Los Angeles/2009 Meetings/December 16

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Topic: Pulling the Plug: Security Risks in the Next Generation of Offline Web Applications


Speaker: Michael Sutton

Michael Sutton,Vice President and security research at Zscaler, has spent more than a decade in the security industry conducting leading-edge research, building teams of world-class researchers and educating others on a variety of security topics. As VP of Security Research, Michael heads Zscaler Labs, the research and development arm of the company. Zscaler Labs is responsible for researching emerging topics in web security and developing innovative security controls, which leverage the Zscaler in-the-cloud model. The team is comprised of researchers with a wealth of experience in the security industry.

Prior to joining Zscaler, Michael was the Security Evangelist for SPI Dynamics where, as an industry expert, he was responsible for researching, publishing and presenting on various security issues. In 2007, SPI Dynamics was acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Previously, Michael was a Research Director at iDefense where he led iDefense Labs, a team responsible for discovering and researching security vulnerabilities in a variety of technologies. iDefense was acquired by VeriSign in 2005. Michael is a frequent speaker at major information security conferences; he is regularly quoted by the media on various information security topics, has authored numerous articles and is the co-author of Fuzzing: Brute Force Vulnerability Discovery, an Addison-Wesley publication.


Abstract: Pulling the Plug: Security Risks in the Next Generation of Offline Web Applications

As the line between desktop and web applications becomes increasingly blurry in a web 2.0 world, browser functionality is being pushed well beyond what it was originally intended for. Persistent client side storage has become a requirement for web applications if they are to be available both online and off. This need is being filled by a variety of technologies such as Gears (formerly Google Gears) and the Database Storage <http://webkit.org/blog/126/webkit-does-html5-client-side-database-storage/> functionality included in the emerging HTML 5 <http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/Overview.html> specification. While all such technologies offer great promise, it is clear that the vast majority of developers simply do not understand their security implications.

Researching a variety of currently deployed implementations of these technologies has revealed a broad scope of vulnerabilities with frightening implications. Now attackers can target victims not just once, but every time they visit a site as the victim now carries and stores the attack with them. Imagine a scenario whereby updated confidential information is forwarded to an attacker every time a victim interacts with a given web application. The attacker no longer needs to worry about timing their attacks to ensure that the victim is authenticated as the victim attacks himself! Limited storage? Cookies that expire? Not a problem when entire databases are accessible with virtually unlimited storage and an infinite lifespan. Think these attacks are theoretical? Think again. In this talk we dive into these technologies and break down the risk posed by them when not properly understood. We will then detail a variety of real-world vulnerabilities that have been uncovered, including a new class of cross-site scripting and client-side SQL injection.