Monday, 4 October 2010

OWASP London Chapter Meeting October 2010 - Review

Last Friday night (October 1st 2010), I attended the OWASP chapter meeting in London. There were about 40 people present. A show of hands indicated that the majority of these were developers. It was held in the offices of Barclays Capital in Canary Wharf, so thanks to them for hosting the event.

How I Met Your Girlfriend - Samy Kamkar

Samy Kamkar was the first speaker on the agenda. Samy is well known because of the MySpace worm with which he was associated a number of years ago. He's kept a low profile since because, how to put this diplomatically, he was otherwise occupied.

However, he is now back in action and in the middle of his European tour. His talk was entitled How I Met Your Girlfriend. It was a highly entertaining talk, where his goal was to get the girl. The girl, in this case, being the girlfriend of a colleague. I think it was fictitious, although he was never quite clear on this point!

The talk covered a wide range of topics, from how to deconstruct a PHP session ID, to extracting the MAC address from a router, through to using Google location services to locate a physical address. I won't go into the details here. You should go to one his talks if you get a chance.

The talk was entertaining and informative, but ultimately slightly depressing. Depressing, not because of Samy, but because of the conclusion: the types of attacks he was demonstrating put yet another nail in the coffin of any illusions that we might have had about privacy. It's with O'Leary in the grave 1. The discussion afterwards centred mostly on this privacy issue.

His European tour continues for the next few weeks. You can find more details on his website samy.pl.

Padding Oracle attacks (and ASP.NET 0-day) - Justin Clarke

In the second half of the meeting, Justin Clarke talked about the Padding Oracle vulnerability and gave a demonstration of his company's PadBuster tool.

Justin is OWASP's man in London.

For those of you who don't know, the Padding Oracle attack has been all the rage in the last few weeks. The attack targets weaknesses in the implementation of AES used in Microsoft asp.net, although it is not only Microsoft technology that is vulnerable. Last week Microsoft issued an out of sequence security patch. Everyone should apply this patch, even though Microsoft classified it only as being important and not critical.

Anyway, back to the talk. Justin gave a short overview of what the attack is about and how it works. It essentially targets the padding mechanism that is used to encrypt data (such as the viewstate) sent back by the application to the browser.

In the second half of his talk, Justin gave a live demonstration of the Gotham Digital Science PadBuster tool which is designed to automate the attack. The tool took a certain amount of tender love and care to get it to work - but work it did. It returned the contents of the web.config file from the sample asp.net application.

If you are involved in web application development, the main lesson to be taken from this, is that you should keep an eye out for any newly discovered vulnerabilities in the software components that you rely on. And then to make sure that you apply any relevant workarounds or patches that are issued.

Again, this was an enjoyable and informative talk with the added tension of the live demo. You can download a copy of PadBuster from here


With the business of the evening concluded, the chairman called a halt to proceedings. We adjourned to the local public house, where we told each other lies.

1 William Butler Yeats: September 1913

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