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Testing for Cross site flashing (OTG-CLIENT-008)

Revision as of 13:06, 8 September 2008 by Wisec (talk | contribs) (Cross Site Flashing)

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OWASP Testing Guide v3 Table of Contents

This article is part of the OWASP Testing Guide v3. The entire OWASP Testing Guide v3 can be downloaded here.

OWASP at the moment is working at the OWASP Testing Guide v4: you can browse the Guide here

Brief Summary

ActionScript is the language, based on ECMAScript, used by Flash application when dealing with interactive needs. ActionScript, like every other language, has some implementation pattern which could lead to security issues.
In particular, since Flash application are often embedded in browsers, vulnerabilities like DOM based Cross Site Scripting could be present in flawed Flash applications.

Description of the Issue

Since the first publication of "Testing Flash Applications" [1], new versions of Flash player were released in order to mitigate some of the attacks which will be described. Nevertheless some issue still remains exploitable because it strongly depends on developer unsecure programming practices.

Gray Box testing and example


Since SWF files are interpreted by a virtual machine embedded in the player itself, they can be potentially decompiled and analysed. The most known and free ActionScript 2.0 decompiler is flare.

To decompile a swf file with flare just type:

$ flare hello.swf

it will result in a new file called hello.flr.

Decompilation helps testers in the process of testing because it moves black box to white box.

There's no free decompiler for ActionScript 3.0 at the moment.

Undefined Variables

On actionscript 2 entry points are retrieved by looking at every undefined attribute beloging to _root and _global objects, since Actionscript 2 behaves as every member belonging to _root or _global objects were instantiable by url querystring parameters. That means that if an attribute like:


results "undefined" at some point of code flow, it could be overwritten by setting



  movieClip 328 __Packages.Locale {

      if (!_global.Locale) {
        var v1 = function (on_load) {
          var v5 = new XML();
          var v6 = this;
          v5.onLoad = function (success) {
            if (success) {
              trace('Locale loaded xml');
              var v3 = this.xliff.file.body.$trans_unit;
              var v2 = 0;
              while (v2 < v3.length) {
                Locale.strings[v3[v2]._resname] = v3[v2].source.__text;
            } else {}
          if (_root.language != undefined) {
            Locale.DEFAULT_LANG = _root.language;
          v5.load(Locale.DEFAULT_LANG + '/player_' +
                              Locale.DEFAULT_LANG + '.xml');

Could be attacked by requesting:


Unsafe Methods

When an entry point is identified the data it represents could be used by unsafe methods. If the data is not filtered/validated using the right regexp it could lead to some security issue.

Unsafe Methods since version r47 are:

XML.load ( 'url' )
LoadVars.load ( 'url' ) 
Sound.loadSound( 'url' , isStreaming ); 'url' );


The Test

In order to exploit a vulnerability the swf file should be hosted on the victim host, and the techniques of reflected Xss must be used. That is forcing the browser to load a pure swf file directly in the location bar ( by redirection or social engineering) or by loading it through an iframe from an evil page:

<iframe src='http://victim/path/to/file.swf'></iframe>

This is because in this situation the browser will self generate a Html page as if it were hosted by the victim host.



GetURL Function lets the movie to load a URI into Browser's Window. So if an undefined variable is used as first argument for getURL:


This means it's possible to call javascript in the same domain where the movie is hosted by requesting:



The same when only some part of getURL is controlled:

 Dom Injection with Flash javascript injection


"You can use the special asfunction protocol to cause

the link to execute an ActionScript function in a SWF file 
instead of opening a URL..." ( )

Until release r48 of Flash player asfunction could be used on every method which has a url as argument.

This means that a tester could try to inject:


in every unsafe method like:


by requesting:


ExternalInterface: is a static method introduced by adobe to improve player/browser interaction.

From a security point of view it could be abused when part of its argument could be controlled:;

the attack pattern for this kind of flaw should be something like the following: eval(evilcode)

since the internal javascript which is executed by the browser will be something similar to:

eval('try { __flash__toXML('+__root.callback+') ; } catch (e) { "<undefined/>"; }')

Html Injection

TextField Objects can render minimal Html by setting:

tf.html = true
tf.htmlText = '<tag>text</tag>'

So if some part of text could be controlled by the tester, an a tag or a img tag could be injected resulting in modifying the GUI or Xss the browser.

Some Attack Example with A Tag:

  • Direct XSS: <a href='javascript:alert(123)' >
  • Call AS function: <a href='asfunction:function,arg' >
  • Call Swf public functions:
   <a href='asfunction:_root.obj.function, arg'>
  • Call Native Static AS Function:

<a href='asfunction:System.Security.allowDomain,evilhost' >

Img tag could be used as well:

  • <img src='http://evil/evil.swf' >
  • <img src='javascript:evilcode//.swf' > (.swf is necessary to bypass flash player internal filter)

Note: since release 124 of Flash player Xss is no more exploitable, but GUI modification could still be accomplished.

Cross Site Flashing

Cross Site Flashing (XSF) is a vulnerability which has a similar impact than with Xss. XSF Occurs when from different domains: One Movie loads another Movie with loadMovie* functions or other hacks and has access to the same sandbox or part of it XSF could also occurs when an HTML page uses JavaScript to command a Macromedia Flash movie, for example, by calling:

  • GetVariable: access to flash public and static object from javascript as a string.
  • SetVariable: set a static or public flash object to a new string value from javascript.
  • Unexpected Browser to swf communication could result in stealing data from swf application.

It could be perfomed by forcing a flawed swf to load an external evil flash file.

This attack could result in Xss or in the modification of the GUI in order to fool a user to insert credentials on a fake flash form.

XSF could be used in presence of Flash Html Injection or external swf files when loadMovie* methods are used.

Attacks and Flash Player Version

Since May 2007 three new versions of Flash player were released by Adobe. Every new version restricts some of the attacks previously described.

| Attack         | asfunction | ExternalInterface | GetURL  | Html Injection | 
| Player Version |
| v9.0 r47/48    |  Yes       |   Yes             | Yes     |     Yes        |
| v9.0 r115      |  No        |   Yes             | Yes     |     Yes        |
| v9.0 r124      |  No        |   Yes             | Yes     |     Partially  |

Result Expected:

Cross Site Scripting and Cross Site Flashing are the expected results on a flawed SWF file.