Document structure integrity: A robust basis for cross-site scripting defense

  • Nadji Y
  • Saxena P
  • Song D
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Cross-site scripting (or XSS) has been the most domi- nant class of web vulnerabilities in 2007. The main under- lying reason for XSS vulnerabilities is that web markup and client-side languages do not provide principledmechanisms to ensure secure, ground-up isolation of user-generated data in web application code. In this paper, we develop a new approach that combines randomization of web ap- plication code and runtime tracking of untrusted data both on the server and the browser to combat XSS attacks. Our technique ensures a fundamental integrity property that pre- vents untrusted data from altering the structure of trusted code throughout the execution lifetime of the web applica- tion. We call this property document structure integrity (or DSI). Similar to prepared statements in SQL, DSI enforce- ment ensures automatic syntactic isolation of inline user- generated data at the parser-level. This forms the basis for confinement of untrusted data in the web browser based on a server-specified policy. We propose a client-server architecture that enforces document structure integrity in a way that can be imple- mented in current browsers with a minimal impact to com- patibility and that requires minimal effort from the web de- veloper. We implemented a proof-of-concept and demon- strated that suchDSI enforcement with a simple default pol- icy is sufficient to defeat over 98% of 5,328 real-world re- flected XSS vulnerabilities documented in 2007, with very low performance overhead both on the client and server.

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  • Yacin Nadji

  • Prateek Saxena

  • Dawn Song

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