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Recent Posts

  • Understanding Web Application Attacks

    Understanding Web Application Attacks

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should understand web application attacks. Web applications are hosted on servers, so it’s important to understand the basics related to preventing web application attacks. For example, can you …
  • Account Management Practices

    Account Management Practices

    Account management is concerned with the creation, management, disablement, and termination of accounts. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of common account management practices. For example, can you answer …
  • Linux and Great Administrators

    Linux and Great Administrators

    Are you a good administrator or a great administrator? Great administrators typically move up in the organization quickly. Good administrators are valued but often have to escalate problems that they can’t solve simply because they don’t have the skill set …
  • Understanding Certificate Formats

    Understanding Certificate Formats

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of implementing public key infrastructure. This includes understanding certificate formats that provides the ability to establish a secure session. For example, can you …
  • Understanding Social Engineering Tactics

    Understanding Social Engineering Tactics

    Social engineers typically use one or more psychology-based principles to increase the effectiveness of their attacks. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of these principles and different social engineering …
  • Using Source and Destination Ports

    Using Source and Destination Ports

    Although ports are second nature to router and firewall administrators, they might not be so familiar to you. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of ports. This includes using …
  • Protecting PII and PHI

    Protecting PII and PHI

    Data policies help protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI) by helping to prevent data leakage. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of different elements that …
  • Wireless Security Protocols

    Wireless Security Protocols

    Wireless security has improved over the years, but wireless networks are still susceptible to vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, many users just don’t understand how to lock down a wireless network adequately. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, …
  • Identifying Common Commands

    Identifying Common Commands

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of common commands that you can run on your primary computer or within a virtual machine. The CompTIA Security+ objectives list several command-line …
  • Understanding Access Management Controls

    Understanding Access Management Controls

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of identity and access management controls. For example, can you answer this question? Q. Your organization is implementing an SDN. Management wants to …
  • Tax Scams

    Tax Scams

    It’s tax season and you know that means. More tax scams. A neighbor recently reported that she received a phone call from someone stating she was from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The caller (let’s call her the scammer) said my …
  • Risk Assessment Methods

    Risk Assessment Methods

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of risk management processes and concepts. This includes risk assessment methods used by organizations to mitigate risks using different types of security controls. …
  • Comparing Labels and Lattice

    Comparing Labels and Lattice

    Access control ensures that only authenticated and authorized entities can access resources. If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of implementing identity and access management controls. This includes an access …
  • Neighbor Spoofing & Vishing

    Neighbor Spoofing & Vishing

    Criminals have increasingly used neighbor spoofing when launching vishing attacks. This apparently became popular in 2018 and has been steadily increasing. Vishing is a a type of phishing attack using phones. Phone spoofing is when a caller changes the number …
  • Encrypting & Decrypting Email

    Encrypting & Decrypting Email

    If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of the basic concepts of cryptography. This includes ensuring confidentiality of email by encrypting and decrypting email contents. For example, can you answer …

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CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

Understanding Web Application Attacks

Posted by on April 9 in Security+ | 0 comments

If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 version of the Security+ exam, you should understand web application attacks. Web applications are hosted on servers, so it’s important to understand the basics related to preventing web application attacks.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. While creating a web application, a developer adds code to limit data provided by users. The code prevents users from entering special characters. Which of the following attacks will this code MOST likely prevent?

A. Man-in-the-browser

B. Amplification

C. XSS

D. Domain hijacking

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation are available at the end of this post.

Injection Attacks

There are multiple types of injection attacks beyond DLL injection and SQL injection attacks discussed previously in this chapter. Another type of injection attack is a command injection attack.

In some cases, attackers can inject operating system commands into an application using web page forms or text boxes. Any web page that accepts input from users is a potential threat. Directory traversal is a specific type of command injection attack that attempts to access a file by including the full directory path, or traversing the directory structure.

For example, in Unix systems, the passwd file includes user logon information, and it is stored in the /etc directory with a full directory path of /etc/passwd. Attackers can use commands such as../../etc/passwd or /etc/passwd to read the file. Similarly, they could use a remove directory command (such as rm -rf) to delete a directory, including all files and subdirectories. Input validation can prevent these types of attacks.

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The CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide is an update to the top-selling SY0-201, SY0-301, and SY0-401 study guides, which have helped thousands of readers pass the exam the first time they took it.  It includes the same elements readers raved about in the previous three versions.

Each of the eleven chapters presents topics in an easy to understand manner and includes real-world examples of security principles in action.

You’ll understand the important and relevant security topics for the Security+ exam, without being overloaded with unnecessary details. Additionally, each chapter includes a comprehensive review section to help you focus on what’s important.



