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The Web Application Hacker's Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws, 2nd Edition by Marcus Pinto, Dafydd Stuttard

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Harvesting Useful Data

The second main use of customized automation when attacking an application is to extract useful or sensitive data by using specific crafted requests to retrieve the information one item at a time. This situation most commonly arises when you have identified an exploitable vulnerability, such as an access control flaw, that enables you to access an unauthorized resource by specifying an identifier for it. However, it may also arise when the application is functioning entirely as intended by its designers. Here are some examples of cases where automated data harvesting may be useful:

  • An online retailing application contains a facility for registered customers to view their pending orders. However, if you can determine the order numbers assigned to other customers, you can view their order information in the same way as your own.
  • A forgotten password function relies on a user-configurable challenge. You can submit an arbitrary username and view the associated challenge. By iterating through a list of enumerated or guessed usernames, you can obtain a large list of users' password challenges to identify those that are easily guessable.
  • A work flow application contains a function to display some basic account information about a given user, including her privilege level within the application. By iterating through the range of user IDs in use, you can obtain a listing of all administrative users, which can be used as the basis for password guessing and other attacks. ...

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