Testing for Bypassing Authentication Schema (OTG-AUTHN-004)

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OWASP Testing Guide v2 Table of Contents

Brief Summary

While most applications require authentication for gaining access to private information or to execute tasks, not every authentication method is able to provide adequate security.

Negligence, ignorance or simple understatement of security threats often result in authentication schemes that can be bypassed by simply skipping the login page and directly calling an internal page that is supposed to be accessed only after authentication has been performed.

In addition to this, it is often possible to bypass authentication measures by tampering with requests and tricking the application into thinking that we're already authenticated. This can be accomplished either by modifying the given URL parameter or by manipulating the form or by counterfeiting sessions.

Description of the Issue

Problems related to Authentication Schema could be found at different stages of software development life cycle (SDLC), like design, development and deployment phase.

Examples of design errors include a wrong definition of application parts to be protected, the choice of not applying strong encryption protocols for securing authentication data exchange, and many more.

Problems in the development phase are for example the incorrect implementation of input validation functionalities, or not following the security best practices for the specific language.

In addition, there are issues during application setup (installation and configuration activities) due to a lack in required technical skills, or due to poor documentation available.

Black Box testing and example

There are several methods to bypass the authentication schema in use by a web application:

  • Direct page request
  • Parameter Modification
  • Session ID Prediction
  • Sql Injection

Direct page request

Several web applications implement access control only inside the login page, otherwise if a user requests directly a different page in the designed protected area, the authentication schema could be bypassed.


Parameter Modification

Another problem related to authentication design is to let the application verify a succesful login upon fixed value parameters. Therefore a user could modify these parameters to gain access to the protected areas without providing valid credentials.

raven@blackbox /home $nc www.site.com 80                    
GET /page.asp?authenticated=yes HTTP/1.0                    
HTTP/1.1 200 OK                                             
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2006 10:22:44 GMT                         
Server: Apache                                              
Connection: close                                           
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1                 
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">          
<H1>You Are Auhtenticated</H1>                              


Session ID Prediction

Many web applications manage authentication using session identification values(SESSION ID). Therefore if Session ID generation is predictable a malicious user could be able to find a valid session ID and gain unauthorized access to the application, impersonating a previously authenticated user.

In the following figure values inside cookies increase linearly, so could be easy for an attacker to guess a valid session ID.


In the following figure values inside cookies change only partially, so it's possible to restrict a bruteforce attack to the defined fields shown below.


Sql Injection (HTML Form Authentication)

SQL Injection is a widely known attack technique. We are not going to describe this technique in detail in this section; there are several sections in this guide that explain injection techniques beyond the scope of this section.


The following figure shows that with simple sql injection, it is possible to bypass the authentication form.





OWASP Testing Guide v2

Here is the OWASP Testing Guide v2 Table of Contents