Book Review: "How to Break Web Software", Mike Andrews/James Whittaker


"How to Break Web Software", Mike Andrews/James A. Whittaker, 2006,

0-321-36944-0, U$34.99/C$46.99 %A Mike Andrews %A James A. Whittaker %C P.O. Box 520, 26 Prince Andrew Place, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 2T8 %D 2006 %G 0-321-36944-0 %I Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. %O U$34.99/C$46.99 416-447-5101 800-822-6339 %O
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Audience i+ Tech 3 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 219 p. + CD-ROM %T "How to Break Web Software"

The preface stresses that this book is neither about how to attack a Web site, nor how to develop one, but, rather, how to test.

Chapter one points out that the Web is a different environment, in terms of software security, because we have desktop machines, not centrally administered, talking to everyone (with much of the traffic being commercial in nature). The authors even point out that issues of error-handling, performance, and ease-of-use all contribute to increased levels of vulnerability. Various attacks designed to obtain information about Web applications, structure, and functions are described in chapter two. For client-side scripting, chapter three notes, any validation done on the client should be untrusted and re- validated on the host, since it may be altered on the client, or data manually entered as if it came from the client. Chapter four explains the danger of using client-side data (cookies or code) for state information. Chapter five examines user supplied data, and delves into cross-site scripting (XSS, the explanation of which is not well done), SQL (Standard Query Language) injection, and directory traversal. Language-based attacks, in chapter six, involve buffer overflows (which are not explained terribly well), canonicalization (HTML and Unicode encoding and parsing), and null string attacks. The server, with utilities and the underlying operating system, can be reached via stored procedures (excessive functionality), fingerprinted for other attempts, or subject to denial of service (in limited ways) as chapter seven notes. "Authentication," in chapter eight, is really more about encryption: the various false forms (encryption via obscurity?), brute force attacks against verification systems, and forcing a system to use weak encryption. Privacy, and related Web technologies (of which cookies are only one), is reviewed in chapter nine. Chapter ten looks at Web services, and the vulnerabilities associated with some of these systems.

The CD-ROM included with the book contains a number of interesting and useful tools for trying out the various attacks and tests mentioned in the text.

This book is a valuable addition to the software security literature. The attacks listed in the work are known, but often by name only. This text collects and explains a wide variety of Web application attacks and weaknesses, providing developers with a better understanding of how their programs may be assailed. Some of the items mentioned are defined or explained weakly, but these are usually items that do have good coverage in other security works.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2006 BKHTBWSW.RVW 20060520

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer) The corollary of constant change is ignorance. This is not often talked about: we computer experts barely know what we're doing. - Ellen Ullman Dictionary Information Security

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Rob Slade
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