FAXX Hack Break: More Facebook XSS

Today I’m going to take a break from posting application holes, though not due to lack of material. I have several vulnerabilities ready to post, but I’m giving developers time to ensure their applications are secure. A few requests forced me to adjust my schedule, so I’ll make up for today’s omission in the future.

In the mean time, I thought I would share another Facebook bug that security researcher Pierre Gardenat sent to me. Full credit for this bug goes to Gardenat.

Earlier this year, he published a paper (PDF, French) on XSS vulnerabilities within Facebook itself. As his paper notes, Facebook did issue fixes, but only at the presentation layer. Facebook apparently did not take steps to identify harmful code already stored in their databases, or provide filters to avoid more code from being inserted.

Consequently, another attack vector surfaced when another facet of the presentation layer remained unpatched. First, a user could enter script tags with code in the screen name field of their profile’s contact information. Visiting Facebook in a desktop browser would not load the script, as presentation layer filters prevented it from being rendered as script. However, the mobile version of Facebook at m.facebook.com did not have such protections, and the script would execute fine.

This is an example of a persistent XSS hole, as opposed to the reflected XSS holes I’ve been posting so far. The attack code is stored within the application and loaded whenever a user visits a page that loads the code. In some ways this type of attack is more powerful than a standard reflected XSS attack.

Facebook has, of course, patched the mobile site now. But understanding the layers involved in dealing with XSS holes is an important lesson. And it’s one Facebook applications should not ignore, since they too can become susceptible to persistent XSS holes. In fact, two applications (one a Facebook Verified Application) vulnerable in this way have already been discovered, and I plan on posting details of the problems later this week as FAXX hacks.

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