Abusing the Application Layer

Ever-increasing complexity within networked applications makes it easier to exploit application layer vulnerabilities. We saw some creative ways to abuse the network and transport layers in Chapters 2 and 3, but these techniques are almost prosaic when compared to some of the techniques levied against applications today.

While the implementations of common network and transport layer protocols generally conform to guidelines defined by the RFCs, there is no standard that controls how a particular CGI application handles user input via a webserver, or whether an application is written in a programming language (like C) that does not have automatic bounds checking or memory management. Sometimes completely new attack techniques are discovered and released to the security community—a good example is the concept of HTTP Cross-Site Cooking which involves mishandling of web cookies across domains (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-site_cooking).

The following sections illustrate some common application layer attacks. Certain attacks can be detected with the iptables string match extension, and an iptables rule for a specific attack is included with each example. (This is by no means a complete list of all techniques for exploiting applications.)

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