I've just read on the net about a newly discovered security vulnerability in ASP.NET. You can read the details here.
The problem lies in the way that ASP.NET implements the AES encryption algorithm to protect the integrity of the cookies these applications generate to store information during user sessions.
This is a bit vague, but here is a more frightening part:
The first stage of the attack takes a few thousand requests, but once it succeeds and the attacker gets the secret keys, it's totally stealthy.The cryptographic knowledge required is very basic.
All in all, I'm not familiar enough with the security/cryptograpy subject to know if this is really that serious.
So, should all ASP.NET developers fear this technique that can own any ASP.NET website in seconds or what?
How does this issue affect the average ASP.NET developer? Does it affect us at all? In real life, what are the consequences of this vulnerability? And, finally: is there some workaround that prevents this vulnerability?
Thanks for your answers!
EDIT: I'd like to summarize the responses I got so far.
About the seriousness of this vulnerability: Yes, it is indeed serious. It lets the attacker to get to know the machine key of an application. Thus, he can do some very unwanted things.
- In posession of the app's machine key, the attacker can decrypt authentication cookies.
- Even worse than that, he can generate authentication cookies with the name of any user. Thus, he can appear as anyone on the site. The application is unable to differentiate between you or the hacker who generated an authentication cookie with your name for himself.
- It also lets him to decrypt (and also generate) session cookies, although this is not as dangerous as the previous one.
- Not so serious: He can decrypt the encrypted ViewState of pages. (If you use ViewState to store confidental data, you shouldn't do this anyways!)
- Quite unexpected: With the knowledge of the machine key, the attacker can download any arbitrary file from your web application, even those that normally can't be downloaded! (Including Web.Config, etc.)
Here is a bunch of good practices I got that don't solve the issue but help improve the general security of a web application.
- You can encrypt sensitive data with Protected Configuration
- Use HTTP Only cookies
- Prevent DoS attacks
Now, let's focus on this issue.
- Scott Guthrie published an entry about it on his blog
- ScottGu's FAQ blog post about the vulnerability
- ScottGu's update on the vulnerability
- Microsoft has a security advisory about it
- Understanding the vulnerability
- Additional information about the vulnerability
- Enable customErrors and make a single error page to which all errors are redirected. Yes, even 404s. (ScottGu said that differentiating between 404s and 500s are essential for this attack.) Also, into your
Error.aspxput some code that makes a random delay. (Generate a random number, and use Thread.Sleep to sleep for that long.) This will make it impossible for the attacker to decide what exactly happened on your server.
- Some people recommended switching back to 3DES. In theory, if you don't use AES, you don't encounter the security weakness in the AES implementation. As it turns out, this is not recommended at all.
Some other thoughts
Thanks to anyone who cared to answer my question. I learned a lot about not only this issue, but web security in general. I marked @Mikael's answer as accepted, but the other answers are also very-very useful.
What should I do to protect myself?
ScottGu has links for the downloads
While we are waiting for the fix, yesterday ScottGu postet an update on how to add an extra step to protect your sites with a custom URLScan rule.
Basically make sure you provide a custom error page so that an attacker is not exposed to internal .Net errors, which you always should anyways in release/production mode.
Additionally add a random time sleep in the error page to prevent the attacker from timing the responses for added attack information.
<configuration> <location allowOverride="false"> <system.web> <customErrors mode="On" defaultRedirect="~/error.html" /> </system.web> </location> </configuration>
This will redirect any error to a custom page returned with a 200 status code. This way an attacker cannot look at the error code or error information for information needed for further attacks.
It is also safe to set
customErrors mode="RemoteOnly", as this will redirect "real" clients. Only browsing from localhost will show internal .Net errors.
The important part is to make sure that all errors are configured to return the same error page. This requires you to explicitly set the
defaultRedirect attribute on the
<customErrors> section and ensure that no per-status codes are set.
What's at stake?
If an attacker manage to use the mentioned exploit, he/she can download internal files from within your web application. Typically web.config is a target and may contain sensitive information like login information in a database connection string, or even link to an automouted sql-express database which you don't want someone to get hold of. But if you are following best practice you use Protected Configuration to encrypt all sensitive data in your web.config.
Links to references
Read Microsoft's official comment about the vulnerability at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/2416728.mspx. Specifically the "Workaround" part for implementation details on this issue.
For an explanation on "Understanding Padding Oracle Attacks", read @sri's answer.
Comments to the article:
The attack that Rizzo and Duong have implemented against ASP.NET apps requires that the crypto implementation on the Web site have an oracle that, when sent ciphertext, will not only decrypt the text but give the sender a message about whether the padding in the ciphertext is valid.
If the padding is invalid, the error message that the sender gets will give him some information about the way that the site's decryption process works.
In order for the attack to work the following must be true:
- Your application must give an error message about the padding being invalid.
- Someone must tamper with your encrypted cookies or viewstate
So, if you return human readable error messages in your app like "Something went wrong, please try again" then you should be pretty safe. Reading a bit on the comments on the article also gives valuable information.
- Store a session id in the crypted cookie
- Store the real data in session state (persisted in a db)
- Add a random wait when user information is wrong before returning the error, so you can't time it
That way a hijacked cookie can only be used to retrieve a session which most likely is no longer present or invalidated.
It will be interesting to see what is actually presented at the Ekoparty conference, but right now I'm not too worried about this vulnerability.