Waiting for CSP — Securing Legacy Web Applications with JSAgents

Mario Heiderich, Marcus Niemietz, Jörg Schwenk

Waiting for CSP — Securing Legacy Web Applications with JSAgents, ESORICS 2015, 20th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security


Markup Injection (MI) attacks, ranging from classical Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and DOMXSS to Scriptless Attacks, pose a major threat for web applications, browser extensions, and mobile apps. To mitigate MI attacks, we propose JSAgents, a novel and flexible approach to defeat MI attacks using DOM meta-programming. Specifically, we enforce a security policy on the DOM of the browser at a place in the markup processing chain “just before” the rendering of the markup. This approach has many advantages: Obfuscation has already been removed from the markup when it enters the DOM, mXSS attack vectors are visible, and, last but not least, the (client-side) protection can be individually tailored to fit the needs of web applications.

JSAgents policies look similar to CSP policies, and indeed large parts of CSP can be implemented with JSAgents. However, there are three main differences: (1) Contrary to CSP, the source code of legacy web applications needs not be modified; instead, the policy is adapted to the application. (2) Whereas CSP can only apply one policy to a complete HTML document, JSAgents is able, through a novel cascading enforcement, to apply different policies to each element in the DOM; this property is essential in dealing with JavaScript event handlers and URIs. (3) JSAgents enables novel features like coarse-grained access control: e.g. we may block read/write access to HTML form elements for all scripts, but human users can still insert data (which may be interesting for password and PIN fields).

[ESORICS 2015] [PDF file]