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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Explain the concepts of Cross site scripting attacks?

XSS or cross site scripting attack is a much familiar security threat in today’s cyber world and is taking a toll on the web sites and applications by breaking in to their security system.

What is Cross Site Scripting Attack?

- Cross site scripting attack is another attack categorized under the category of computer security vulnerabilities which are the most common and frequent among the web applications.

- These attacks are known for making the web application so vulnerable that the malicious outside attackers are able to inject the malicious client side scripts in to the web pages or applications that are later set for the view by the users who visit the page.

- Another nefarious purpose of these attacks is to incur the access controls like the same origin policy.

- The cross site scripting attacks account for almost 80 percent of all the security threats identified and documented in the year of 2007 till now by the Symantec.

- The cross site scripting technique for the good purpose is usually employed for curbing risk depending on the measure of the sensitivity of the data that is being processed by that particular web site or web page.

- Apart from this factor, another factor that makes it easy for the attacks to happen is the security mitigation as implemented by the owner of that web site.

- Cross site scripting attacks are employed by some people to create petty nuisance.

- This is nothing but the misuse of the vulnerability of the security system by the attackers for bypassing the security mechanisms on the client side which are usually implemented by the web browsers up on the web content on the web site.

- There are various ways through which the site can be attacked and accessed for injecting the malicious scripts in to them.

- Such ways or methods can provide the attacker an unauthorized and easy way to access all the sensitive content of the page, information of the user activity as stored by the web browser and session cookies etc.

- Cross site scripting attacks are a type of code injection attack and somewhat similar to the SQL injection attacks.

- Earlier the cross site scripting technique was seen as the loading of the third party application that had been attacked at an unrelated attack site while the execution of the java scripts took place in the context of security of the domain on target as created by the attacker.

- Eventually this cross site scripting attacks were carried out through different modes of the code injection using non java script vectors (like VBscript, flash, Java, ActiveX, HTML, SQL and so on).

- Cross site scripting attacks are a consequence of the cross site scripting vulnerabilities that have been under exploitation since the advent of 20th century.

So many famous social networking sites of today like my space, orkut, twitter, Facebook etc have witnessed these attacks in the past. With the advancement of the cross site scripting techniques, they have now successfully surpassed the vulnerabilities like buffer overflows reporting to be the most common security vulnerability. Even now around 60 percent of the total web sites have been sorted as vulnerable to the cross site scripting attacks.

As such there are no defined criteria for the classification of the XSS flaws, but according to the experts they are classified in to two categories:

1. Persistent XSS flaws
- Also known as stored XSS flaws and is the most destructive type.
- Occurs when the data which has been provided by the attacker is stored by the server.

2. Non persistent XSS flaws
- Also known as reflected XSS flaws and most common type.
- Occurs when data from a web client is used by server scripts for generating required pages without the sanitization of the queries.

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