Testing for Default or Guessable User Account (OWASP-AT-003)

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OWASP Testing Guide v2 Table of Contents


Brief Summary

Today's web application typically runs on popular software, open source or commercial, that is installed on servers and require configuration or customization by the server administrator. In addition, most of today's hardware appliances, i.e. network routers, database servers, etc., offer web-based configurations or administrative interfaces.

Often, these applications are not properly configured and the default credentials provided for authentication are never updated.
These default username/password combinations are widely known by penetration testers and malicious hackers that can use them to gain access to the internal network infrastructure and/or to gain privileges and steal data.
This problem applies to software and/or appliances that provide built-in non-removable accounts and, in fewer cases, uses blank passwords as default credentials.

Description of the Issue

The sources for this problem are often inexperienced IT personnel, who are unaware of the importance of changing default passwords on installed infrastructure components, programmers, who leave backdoors to easily access and test the application and later forgetting to remove them, application administrators and users that choose an easy username and password for themselves, and applications with built in, non-removable default accounts with a pre-set username and password. Another problem is blank passwords, which are simply a result of security unawareness and a desire to simplify administration.

Black Box testing and example

In blackbox testing we know nothing about the application, its underlying infrastructure, and any username and/or password policies. Often this is not the case and some information about the application is provided – simply skip the steps that refer to obtaining information you already have.

When testing a known application interface, such as a Cisco router web interface, or Weblogic admin access, check the known usernames and passwords for these devices. This can be done either by Google, or using one of the references in the Further Reading section.

When facing a home-grown application, to which we do not have a list of default and common user accounts, we need to test it manually, following these guidelines:

  • Try the following usernames - "admin", "administrator", "root", "system", or "super". These are popular among system administrators and are often used. Additionally you could try "qa", "test", "test1", "testing", and similar names. Attempt any combination of the above in both the username and the password fields. If the application is vulnerable to username enumeration, and you successfully managed to identify any of the above usernames, attempt passwords in a similar manner.
  • Application administrative users are often named after the application. This means if you are testing an application named "Obscurity", try using obscurity/obscurity as the username and password.
  • When performing a test for a customer, attempt using names of contacts you have received as usernames.
  • Attempt using all the above usernames with blank passwords.

Result Expected:
Authorized access to system being tested.

Gray Box testing and example

The steps described next rely on an entirely Gray Box approach. If only some of the information is available to you, refer to black box testing to fill the gaps.

Talk to the IT personnel to determine which passwords they use for administrative access.

Check whether these usernames and passwords are complex, difficult to guess, and not related to the application name, person name, or administrative names ("system"). Note blank passwords. Check in the user database for default names, application names, and easily guessed names as described in the Black Box testing section. Check for empty password fields.

Examine the code for hard coded usernames and passwords.

Check for configuration files that contain usernames and passwords.
Result Expected:
Authorized access to system being tested



OWASP Testing Guide v2

Here is the OWASP Testing Guide v2 Table of Contents