Re: Web session tracking security prob. Vulnerable: IIS and ColdFusion (maybe others)

Date: 08/30/01

To: Jeff Jancula <>
Subject: Re: Web session tracking security prob. Vulnerable: IIS and ColdFusion (maybe others)
Message-ID: <>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 10:37:10 +0200 (CEST)

uhh vuln-dev still not outlawed in the US? I bet there are some sites offering
music(Metallica), pdf files (Adobe)and other copyrighted data that rely on IIS'
session management. Well now we know how to potentially circumvent this kind of
protection. Basically we can bypass any password checks on those sites (some
luck, suggestive links and nifty scripting included), to gain access. Ooops, we
just violated the DMCA. I'm sorry for all the nice and intelligent people in
the states, like the one that wrote that mail I just replied to, but I think
this a security hole which, even though no so easy to exploit, still is
critical as many sites that are supposed to be secure rely on this session
management and it's security.
Never mind,

PS: No, I don't intend to visit the US and I don't have any known ancesters

Quoting Jeff Jancula <>:
> On February 20, 2001 we reported the following problem (with specifics
> to IIS and SITESERVER) to the Microsoft Security Response Center.
> On March 22, 2001 we also reported a similar problem to Allaire (now
> Macromedia) for ColdFusion.
> Approximately 2-3 weeks after reporting to appropriate vendors, we also
> reported these vulnerabilities to CERT.ORG.
> Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) and Site Server do not
> verify that session cookie values were actually issued by the server. An
> Internet user can generate their own session cookie, which will be
> accepted as valid by these servers. An attacker could use cross-site
> scripting vulnerabilities to generate a modified session cookie, with a
> predictable session value, then use the predetermined session value to
> later take over (impersonate) other users.
> Similarly, Allaire's ColdFusion Server does not verify that session
> tracking values CFID and CFTOKEN were actually issued by the server. An
> Internet user can generate their own CFID/CFTOKEN session values, which
> will be accepted as valid by the server. An attacker could set
> CFID/CFTOKEN values on a URL line contained in an e-mail message, or use
> cross-site scripting vulnerabilities to generate CFID/CFTOKEN session
> cookies, with predictable values, then use the predetermined session
> values to later take over (impersonate) other users.
> These vulnerabilities, especially when combined with well-known
> cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, could cause loss of
> confidentiality, failure of non-repudiation and fraud.
> Microsoft agreed that we had uncovered a bug in IIS, which would be
> fixed in a future release. However, they did not consider the bug to be
> a security vulnerability because it requires another security
> vulnerability (cross-site scripting) to work.
> Allaire agreed that we had unconvered a security problem with ColdFusion
> and recommended that applications requiring high security implement
> their own session tracking mechanisms - in other words, don't rely on
> ColdFusion's session tracking (CFID/CFTOKEN). Allaire also indicated
> that they are considering a redesign of their session cookie mechanism
> to improve security.
> Like Microsoft, CERT isn't convinced that a real security problem
> exists.
> Personally, I'd like to know if the security community thinks this is a
> real problem or not.
> When a Internet browser user visits IIS or ColdFusion hosted web sites,
> the web server issues browser commands similar to:
> (for CF) Set-Cookie: CFID=123
> (for CF) Set-Cookie: CFTOKEN=4567890
> The browser stores and returns the "ASPSESSIONID" or "CFID/CFTOKEN"
> values with each subsequent request to the web server. IIS and
> ColdFusion use these values to identify and track each user.
> IIS and ColdFusion do a pretty good job of generating random session
> values, so that users can't guess each other's session values. However,
> an attacker could force a predictable cookie value, by using JavaScript
> or an <META HTTP-EQUIV> tag to override the relevant cookies:
> or,
> <META HTTP-EQUIV="Set-Cookie" Content="CFID=123; path=/">
> <META HTTP-EQUIV="Set-Cookie" Content="CFTOKEN=1111111; path=/">
> Of course, the hard part is getting the JavaScript or META tag to the
> victim's browser (that's were cross-site scripting comes in - a subject
> covered elsewhere).
> ColdFusion makes this attack even easier, because it allows its session
> tracking variables to be specified on the URL line. So, an attacker
> could force a predictable cookie value by passing a user a link, via
> e-mail, another web site, or as a bookmark. For example:
> Regardless of the method used, the browser will send the modified
> ASPSESSIONID or CFID/CFTOKEN values for all future requests to the web
> server. The problem is, the web server honors the modified session
> values - as if the server actually issued them!
> Note that the cross-site scripting hack (using META tags or other
> JavaScript commands) could change a user's cookies mid-stream, causing
> the web server to detect a new session start and possibly cause the user
> to re-authenticate (logon). The user would only notice that they were
> seemingly "kicked out" of their session, and probably not report the
> incident to support personnel. The user's previous session would
> eventually be abandoned by the server; and the attacker could now
> intercept the new session.
> This problem was detected by First Union's application security testing
> team, while testing servers for potential use with First Union internal
> applications. The team used various hacking tools to perform a
> man-in-the-middle attack to modify ASPSESSIONID and CFID/CFTOKEN
> cookies.
> These attacks were NOT tested on live financial/production systems.
> Confidential customer or employee data was not exposed during these
> tests.
> The tested Microsoft servers were running IIS 4, SiteServer (version?)
> on Windows NT 4.0, service pack 6a. Although only slightly confirmed, we
> believe IIS 5 on Windows 2000 is also vulnerable.
> The tested Allaire servers were running ColdFusion 4.6 on Solaris.
> "Security Best Practice: URL Session Variables and HTTP_REFERER" article
> on Allaire's web site (
> Jeff Jancula, Technical Advisor, e-mail:
> Chris Howser, Technical Advisor, e-mail:
> Chris Hudel, Technical Advisor, e-mail:

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