Social engineering platforms are often used by attackers to launch a CSRF attack. This tricks the victim into clicking a URL that contains a maliciously crafted, unauthorized request for a particular Web application. The user’s browser then sends this maliciously crafted request to a targeted Web application. The request also includes any credentials related to the particular website (e.g., user session cookies). If the user is in an active session with a targeted Web application, the application treats this new request as an authorized request submitted by the user. Thus, the attacker succeeds in exploiting the Web application’s CSRF vulnerability.
To defeat a CSRF attack, applications need a way to determine if the HTTP request is legitimately generated via the application’s user interface. The best way to achieve this is through a CSRF token. A CSRF token is a secure random token (e.g., synchronizer token or challenge token) that is used to prevent CSRF attacks. The token needs to be unique per user session and should be of large random value to make it difficult to guess.
A CSRF secure application assigns a unique CSRF token for every user session. These tokens are inserted within hidden parameters of HTML forms related to critical server-side operations. They are then sent to client browsers.
It is the application team’s responsibility to identify which server-side operations are sensitive in nature. The CSRF tokens must be a part of the HTML form—not stored in session cookies. The easiest way to add a non-predictable parameter is to use a secure hash function (e.g., SHA-2) to hash the user’s session ID. To ensure randomness, the tokens must be generated by a cryptographically secure random number generator.
Whenever a user invokes these critical operations, a request generated by the browser must include the associated CSRF token. This will be used by the application server to verify the legitimacy of the end-user request. The application server rejects the request if the CSRF token fails to match the test.
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