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If you plan to pursue any of the advanced security certifications, this guide will also help you lay a solid foundation of security knowledge. Learn this material, and you’ll be a step ahead for other exams. This SY0-501 study guide is for any IT or security professional interested in advancing in their field, and a must-read for anyone striving to master the basics of IT security.

Kindle edition also available.

Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is another web application vulnerability that can be prevented with input validation techniques. Attackers embed malicious HTML or JavaScript code into a web site’s code. The code executes when the user visits the site.

You may be wondering why the acronym isn’t CSS instead of XSS. The reason is that web sites use Cascading Style Sheets identified as CSS and CSS files are not malicious.

The primary protection against XSS attacks is at the web application with sophisticated input validation techniques. Developers should avoid any methods that allow the web page to display untrusted data. Additionally, OWASP strongly recommends the use of a security encoding library. When implemented, an encoding library will sanitize HTML code and prevent XSS attacks. OWASP includes more than 10 rules that developers can follow to prevent XSS attacks.

It’s also important to educate users about the dangers of clicking links. Some XSS attacks send emails with malicious links within them. The XSS attack fails if users do not click the link.

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CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including information on the number of questions, test duration, passing score, types of questions and more. Also includes a listing of the exam objectives)
  • 75 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Identity and Access Management (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Network Technologies and Tools (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Comparing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Common Attacks (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Protecting Against Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Using Risk Management Tools (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Controls to Protect Assets (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography and PKI (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Policies to Mitigate Risks (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • 75 question post-assessment exam
  • Glossary

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Cross-Site Request Forgery

Cross-site request forgery (XSRF or CSRF) is an attack where an attacker tricks a user into performing an action on a web site. The attacker creates a specially crafted HTML link and the user performs the action without realizing it.

As an innocent example of how HTML links create action, consider this HTML link: http://www.google.com/search?q=Success. If users click this link, it works just as if the user browsed to Google and entered Success as a search term. The ?q=Success part of the query causes the action.

Many web sites use the same type of HTML queries to perform actions. For example, imagine a web site that supports user profiles. If users wanted to change profile information, they could log on to the site, make the change, and click a button. The web site may use a link like this to perform the action:
http://getcertifiedgetahead.com/edit?action=set&key=email&value=you@home.com

Attackers use this knowledge to create a malicious link. For example, the following link could change the email address in the user profile, redirecting the user’s email to the attacker:
http://getcertifiedgetahead.com/edit?action=set&key=email&value=hacker@hackersrs.com

Although this shows one possibility, there are many more. If a web site supports any action via an HTML link, an attack is possible. This includes making purchases, changing passwords, transferring money, and much more.Understanding Web Application Attacks

Web sites typically won’t allow these actions without users first logging on. However, if users have logged on before, authentication information is stored on their system either in a cookie or in the web browser’s cache. Some web sites automatically use this information to log users on as soon as they visit. In some cases, the XSRF attack allows the attacker to access the user’s password.

Users should be educated on the risks related to links from sources they don’t recognize. Phishing emails often include malicious links that look innocent enough to users, but can cause significant harm. If users don’t click the link, they don’t launch the XSRF attack.

However, just as with cross-site scripting, the primary burden of protection from XSRF falls on the web site developers. Developers need to be aware of XSRF attacks and the different methods used to protect against them. One method is to use dual authentication and force the user to manually enter credentials prior to performing actions. Another method is to expire the cookie after a short period, such as after 10 minutes, preventing automatic logon for the user.

Many programming languages support XSRF tokens. For example, Python and Django, two popular web development languages, require the use of an XSRF token in any page that includes a form, though these languages call them CSRF tokens. This token is a large random number generated each time the form is displayed. When a user submits the form, the web page includes the token along with other form data. The web application then verifies that the token in the HTML request is the same as the token included in the web form.

The HTML request might look something like this:

getcertifiedgetahead.com/edit?action=set&key=email&value=you@home.com&token=1357924

The token is typically much longer. If the website receives a query with an incorrect error, it typically raises a 403 Forbidden error. Attackers can’t guess the token, so they can’t craft malicious links that will work against the site.


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Q. While creating a web application, a developer adds code to limit data provided by users. The code prevents users from entering special characters. Which of the following attacks will this code MOST likely prevent?

A. Man-in-the-browser

B. Amplification

C. XSS

D. Domain hijacking

Answer is C. A cross-site scripting (XSS) attack can be blocked by using input validation techniques to filter special characters such as the < and > characters used in HTML code. None of the other listed attacks require the use of special characters. 

A man-in-the-browser attack exploits vulnerabilities in browsers to capture user data entries.

An amplification attack increases the amount of data sent to a victim to overwhelm it.

A domain hijacking attack changes the domain registration of a domain name without permission of the owner.

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