A5:2021 | Security Misconfiguration (2) | Cycubix Docs

What is an XML entity?

An XML Entity allows tags to be defined that will be replaced by content when the XML Document is parsed. In general there are three types of entities:

  • internal entities.

  • external entities.

  • parameter entities.

An entity must be created in the Document Type Definition (DTD), let’s start with an example:

As you can see once the XML document is processed by the parser, it will replace the defined entity js with the defined constant "Jo Smith". As you can see this has many advantages as you can change js in one place to for example "John Smith".

In a Java application XML can be used to get data from the client to the server, we are all familiar with JSON apis we can also use xml to get the information across. Most of the time the framework automatically populates the Java object based on the xml structure, for example:

What is an XXE injection?

An XML External Entity attack is a type of attack against an application that parses XML input. This attack occurs when XML input containing a reference to an external entity is processed by a weakly configured XML parser. This attack may lead to the disclosure of confidential data, denial of service, server side request forgery, port scanning from the perspective of the machine where the parser is located, and other system impacts.

Attacks can include disclosing local files, which may contain sensitive data such as passwords or private user data, using file: schemes or relative paths in the system identifier. Since the attack occurs relative to the application processing the XML document, an attacker may use this trusted application to pivot to other internal systems, possibly disclosing other internal content via http(s) requests or launching a CSRF attack to any unprotected internal services. In some situations, an XML processor library that is vulnerable to client-side memory corruption issues may be exploited by dereferencing a malicious URI, possibly allowing arbitrary code execution under the application account. Other attacks can access local resources that may not stop returning data, possibly impacting application availability if too many threads or processes are not released.

In general we can distinguish the following kind of XXE attacks:

  • Classic: in this case an external entity is included in a local DTD.

  • Blind: no output and or errors are shown in the response.

  • Error: try to get the content of a resource in the error message.

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