Cross Environment Hopping

July 1, 2008 – 8:03 AM

Our research team has identified a web-based attack technique that exploits the growing number of applications that require a web server being run on a local machine. Cross-Environment Hopping (CEH) is a result of this trend combined with the current limitations in browsers’ same-origin policy access restrictions.

The CEH technique enables an attacker to exploit a local XSS vulnerability in order to “hop” to a different environment, such as another locally installed server. Under certain circumstances it may even be possible for an attacker to access remote network services such as network share drives, remote procedure calls, intranet mail, SQL servers, and so on.

This write-up will prove that the current implementation of same origin policy on the localhost in up-to-date Web browsers, combined with the presence of an XSS vulnerability, creates a special set of circumstances that enable environment hopping, and that the resulting malicious activity can be performed on any server running on a designated port.

We would like to credit Rob Carter for his great work in describing the problematic nature of exploiting XSS vulnerabilities in local web servers by taking advantage of the promiscuous security behavior of Internet Explorer 6.


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