Uncovering Rails Risks: Protecting Your Web App
By Tom Seest
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Rails applications automatically create new sessions whenever a new user accesses the application. When this happens, Rails sends a session ID to both the client and server. This can be exploited to perform arbitrary code execution or cross-site scripting.
Table Of Contents
- Is Your Rails Application at Risk? Understanding Cross-site Scripting
- Are You Protected Against Rails’ XSS Vulnerabilities?
- Are You at Risk? Understanding the Dangers of Clickjacking
- Is Your Rails Application at Risk for Remote Code Execution?
- How Can Resource-Based Access Control Libraries Protect Your Rails App?
XSS is an attack that allows a remote attacker to modify content on your website. Typically, this happens when you do not sanitize user-supplied data properly. This makes it possible for the attacker to bypass filters and execute arbitrary code on your website. If successful, an attacker can steal sensitive information from your website or execute drive-by-download attacks.
Another way to prevent XSS is to secure your application’s form entries. Most web applications need to keep track of a user’s state. Thankfully, Rails provides a session object for each user. Depending on your needs, you can use the same session or create a new one for each individual user. However, it is possible to steal a user’s session ID, allowing an attacker to access your web application in their name.
This type of attack is based on the injection of CRLF characters into a header field. An attacker could use this to redirect the victim to a phishing site that asks for their login credentials. Alternatively, they could install malicious software through a hole in a user’s browser. Fortunately, Rails 2.1.2 protects against these attacks by escaping CRLF characters in the location field of the redirect_to method and for user input.
Veracode offers testing services to help developers protect their applications from XSS and other critical security issues. Veracode’s security scanners and IDE provide quick results with a detailed remediation plan.
XSS is a common Rails vulnerability or attack that can be exploited by an attacker to gain control of a Rails application. This vulnerability exists in the way Rails stores the user state, known as a session. For each user, Rails provides an instance of the session object. This session object may be used to create a new session or be reused by another user. If an attacker is able to obtain the user’s session ID, they can use it to use the web application in their own name.
XSS attacks can be easily prevented by ensuring that HTML input is escaped before it is sent to HTML output. This is achieved through the use of escapeHTML() and hackvertor, two tools that are available for escaping and encoding strings. When creating a custom helper, you should use it only where it is designed to handle user input.
XSS attacks can also be carried out in applications that use the Active Record component. This component has an issue with handling query parameters. By using a crafted request, a remote attacker can bypass intended database-query restrictions and trigger missing WHERE clauses.
The most common use of XSS is to hijack user sessions. Depending on the exploited application, XSS attacks can expose sensitive information and allow access to privileged functionality and services. They can also deliver malware to a victim’s system. When a victim visits a website with an exploited XSS, their browser executes the malicious code and sends their browser’s cookie to the attacker’s server.
Clickjacking is a form of network attack that redirects users to another page. This is harmless to the website that is exploited, but it can increase the audience of a third-party resource. Thankfully, there is a mechanism in the latest version of Rails that prevents such attacks. The developer simply needs to add the HTTP header X-Frame-Options to a page.
Another problem created by Rails is the use of the 0.0.0.0 network address. This can create a security risk when running a Rails application in production or development mode. In development mode, Rails renders a diagnostic 500 page, and a developer can load a mix of production and test data into the application. Another way to prevent this vulnerability is to use the Dragonfly gem, which validates user input and prevents arbitrary modification. You can also use Brakeman to scan your code for problems.
Another vulnerability associated with Rails is cross-site request forgery. This attack takes advantage of a vulnerability in the HTTP transfer protocol and can affect the performance of your web application. In the case of a CSRF attack, the attacker can steal a cookie containing the user’s session ID, which allows them to access the application on behalf of the victim. To avoid this vulnerability, use SSL connections to connect your website to a secure network.
Another attack that uses this vulnerability is known as clickjacking. This type of attack targets websites by tricking the victim into clicking on an embedded, malicious link. Often, the malicious link will cause money to be transferred from the victim’s bank account. Typical examples of vulnerable sites include websites that allow one-click purchases, follow people on Twitter, or change privacy settings.
Remote code execution is a Rails vulnerability, or an attack, that can be used to compromise an application. A remote attacker can exploit a Rails vulnerability by sending specially crafted URLs to a server. These attacks can result in data loss or denial of service.
The vulnerability is due to the way the Rails application handles a crafted HTTP request. This allows a remote hacker to execute arbitrary code on the target server. In a recent case, a malicious hacker used a Rails vulnerability to steal funds from an exchange platform for Bitcoin and other alt-chains.
In some cases, a remote code execution attack can result in a host takeover. The attack can also result in data theft or malicious use of server resources. For example, an attacker could use a Rails vulnerability to deserialize arbitrary Ruby objects. They could also set instance variables.
A Rails vulnerability in the delayed_job_web gem allows an attacker to trigger an XSS vulnerability. With this vulnerability, an attacker could exploit an authentication token by sending a specially crafted URL. In addition, he could also exploit a Rails vulnerability by phishing an authenticated user.
The Rails framework was found to have multiple critical vulnerabilities in early 2013. It was not easy to update outdated versions of the framework, and organizations were forced to make tough decisions about whether to patch the source code. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that most libraries are not signed by their authors. It is crucial to audit the gems you use in Rails applications and to regularly update. The latest version of the framework (Rails 5.0.1) has addressed these vulnerabilities.
In some cases, a Rails application can dynamically determine which partial or view to render. As a result, it may be vulnerable to RCE.
To exploit this vulnerability, an attacker must send a specially crafted XML request to the application. Rails will parse the XML request, load the embedded YAML objects, and then execute arbitrary Ruby code, depending on the structure and type of the injected objects. The attacker will need to have the application URL and the Ruby code payload in order to exploit this vulnerability. The vulnerability affects all versions of Rails, including the newest releases. It is relatively easy to test for with automated spray-and-pray scans.
Resource-based access control libraries are attack vectors that rely on the lack of authentication to obtain access to a Rails application. In many cases, an attacker can change the URL structure of an application without knowing its identity, and it may also be difficult to detect malicious IMG tags. However, with the proper configuration, XSS attacks are unlikely to occur.
In addition to this vulnerability, a number of modern applications also allow users to upload files. These files are then automatically executed on the server. This opens the door for attackers to edit code in a browser or gain access to admin rights. If an attacker has permission to modify the code, he or she may execute any malicious code. Fortunately, there are Ruby on Rails gems that help manage file uploads and make these operations more secure.
XSS attacks are a common problem in Rails applications. An attacker may inject a client-side script into the application, bypassing access controls and stealing web sessions. For example, an attacker may inject an ImageMagick image into the application and cause it to crash. A similar attack uses the same technique to manipulate the parameters of a web page.
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