Testing for Writing User Provided Data to Disk (OWASP-DS-006)

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OWASP Testing Guide v3 Table of Contents

This article is part of the OWASP Testing Guide v3. The entire OWASP Testing Guide v3 can be downloaded here.

OWASP at the moment is working at the OWASP Testing Guide v4: you can browse the Guide here

Brief Summary

With this test, we check that it is not possible to cause a DoS condition by filling the target disks with log data.

Description of the Issue

The goal of this DoS attack is to cause the application logs to record enormous volumes of data, possibly filling the local disks.

This attack could happen in two common ways:

  1. The tester submits an extremely long value to the server in the request, and the application logs the value directly without having validated that it conforms to what was expected.
  2. The application may have data validation to verify the submitted value being well formed and of proper length, but then still log the failed value (for auditing or error tracking purposes) into an application log.

If the application does not enforce an upper limit to the dimension of each log entry and to the maximum logging space that can be utilized, then it is vulnerable to this attack. This is especially true if there is not a separate partition for the log files, as these files would increase their size until other operations (e.g., the application creating temporary files) become impossible. However, it may be difficult to detect the success of this type of attack, unless the tester can somehow access the logs (gray box) being created by the application.

Black Box Testing and Examples

This test is extremely difficult to perform in a black box scenario without some luck and a large degree of patience. Determine a parameter that is submitted from the client to the server that does not seem to have a length check (or has one that is extremely long) and that has a high probability of being logged by the application. Textarea fields in the client are likely to have very long acceptable lengths; however, they may not be logged beyond a remote database. Use a script to automate the process of sending the same request with a large value for the field as fast as possible, and give it some time. Does the server eventually begin reporting errors when it tries to write to the file system?

Gray Box Testing and Examples

It might be possible, in some cases, to monitor the disk space of the target. That can happen usually when the test is performed over a local network. Possible ways to obtain this information include the following scenarios:

  1. The server that hosts the log files allows the tester to mount its filesystem or some parts of it
  2. The server provides disk space information via SNMP

If such information is available, the tester should send an overly large request to the server and observe if the data is being written to an application log file without any limitation of the length. If there is no restriction, it should be possible to automate a short script to send these long requests and observe at what speed the log file grows (or the free space shrinks) on the server. This can allow the tester to determine just how much time and effort would be required to fill the disk, without the need of completely executing the DoS.