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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Web site security–Ajax security

Fuelled by the increased interest in Web 2.0, AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript Technology and XML) is attracting the attention of businesses all round the globe.

AJAX is meant to increase interactivity, speed, and usability. The technologies have prompted a richer and friendly experience for the user as web applications are designed to imitate ‘traditional’ desktop applications.

There is the general misconception that in AJAX applications are more secure because it is thought that a user cannot access the server-side script without the rendered user interface (the AJAX based webpage). XML HTTP Request based web applications obscure server-side scripts, and this obscurity gives website developers and owners a false sense of security – obscurity is not security. Since XML HTTP requests function by using the same protocol as all else on the web (HTTP), technically speaking, AJAX-based web applications are vulnerable to the same hacking methodologies as ‘normal’ applications.

Another weakness of AJAX is the process that formulates server requests. The Ajax engine uses JS to capture the user commands and to transform them into function calls. Such function calls are sent in plain visible text to the server and may easily reveal database table fields such as valid product and user IDs, or even important variable names, valid data types or ranges, and any other parameters which may be manipulated by a hacker.

With this information, a hacker can easily use AJAX functions without the intended interface by crafting specific HTTP requests directly to the server. In case of cross-site scripting, maliciously injected scripts can actually leverage the AJAX provided functionalities to act on behalf of the user thereby tricking the user with the ultimate aim of redirecting his browsing session (e.g., phishing) or monitoring his traffic.


The only solution for effective and efficient security auditing is a vulnerability scanner which automates the crawling of websites to identify weaknesses. However, without an engine that parses and executes JavaScript, such crawling is inaccurate and gives website owners a false sense of security.

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