Preventing XSS Attacks

xss-attacks
XSS Attacks

In my last post I explained you what an XSS attack mean in this post I will explain how can we prevent such attacks.

Preventing a webpage from an XSS attack should always be there in your mind.You can better create a function that prevents these attacks and call it everytime.Fortunately its very simple to prevent these attacks.You should never trust a user that he or she will always input proper data.There are millions of attackers sitting online just to find a prey.

Every bit of data must be validated on input and escaped on output. This is the golden rule of preventing XSS.

To prevent attacks we should follow data validation,data sanitization and output escaping.

Data Validation

It is a process where you validate data according to its requirement.Every piece of data must be validated.

Eg : When you want to validate a phone number you should only allow the user to enter numbers and discard strings or characters.And if you want to allow some special characters like “plus”,”brackets” or “dashes” as such characters are also an acceptable phone format you may use a regular expression for same.

<?php
// validates an Indian mobile number
if (preg_match('^((\\+91-?)|0)?[0-9]{10}$', $phone)) {
    echo $phone . " is valid format.";
}

Data Sanitization

Its a process where you clean up the data by removing any unwanted bits.

Eg : You may want to remove all HTML markups from the data.

<?php
// sanitize HTML from the comment
$comment = strip_tags($_POST["comment"]);

Output Escaping

When presenting the data as output via a browser the output should be escaped to protect its meaning.

<?php
// escape output sent to the browser
echo "You searched for: " . htmlspecialchars($_GET["query"]);

Summary

Never trust the data coming from users and take all required actions to prevent such attacks.You can prevent them with Data Validation and Sanitization and also by escaping Output to protect users.

 

 

 

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Cross Site Scripting Attacks (XSS)

 

xss-attacks
XSS Attacks

An XSS attack is one of the top most tried out attacks on a PHP enabled system and your PHP script may not be immune.

This attack is made by injection of code via a web form. The code injected can be any malicious client-side code, such as JavaScript, VBScript, HTML, CSS, Flash, and others. The code is used to save harmful data on the server or perform a malicious action within the user’s browser.

Sadly , many developers fails to deliver a secure code thus open to attacks.Every programmer should consider such attacks and vulnerabilities and try to make the program or script free from getting attacked.

Example

Let me give you an example which will explain you how does such attacks happen.

Below is an index.php page with the following code.

<form method="post" action="save.php">
   <input type = "text" name = "name">
   <input type="submit" name="submit" value="Save">
</form>

In the above html code there is a simple form with a textbox and submit button.On click of the button the form is submitted to save.php for further processing.

A genuine user will fillup his/her name but an attacker can inject code instead of name.

Suppose on save.php just prints out the name.

   echo $_POST['name'];

Suppose instead of writing a plane name the attacker inputs <script>alert(‘HaHa You are attacked!!’);</script>.

If the scripts are not filtered the user will see the popup with message “HaHa You are attacked!! “.

Such JavaScript alert messages though are not harmful still are malicious.But think about what could happen in the JavaScript code was written to steal a user’s cookie and extract sensitive information from it? There are far worse XSS attacks than a simple alert() call.

Types of XSS Attacks

  1. Non-Persistent : The kind of attack shown in the above example falls under this category.It means attacks in which the code is not actually stored on the server but is rather presented to the user.
  2. Persistent : This attack is more dangerous one in which the code is actually injected into server.

Summary

Hopefully this article gave you a good explanation of what cross-site scripting attacks are.Never trust data coming from the user or from any other third party sources.In my next post I’ll explain how these attacks can be prevented.