Welcome back to our ten-part blog series on the OWASP Top Ten list of 2021. In this tenth and final instalment, we will describe one of the key threats that organisations face in the digital world in a high-level overview of Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF).

Understanding Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

Server-Side Request Forgery is a security flaw that allows attackers the ability to induce the server into making requests to an unintended destination, often bypassing access controls. This vulnerability can be exploited to send requests to internal services within the organization’s infrastructure, leading to sensitive data exposure or internal system manipulation.

Imagine a scenario where a courier delivery service blindly trusts the sender’s instructions on where to deliver packages without correctly verifying the legitimacy or safety of the destination. In a similar vein, SSRF occurs when a server does not validate or restrict external URLs before sending data, potentially opening the door to malicious destinations.

Consider a web application that is allowed to make requests to specific internal services for operational purposes. An attacker could potentially use SSRF to bypass the intended limitations, accessing a wider range of internal services.

Common Risks Associated with SSRF

  1. Internal Network Exposure:
    Attackers can use SSRF to access internal systems that are not exposed to the Internet.
  2. Data Exfiltration:
    Sensitive information from internal systems can be accessed and extracted, such as “file:///etc/passwd”.
  3. Bypassing Firewall Protections:
    SSRF can be used to bypass firewall rules, allowing attackers to interact with protected systems.
  4. Cloud Service Exploitation:
    In cloud environments, SSRF can be used to gain access to metadata services, potentially compromising cloud-based infrastructure.

Strategies to Mitigate SSRF

  1. Input Validation:
    Rigorously validate and sanitize all user inputs, especially URL data, to prevent malicious requests.
  2. Limit URL Access:
    Restrict the server from accessing certain types of URLs, particularly non-public ones.
  3. Use Allowlists:
    Implement allowlists for URLs to ensure that the server only communicates with known, safe destinations.
  4. Network Segmentation:
    Isolate critical components of your infrastructure to limit the reach of potential SSRF attacks.
  5. Enhanced Monitoring and Logging:
    Monitor server requests and maintain logs to detect and analyse SSRF attacks.
  6. Security Testing:
    Regularly test for SSRF vulnerabilities using automated tools and penetration testing.

Final Thoughts

SSRF vulnerabilities can represent a significant threat, especially with the increasing complexity of web applications and the widespread adoption of cloud services. Understanding and mitigating SSRF vulnerabilities are crucial for securing web applications against this subtle yet potentially damaging attack vector. As we conclude this series, remember that cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field, and staying informed and vigilant is key to safeguarding against these top threats.