Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is an attack that forces an end user to execute unwanted actions on a web application in which they're currently authenticated. CSRF attacks specifically target state-changing requests, not theft of data, since the attacker has no way to see the response to the forged request. With a little help of social engineering (such as sending a link via email or chat), an attacker may trick the users of a web application into executing actions of the attacker's choosing. If the victim is a normal user, a successful CSRF attack can force the user to perform state changing requests like transferring funds, changing their email address, and so forth. If the victim is an administrative account, CSRF can compromise the entire web application.

CSRF is an attack that tricks the victim into submitting a malicious request. It inherits the identity and privileges of the victim to perform an undesired function on the victim's behalf. For most sites, browser requests automatically include any credentials associated with the site, such as the user's session cookie, IP address, Windows domain credentials, and so forth. 

There are numerous ways in which an end user can be tricked into loading information from or submitting information to a web application. In order to execute an attack, we must first understand how to generate a valid malicious request for our victim to execute. Let us consider the following example: Alice wishes to transfer $100 to Bob using the web application that is vulnerable to CSRF. Maria, an attacker, wants to trick Alice into sending the money to her instead. The attack will comprise the following steps:

  • Building an exploit URL or script
  • Tricking Alice into executing the action with social engineering

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