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Home : Advisories : Possible session hijacking with website implementations using middleware products

Title: Possible session hijacking with website implementations using middleware products
Released by: MIS Corporate Defence Solution
Date: 21st November 2000
Printable version: Click here

	    MIS Corporate Defence Solutions - NST Advisory (001)

	   Possible session hijacking with website implementations

			  using middleware products.

							Written:  13/11/00

							Revised:  20/11/00

						       Released:  21/11/00


Systems affected:


Any web systems / farms utilising middleware software to help run all or

parts of their website using some form of session id tokens that are stored

within the URL.



Users that visit websites that are affected (see above).

Vendor status:


N/A - no single vendor.

However, BroadVision was contacted about this issue and they are aware of

this problem. They are currently implementing changes and recommendations to

it's customers as you read.



There are a number of companies that utilise middleware software within

their websites / farms, due to the "all-in-one" nature of the packages on

offer. Some of the features (not naming all of them) allow a company to

track user's browsing and buying habits throughout their site, tailored

content depending on the visitor, and real-time analytic reports.

This issue seems not to be publicised and from conversations we have had

with people at the software houses, they seem to be sweeping this under the

carpet and changing their systems on the quiet.



BroadVision will be used as our example middleware product because it is the

one we have been using for testing. An example site of www.site.com

utilising BroadVision software, passes it's parameters required for

identification into JavaScript Pages (.jsp) that display site content and

run any back-end commands / applications that may be required. We assume

from here on, that www.site.com is an e-commerce and a service provider of

some sort.

When a user views a site using BroadVision as well as Session IDs and Engine

IDs to display content, the IDs are present within the URL. From the limited

experience we have had with BroadVision, it seems that the session ID is a

random 20 digit number (xxxxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxxxx) and the Engine ID represents

what server is serving the content. Therefore it can be determined how many

servers are presenting the content. The first part (10 digits) of the

BV_SessionID is a random number. The second part (10 digits) however, seems

to be an incremental counter that could be used as a primary key in a

database or as a reference:

An example where the engine IDs are constant (taken from a sample of 100


BV_SessionID            BV_EngineID

	    2nd part


0857833937.0974830784   caljgjejmdfbekfcflcfhfcggl.0

2030451565.0974830918   caljgjejmdfbekfcflcfhfcggl.0

0013750567.0974830947   caljgjejmdfbekfcflcfhfcggl.0

1966354090.0974830997   caljgjejmdfbekfcflcfhfcggl.0

An example where the engine IDs are different (sequential hits from a sample

of 100 hits):

	    2nd part


0303470036.0974831433   kaljgjejmfmbekfcflcfhfcggm.0

1662867632.0974831449   ialjgjejmfkbekfcflcfhfcggm.0

0534620068.0974831462   faljgjejmfhbekfcflcfhfcggm.0

0325859633.0974831480   haljgjejmfjbekfcflcfhfcggm.0

1626080627.0974831494   galjgjejmfibekfcflcfhfcggm.0

0654920185.0974831506   ealjgjejmehbekfcflcfhfcggm.0

1323165012.0974831517   laljgjejmgebekfcflcfhfcggm.0

For example, visit www.site.com that is running Broadvision software. You

will notice that your address bar will read something like this:


(this will be wrapped :( ) The important part of this URL is:

... &BV_SessionID=@@@@0265483420.0974078984@@@@&BV_EngineID=haljfclmegjbekfcflcfhfcggm.0

For other middleware applications, the parameter name might be &IdKey or


It is possible to derive the number of engines or servers that serve pages

for www.site.com. This is derived from the way the engine ids are


The problem exists when a user is viewing www.site.com in normal HTTP mode

and decides to move into the secure area of the site (HTTPS), such as

logging in to check your bill / account details for the service been

provided by www.site.com. The session ID that the user has remains the same,

so in essence, follows him/herself into the secure zone.

Therefore, if you were able to sniff the BV_SessionID and BV_EngineID

parameters whilst the user is still browsing the "unsecure" area of the

site, it is possible to "hijack" or "join" the session by replacing the ID

strings within any of the URLs displayed in the address bar, providing the

session timeout hasn't expired. The "hijack" or "join" is possible from

either the same IP address or from a different IP address.

By registering yourself as a valid customer of www.site.com, it is possible

to determine the full URL for accessing say a user's billing details,

billing address, etc... This will enable a malicious user to insert a stolen

set of ids into the URL to gain unauthorised access to another customers


Please note that retrieving a list of valid BV_EngineIDs is trivial. Just

repeatedly close and open a browser and take a note of the value. Both the

session and engine IDs would be trivial to pick up if you knew users were

visiting www.site.com on a LAN for example. Set up a sniffer, retrieve the

IDs and hey presto! Although this is not as widespread as a number of other

website / middleware vulnerabilities, we still deem this as a large security

issue that is largely undocumented.

In theory, it is possible to brute force the BV_SessionID if there are no

restrictions on the server side, and the client side has enough bandwidth

available. Although this would take some time to brute force a randomly

generated 20 digit number, it may be possible for an evil cracker to get

lucky. If you specify an invalid session id / engine id or your session has

timed out, an error is displayed (applicable to this example, may differ

from implementation to implementation).

Workaround / Fix / Solution:


There is no silver bullet solution, but a number of workarounds can be

applied to prevent this type of session hijacking.

1) Send all HTTP communication containing the session and engine ids over

HTTPS to help prevent them from being "stolen".

2) Utilise a session cookie, i.e. a cookie that is linked to the

middleware's session management system. The cookie will contain the session

ID details. Each time a user visits the page, the middleware application

should check for the existance of this cookie and verify the values held

within the cookie against the ones held within it's own internal system. If

they are the same, it is a valid request. However if they are not the same

or the cookie does not exist, this is not a valid request and should be

declined. Please note that with some middleware software, it may be the

responsibility of the web application running on top of the middleware

software, to utilise a library that enables session cookies to be utilised.

Please check with the vendor regarding this.

3) Utilise URL re-writing to prevent the contents of the query string from

appearing in the URL that is displayed in the address bar of a browser.

4) When a user is directed into the secure area of www.site.com to view

their account details, site.com should generate a new session id within the

HTTPS request and reply. This prevents a user being followed into the secure


5) Request further documentation from the vendor on how to implement a

higher level of security whilst using their middleware products. The

reasoning behind this is because BroadVision have further documentation

available, but we understand clients need to request it.



Nothing is 100% secure, the risk of being hacked / cracked is always

improbable, never impossible.




Eric Golin, Kevin Wharton @ BroadVision

Steve Fagg.

Thanks for taking the time to read this advisory,




Network Security Team.

MIS Corporate Defence Solutions Limited

Tel:            +44 (0)1622 723400 (Switchboard)

Fax:            +44 (0)1622 728580

Website:        http://www.mis-cds.com/

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