Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

The web application does not, or can not, sufficiently verify whether a well-formed, valid, consistent request was intentionally provided by the user who submitted the request.


Description

When a web server is designed to receive a request from a client without any mechanism for verifying that it was intentionally sent, then it might be possible for an attacker to trick a client into making an unintentional request to the web server which will be treated as an authentic request. This can be done via a URL, image load, XMLHttpRequest, etc. and can result in exposure of data or unintended code execution.

Demonstrations

The following examples help to illustrate the nature of this weakness and describe methods or techniques which can be used to mitigate the risk.

Note that the examples here are by no means exhaustive and any given weakness may have many subtle varieties, each of which may require different detection methods or runtime controls.

Example One

This example PHP code attempts to secure the form submission process by validating that the user submitting the form has a valid session. A CSRF attack would not be prevented by this countermeasure because the attacker forges a request through the user's web browser in which a valid session already exists.

The following HTML is intended to allow a user to update a profile.

<form action="/url/profile.php" method="post">
<input type="text" name="firstname"/>
<input type="text" name="lastname"/>
<br/>
<input type="text" name="email"/>
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Update"/>
</form>

profile.php contains the following code.

// initiate the session in order to validate sessions

session_start();

//if the session is registered to a valid user then allow update

if (! session_is_registered("username")) {


  echo "invalid session detected!";

  // Redirect user to login page
  [...]

  exit;

}

// The user session is valid, so process the request

// and update the information

update_profile();

function update_profile {


  // read in the data from $POST and send an update

  // to the database
  SendUpdateToDatabase($_SESSION['username'], $_POST['email']);
  [...]
  echo "Your profile has been successfully updated.";

}

This code may look protected since it checks for a valid session. However, CSRF attacks can be staged from virtually any tag or HTML construct, including image tags, links, embed or object tags, or other attributes that load background images.

The attacker can then host code that will silently change the username and email address of any user that visits the page while remaining logged in to the target web application. The code might be an innocent-looking web page such as:

<SCRIPT>
function SendAttack () {
  form.email = "attacker@example.com";
  // send to profile.php
  form.submit();
}
</SCRIPT>

<BODY onload="javascript:SendAttack();">

<form action="http://victim.example.com/profile.php" id="form" method="post">
<input type="hidden" name="firstname" value="Funny">
<input type="hidden" name="lastname" value="Joke">
<br/>
<input type="hidden" name="email">
</form>

Notice how the form contains hidden fields, so when it is loaded into the browser, the user will not notice it. Because SendAttack() is defined in the body's onload attribute, it will be automatically called when the victim loads the web page.

Assuming that the user is already logged in to victim.example.com, profile.php will see that a valid user session has been established, then update the email address to the attacker's own address. At this stage, the user's identity has been compromised, and messages sent through this profile could be sent to the attacker's address.

See Also

Validate Inputs

Weaknesses in this category are related to the design and architecture of a system's input validation components. Frequently these deal with sanitizing, neutralizing a...

Comprehensive CWE Dictionary

This view (slice) covers all the elements in CWE.

Weaknesses in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses

CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2020 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.

Weaknesses in the 2021 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses

CWE entries in this view are listed in the 2021 CWE Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses.


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