A significant new paper has emerged
called "A new Approach towards DoS Penetration Testing on Web Services" by Andreas Falkenberg of SEC Consult Deutschland GmbH, and Christian Mainka, Juraj Somorovsky and Joerg Schwenk of Ruhr-University Bochum. In this paper, the authors developed a suite of automated tests
for various Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on Web Services, and ran them against different web service stacks. In this post I will describe the attacks that were successful on Apache CXF and how they were fixed.
The authors found that Apache CXF (prior to 2.7.4/ 2.6.7/ 2.5.10) was vulnerable (see CVE-2013-2160
) to the following attacks:
- Coercive Parsing Attack: The attacker sends a deeply nested XML document to the service.
- Attribute Count Attack: The attacker sends a message with a (very) high attribute count.
- Element Count Attack: The attacker sends a message with a (very) high number of non-nested elements.
- DJBX31A Hash Collision: A specific hash collision attack.
The effects of these attacks can vary from causing high CPU usage, to causing the JVM to run out of memory. Clearly the latter is a critical vulnerability. Prior to CXF 2.7.4 / 2.6.7 / 2.5.10, a CXF service was vulnerable to these attacks "out of the box". However, it was possible to avoid some of the attacks using CXF's DepthRestrictingInterceptor
. If this was added to the InInterceptor chain, then it was possible to control the stack depth + the number of elements in the request. However it was not possible to control the number of attributes with this interceptor, and it also came with a performance cost.
CXF uses Woodstox
by default as the StAX XML Processor. It was decided that the best place to fix the vulnerabilities was at this level, both to offer protection to other stacks that use Woodstox, and also to remove the performance penalties associated with the DepthRestrictingInterceptor. From Woodstox 4.2.0, new functionality has been added
to prevent Denial of Service attacks by restricting the size of XML. It uses the following defaults:
- Maximum Attributes per Element: 1000.
- Maximum Children per Element: (no effective bound).
- Maximum Stack Depth: 1000.
- Maximum Element Count: (no effective bound).
- Maximum Number of Characters: (no effective bound).
These bounds are quite loose to preserve backwards compatibility. CXF 2.7.4 / 2.6.7 / 2.5.10 pick up Woodstox 4.2.0. Other parser implementations are defined as "insecure parsers" and are rejected by default from CXF 2.7.5 unless a System property is set. CXF restricts
the Woodstox default values further:
- Maximum Attributes per Element: 500.
- Maximum Children per Element: 50000.
- Maximum Stack Depth: 100.
CXF 2.7.4 / 2.6.7 / 2.5.10 are not vulnerable to any of the DoS attacks listed above due to these restrictions.
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