Top 10 Issues Observed During Pen Tests in 2008

Friday, January 23, 2009

There has been a lot of press, effort and money focused on Web Application Security over the past year–and rightly so. The attack footprint for many publicly-facing web applications has been growing as new web and browser-based vulnerabilities are being discovered at a scary pace. The PCI DSS push has helped primarily with the escalation of the press given, but we really haven’t crossed the bridge of minimizing the impact yet, and many security experts don’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What I want to discuss in this article is the trend observed over the past year, taken from data collected from hundreds of Pen Tests performed by myself and my peers. The results are indeed interesting.

Although web services take the cake, it’s not the web application vulnerabilities we hear about so much (such as XSS, SQL Injection and CSRF) that tops the list. In fact, the Top 8 of the Top 10 (although may contribute in some cases to things like XSS) are configuration and deployment errors.

The List (Organized by Number of Occurrences):

1. Weak, Insecure and Deprecated SSL Ciphers
2. TRACE Debugging Method Enabled on Web Server
3. Private IP Address of Web Server Leaked Through Headers (IIS)
4. Form Credentials and Confidential Information Transmitted over Clear Text (no SSL)
5. Default, Vendor Supplied Directories and Files (Mainly Apache/Tomcat Installations)
6. Poorly Configured Apache Servers, Including Directory Indexing and User Home Directories
7. Default ASP.NET Errors on IIS Installations
8. Unpatched IIS Installations Vulnerable to Remote Exploit
9. Presence of phpinfo() pages on Apache/PHP Installations
10. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Vulnerabilities

So at least one of the media-worthy vulnerabilities hits the list (XSS), but what is surprising to me is that common configuration errors and poor judgment calls by far takes the cake. In fact, when looking at the following graph, it is apparent just how bad this situation is.


This data is taken from raw pen testing data, is not specific to web servers and web applications only, and does not in any way correlate to things such as the OWASP Top 10 and the CWE Top 25 Programming Errors lists.

Food for thought: has the focus on web application security completely blinded us to the standard level of due care that should be exhibited in activities such as server deployment and patch management?

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