Automatically Hardening Web Applications Using Precise Tainting

Anh Nguyen-Tuong, Salvatore Guarnieri, Doug Greene, Jeff Shirley, David Evans
IFIP TC11 20th International Conference on Information Security
Chiba, Japan, 30 May - 1 June 2005


Most web applications contain security vulnerabilities. The simple and natural ways of creating a web application are prone to SQL injection attacks and cross-site scripting attacks as well as other less common vulnerabilities. In response, many tools have been developed for detecting or mitigating common web application vulnerabilities. Existing techniques either require effort from the site developer or are prone to false positives. This paper presents a fully automated approach to securely hardening web applications. It is based on precisely tracking taintedness of data and checking specifically for dangerous content only in parts of commands and output that came from untrustworthy sources. Unlike previous work in which everything that is derived from tainted input is tainted, our approach precisely tracks taintedness within data values.

Keywords: web security; web vulnerabilities; SQL injection; PHP; cross-site scripting attacks; precise tainting; information flow

Complete Paper (12 pages) [PDF]

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