What is it?
Philosophically, AntiSamy is a departure from all contemporary security mechanisms. Generally, the security mechanism and user have a communication that is virtually one way, for good reason. Letting the potential attacker know details about the validation is considered unwise as it allows the attacker to "learn" and "recon" the mechanism for weaknesses. These types of information leaks can also hurt in ways you don't expect. A login mechanism that tells the user, "Username invalid" leaks the fact that a user by that name does not exist. A user could use a dictionary or phone book or both to remotely come up with a list of valid usernames. Using this information, an attacker could launch a brute force attack or massive account lock denial-of-service.
So, I get that.
Unfortunately, that's just not very usable in this situation. Typical Internet users are largely ineffective when it comes to writing HTML/CSS, so where do they get their HTML from? Usually they copy it from somewhere out on the web. Simply rejecting their input without any clue as to why is jolting and annoying. Annoyed users go somewhere else to do their social networking.
Socioeconomically, AntiSamy is a have-not enabler. Private companies like Google, MySpace, eBay, etc. have come up with proprietary solutions for solving this problem. This introduces two problems. One is that proprietary solutions are not usually all that good, and even if they are, well - naturally they're reluctant to share this hard-earned IP for free. Fortunately, I just don't care. I don't see any reason why all these private companies should have this functionality safely, so I'm releasing this for free under the GPLv3 license.
Who are you?
I am the AntiSamy, Arshan Dabirsiaghi ([email protected]). I'm currently a Senior Application Security Engineer at Aspect Security. I've often heard of the problem AntiSamy solves as one that is "impossible" or "impossible to do right". I like punching ideas like that in the face. I developed the framework and Java implementation of AntiSamy. I had help on the CSS portion from Jason Li, also of Aspect Security. I plan on releasing version in .NET and PHP. If the Rails community can meet me halfway, I can help them too.
How do I get started?
There's 3 steps in the process of integrating AntiSamy. Each step is detailed in the next section, but the high level overview follows:
- Choose one of the standard policy files that matches as close to the functionality you need:
- Tailor the policy file according to your site's rules
- Call the API from the code
Stage 1 - Choosing a base policy file
Chances are that your site's use case for AntiSamy is at least roughly comparable to one of the predefined policy files. They each represent a "typical" scenario for allowing users to provide HTML (and possibly CSS) formatting information. Let's look into the different policy files:
Slashdot (http://www.slashdot.org/) is a techie news site that allows users to respond anonymously to news posts with very limited HTML markup. Now Slashdot is not only one of the coolest sites around, it's also one that's been subject to many different successful attacks. Even more unfortunate is the fact that most of the attacks led users to the infamous goatse.cx picture (please don't go look it up). The rules for Slashdot are fairly strict: users can only submit the following HTML tags and no CSS: <b>, <u>, <i>, <a>, <blockquote>.
Accordingly, we've built a policy file that allows fairly similar functionality. All text-formatting tags that operate directly on the font, color or emphasis have been allowed.
eBay (http://www.ebay.com/) is the most popular online auction site in the universe, as far as I can tell. It is a public site so anyone is allowed to post listings with rich HTML content. It's not surprising that given the attractiveness of eBay as a target that it has been subject to a few complex XSS attacks. Listings are allowed to contain much more rich content than, say, Slashdot- so it's attack surface is considerably larger. The following tags appear to be accepted by eBay (they don't publish rules): <a>,...
Stage 2 - Tailoring the policy file
Smaller organizations may want to deploy AntiSamy in a default configuration, but it's equally likely that a site may want to have strict, business-driven rules for what users can allow. The discussion that decides the tailoring should also consider attack surface - which grows in relative proportion to the policy file.
Stage 3 - Calling the AntiSamy API
Using AntiSamy is abnormally easy. Here is an example of invoking AntiSamy with a policy file:
import org.owasp.validator.html.*; Policy policy = new Policy(POLICY_FILE_LOCATION); AntiSamy as = new AntiSamy(); CleanResults cr = as.scan(dirtyInput, policy); MyUserDAO.storeUserProfile(cr.getCleanHTML()); // some custom function
Policy files can also be referenced by filename by passing a second argument to the
AntiSamy:scan() method as the following examples show.:
AntiSamy as = new AntiSamy(); CleanResults cr = as.scan(dirtyInput, policyFilePath);
Lastly, policy files can be referenced by File objects directly in the second parameter:
AntiSamy as = new AntiSamy(); CleanResults cr = as.scan(dirtyInput, new File(policyFilePath));
Stage 4 - Analyzing CleanResults
The CleanResults object provides a lot of useful stuff.
getErrorMessages() - a list of String error messages
getCleanHTML() - the clean, safe HTML output
getCleanXMLDocumentFragment() - the clean, safe XMLDocumentFragment which is reflected in getCleanHTML ()
getScanTime() - returns the scan time in seconds