstrated the value of having “deep knowledge of a target”.

Scannell, then of Swiss outfit Sonar, wrote in his research: “By continuously injecting more responses than there are work items into the shared response streams of Memcached, we can force random Memcached lookups to use injected responses instead of the correct response.”

‘Pushing at the boundaries’

The 16th annual edition of PortSwigger’s top 10 web hacking techniques saw a record 46 nominations initially whittled down to 15 final-round candidates based on votes cast by the infosec community.

Kettle noted that “outright novel techniques and class-breaks have gotten rarer” but said more researchers were “pushing at the boundaries and sharing their findings than ever”.

Here’s the rest of the top 10 in brief (read James Kettle’s post for a deeper breakdown):

  • 4. ‘Hacking the Cloud with SAML’ by Felix Wilhelm culminates with an XML document leveraging an integer truncation bug to trigger arbitrary bytecode execution when Java attempts to verify its signature
  • 5. ‘Bypassing .NET Serialization Binders’ by Markus Wulftange resulted in vulnerabilities in DevExpress framework and Microsoft Exchange that opened the door to remote code execution
  • 6. ‘Making HTTP header injection critical via response queue poisoning’ by James Kettle explored “the long-forgotten response-splitting technique with a high-impact, high-payout case study
  • 7. ‘Worldwide Server-side Cache Poisoning on All Akamai Edge Nodes’ by Jacopo Tediosi leveraged HTTP hop-by-hop headers to earn – with some triaging difficulty along the way – a raft of bug bounties
  • 8. ‘Psychic Signatures in Java’ by Neil Madden used the number 0 to forge ECDSA signatures and upend the cryptographic foundation of core web technologies such as JWT and SAML
  • 9. ‘Practical client-Side Path Traversal Attacks’ by Medi highlights a “visible” but neglected issue that should now be recognized “as a vulnerability in its own right”
  • 10. ‘Exploiting Web3’s Hidden Attack Surface: Universal XSS on Netlify’s Next.js Library’ by Sam Curry compromises various cryptocurrency sites with XSS, SSRF, and cache poisoning originating from Netlify’s Next.js library

PREVIOUS EDITION Dependency confusion tops the PortSwigger annual web hacking list for 2021

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