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Unveiling the Danger: Top Examples of Broken Access Control in Cybersecurity

Website security is of paramount importance in the contemporary digital age. In particular, broken access control is a prevalent and dangerous vulnerability that frequently plagues cybersecurity. The subsequent blog post will delve into key broken access control examples, aiding you in identifying, understanding, and mitigating them.

Introduction

An often overlooked aspect of cybersecurity, broken access control, attacks occur when a hacker can bypass the authorization step and gain access to functionalities or data that they should not have access to. Operationally, broken access control results from two primary security flaws: lack of enforced authorization and missing function level access control.

Broken Access Control Examples

1. Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR)

One of the most common broken access control examples is Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR). In this scenario, an application provides direct access to objects based on the user’s input. Without adequate controls, an attacker could manipulate references to gain unauthorized access to data. A common example would be when a URL contains a reference to internal implementation objects, such as files or database keys. An attacker could change the ‘ID’ field in the URL to access data related to other users without requiring authentication.

2. Missing Function Level Access Control

Missing function level access control is another common manifestation of broken access control. Normally, servers should perform access controls before making a response to a request from the client-side. However, when the necessary function level access control is missing, attackers can manipulate requests and misuse functionalities intended only for certain users. An example of this is an unauthenticated user being able to perform admin level functions, like modifying data or deleting users, simply by guessing the correct URL.

3. Inadequate Session Management

Inadequate session management is another primary example. If a website fails to manage user sessions securely, it can lead to unauthorized access. For example, if a website uses easily predictable session IDs, an attacker can hijack sessions of legitimate users. Thus, gaining access to protected data and capabilities.

4. Security Misconfigurations

If a website or application is poorly configured, it may inadvertently grant inappropriate user permissions or reveal sensitive information, thereby leading to broken access control. For example, a database may be accidentally left in a debug mode, showing verbose error messages that include sensitive details about its structure or functioning.

5. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

A CSRF attack manipulates authenticated users into performing an action on a website without their knowledge. If successful, an attacker can access and manipulate data or functionality. A classic example is an attacker creating a malicious link or script that, when clicked by an authenticated user, performs a function that the user didn't intend, e.g., updating their email address or password.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while access control policies are essential in safeguarding data and functionalities, they are often neglected or poorly executed, resulting in broken access control. The examples we've discussed, including IDOR, CSRF, missing function level access control, security misconfigurations, and inadequate session management, offer a glimpse of what could go wrong when proper authorization checks are not in place. By understanding and recognizing these issues, developers and administrators can endeavor to design and implement more secure systems, minimizing the risk of broken access control in cybersecurity. Remember, the first step towards enhanced security is awareness and acknowledgment.

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