CRV2 BusinessLogic

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1. Business Logic Understanding

Why to understand Business Logic? A security review of the application should uncover the commonly known security flaws as well as the ones related to business logic of the application. And in order to enumerate the business logic flaws it is important to develop familiarity with its context/scope of the application.

What points do we need to understand?

The reviewer must develop familiarity with:

  • Application features and Business Rules: The reviewer must understand all the features of the application and capture all the business restrictions/rules related to them.
  • Sensitive Data: The reviewer should also make a note of all the entities like account numbers, passwords that are sensitive to the application. The categorizing the data entities based on their sensitivity will help the reviewer to determine the impact of any kind of data loss in the application.
  • User roles and access rights: It is important to understand the type of users allowed to access the application. Generally, an application that is accessible only for the internal users of an organization might be exposed to threats that are different than the one that is available for anyone on the Internet. Hence, knowing the users of the application and its deployed environment would allow the reviewer to realize the threat agents correctly. In addition to this, the different privileges levels present in the application must also be understood. It would help the reviewer to enumerate different security violations/privilege escalation attacks that can be applicable to the application.
  • Application type – It refers to understanding whether the application is browser based application, a desktop based standalone application, a web-service, a mobile applications or a hybrid application. Different type of application faces different kinds of security threats and understanding the type of the application would help the reviewer to look for specific security flaws, determine correct threats agents and highlight necessary controls suitable to the application.

2. Code Layout Understanding

Why to understand Application? It is required to understand the design and the architecture of the application before reviewing its code for security flaws. It would help the reviewer to understand the data flow for any feature, familiarize with all the entry and exit points present in the application and other integrations involved in it. A gist of all the components present in the application and the way they interact is helpful in threat modeling the whole system and defining a proper scope of the security review.

What points do we need to understand?

One must understand:

  • Design: Generally applications have a well-defined code layout if they are developed using MVC design principle. Applications can have their own custom design or they may use some well-known design frameworks like Struts/Spring etc. The reviewer must understand the design of the application mainly with respect to the points listed below.
    • Where are the application properties/configuration parameters stored?
    • How is the business class identified for any feature/URL?
    • What types of classes get executed for any processing any request? (e.g.: centralized controller, command classes, view pages etc.)
    • How is the view rendered to the users for any request? What are the components used to render the view (e.g.: Custom tags)

If the application is developed using an inbuilt/well-known design framework the answers to the most of these questions would be pre-defined. But, in case it is custom then these information will surely aid the review process, mainly in capturing the data flow and internal validations.

It will be also helpful to capture information regarding the following elements, if they are used in the application design:

    • Design pattern like DAO, Business Delegate, etc.
    • Data Access Frameworks
    • Use of external API’s
    • Data Validation logic
      • Is there any centralized validation logic present in the application like filters, request interceptors, etc.?
      • Is there is any common validation class/routine? When does it get invoked?

Architecture: Knowing the architecture of the application goes a long way in understanding the security threats that can be applicable to the application. Architecture of the application will also throw light on the different servers used by the application (database server, web server, etc.). Thus it will aid the reviewer to look for security flaws pertaining to them or use this information in determining the exploitability factor for any attack.

The reviewer must know about:

    • Entry points: The reviewer must understand all the sources through which the application accepts and processes the data like:
      • Web service Integrations
      • Invocation of external processes
      • Use of external files and data feeds
    • Trust boundaries: This to understand what is treated as trusted inputs by the application.

Both these points will aid the reviewer to understand all the critical areas of the application and understand where all does it need to enforce necessary validations before processing the inputs/commands.

Thus the knowledge about the design and the architecture of the application would allow the reviewer to assess attack surfaces & come with possible threats to the application.

What methods can we follow?

  • Discussions with the application design and development teams
  • Review of available documentation like Use Case diagrams, Design documents
  • Application walkthrough
  • Prior knowledge of the reviewer about the domain
  • Study of existing technologies and frameworks used by the application