Web 2.0 Threats and Risks for Financial Services
by Shreeraj Shah - net square - Monday, 30 April 2007.
Untrusted data sources

One of the key elements of Web 2.0 application is its flexibility to talk with several data sources from a single application or page. This is a great feature but from a security perspective, it can be deadly. Financial services running Web 2.0 application provides key features to users such as selecting RSS feeds, search triggers, news feeds, etc. Using these features end users can tune various sources from one location. All these sources can have different point of origin and are totally untrusted. What if one of these sources injects a hyperlink camouflaged as a malicious JavaScript code snippet? Applications that trust these sources blindly can backfire. Clicking a link can compromise the browser session and lead to identity theft. Dealing with untrusted sources in an application framework is a challenge on the security front.

Client-side routines

Web 2.0 based financial applications use Ajax routines to do a lot of work on the client-side, such as client-side validation for data types, content-checking, date fields, etc. Normally client-side checks must be backed up by server-side checks as well. Most developers fail to do so; their reasoning being the assumption that validation is taken care of in Ajax routines. Ajax has shifted a lot of business logic to the client side. This itself is a major threat because it is possible to reverse-engineer or decode these routines and extract internal information. This can help an attacker to harvest critical information about the system.

Widgets exploitation

Widgets are small components that can be integrated into an application very easily without obtaining actual source code. These widgets are offered as part of larger libraries or created by users and posted on the Internet. It is very tempting to use them to achieve short term goals. It must be kept in mind that it is possible that these widgets can be exploited by an attacker if they are poorly written. If financial applications use widgets then it must be made a focal point for analysis. Any weak spot in this widget can lead to script injection on the browser side. It is imperative to analyze the source code of the widget for viruses, worms or possible weaknesses.

Web Services enumeration

Web Services are picking up in the financial services sector and are becoming part of trading and banking applications. Service-oriented architecture is a key component of Web 2.0 applications. WSDL (Web Services Definition Language) is an interface to Web services. This file provides sensitive information about technologies, exposed methods, invocation patterns, etc. that can aid in defining exploitation methods. Unnecessary functions or methods kept open can spell potential disaster for Web services. Web Services must follow WS-security standards to counter the threat of information leakage from the WSDL file. WSDL enumeration helps attacker to build an exploit. Web Services WSDL file access to unauthorized users can lead to private data access.

XML poisoning and Injections

SOAP, XML-RPC and REST are the new standard protocols for information-sharing and object invocation. These standards use XML as underlying sources and financial applications use these standards for client-to-server or application-to-application communication. Not uncommon is the technique of applying recursive payloads to similar-producing XML nodes multiple times. An engine’s poor handling of XML information may result in a denial of services on the server.

Web services consume information and variables from SOAP messages. It is possible to manipulate these variables. For example, if 10 is one of the nodes in SOAP messages, an attacker can start manipulating this node by trying different injection attacks – SQL, LDAP, XPATH, command shell – and exploring possible attack vectors to get a hold of internal machines. XML poisoning and payload injections are another emerging threat domain for Web 2.0 financial applications.


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