Exploits Violate OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Assumptions

May 14, 2014

Earlier this month, numerous outlets reported that Wang Jing, a PhD student in mathematics from Nanyang Technological University, uncovered serious security vulnerabilities in OAuth 2.0 and OpenID, the technologies used by many websites to authenticate users via third-party websites.

Almost all major providers of OAuth 2.0 and OpenID identity services are affected, such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Paypal, GitHub, QQ, Taobao, Weibo, VK, Mail.Ru, Sohu, etc.

Remember, OAuth 2.0 and OpenID are ways that 3rd party applications can support user authentication without maintaining a robust identity directory and the identity life-cycle processes that come with it. It is commonplace today to bump into offers to use your Facebook, Google, Twitter, or github credentials on a 3rd party app or site.

That equation, an identity provider being used by a third-party client application requires a certain level of trust between all three parties involved: provider, 3rd party, and end user. The vulnerability uncovered by W.Jing shows how an attacker can exploit weaknesses in provider infrastructure and 3rd party applications to cause those 3rd party applications to untintentionally act as a bridge between the provider and the attacker.

Some days it seems like input validation is the solution to almost every software security issue…*
More effective validation of inputs by third party application developers and the providers could deliver significant resistance to attackers. White lists of trusted sources as well as more thorough verification procedures at the providers could materially tamp down the risks associated with this class of vulnerabilities. The white list approach would require a level of accuracy and maintenance that it seem (at least to this author) like it will not happen without external incentives being imposed.

This vulnerability is especially notable because:

  • It enables Open Redirect Attacks
  • It enables unauthorized access / identity fraud
  • It could lead to sensitive information leakage and/or customer information breaches
  • It has wide coverage: most of the major internet companies provide these types of authentication/authorization services — and some Financial Services organizations would like to offer these options as well, especially in (but not limited to) the moble device environment.
  • It is difficult to “patch”

Some in the security community are playing down the potential impacts of this class of vulnerabilities based on their assertion that “most of the websites using OAuth 2.0 and OpenID are social in nature,” or that the complexity of exploit means that the “majority of criminals won’t bother with it.” If you are in financial services and are using OAuth 2.0 and/or OpenID, think carefully through that logic in the context of your brand.

If you use any of those “sign in with my _____ ID” offerings, it seems rational for you to do some research to see if all the identity & authorization service providers involved are resistant to this new class of attack.

Some of the biggest identity-providers on earth are vulnerable to this new class of attack, including, but not limited to: facebook.com, google.com, linkedin.com, yahoo.com, live.com (Microsoft), vk.com, qq.com (Tencent), weibo.com (Sina), paypal.com, mail.ru, taobao.com (Alibaba), sina.com.cn (Sina), sohu.com, 163.com, github.com, alipay.com (Alibaba), and more.

For those of you who need to see the technical details, W.Jing has blog entries and youtube videos detailing proof of concept attacks against each of the properties identified above on his blog at: http://tetraph.com/covert_redirect/oauth2_openid_covert_redirect.html#portfolio

* But not everyday…

REFERENCES:
“Covert Redirect Vulnerability Related to OAuth 2.0 and OpenID.”
By WANG Jing, May 2014.
http://tetraph.com/covert_redirect/oauth2_openid_covert_redirect.html

“OAuth and OpenID Vulnerable to Covert Redirect, But Have No Vulnerability.”
By Anthony M. Freed, 05-04-2014
http://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/top-security-stories/oauth-and-openid-vulnerable-to-covert-redirect-but-have-no-vulnerability/

“Security Flaw Found In OAuth 2.0 And OpenID; Third-Party Authentication At Risk.”
By Tim Wilson, 05-04-2014
http://www.darkreading.com/security-flaw-found-in-oauth-20-and-openid-third-party-authentication-at-risk/

 

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