When you realize you're doing threat modeling

Yesterday I was in a meeting for an appsec activity about a legacy PHP web application. In front of my a couple of experienced developers with an in-deep knowledge of their code and their architecture (and sometimes this is the good news of the day).

In a friendly way we started enumerating possible web application access scenario, through VPN or via servers in segregated LANs.

We started a great threat modeling jam session.

When starting an application security activity over a web application you can for sure start by trying to break the code or the system it was running it.

If you want to act like a pro you may want to start engaging developers and architects asking them to tell you about their code, how users they will interact, which protocols will they use.

The key concept here is the you must enumerate all the possible entry points in your web application in order to evaluate where a possible attacker can coming from. This is true also for Internet exposed web applications, in this case other than the web you must enumerate all possible service doors an attacker can use to break your system.

After that you must ensure that communication protocols are consistent and robust. You must ask confirmation about cryptography to be used for logon pages and you must ask details about who enrolled the digital certificate, if it is self signed, signed by an internal CA for intranet apps or if it is enrolled by a trusted certification authority.

Hint: you may want to use ciphersurfer to check your website for SSL robustness. A score of B is the low level bound for a production server.

It’s really important that if your web application exposes some APIs you enumerate all the services, with the parameters and their value and the HTTP verb you must use to invoke them. The idea is that with this information you can start testing for unexpected conditions making sure the APIs is robust and consistent and that it gracefully manage errors or out of bounds parameters.

You must enumerate all the possible entry points in your web application in order to evaluate where a possible attacker can coming from.

In yesterday’s scenario it was clear after the informal meetup that some of the tests I had in mind were completely pointless and instead I discovered new possible attack scenarios I won’t be aware of without this session.

Of course good threat modeling works if the developers and the architectures in front of view are skilled enough to help you in looking at the whole picture and sometimes this is not true.

For a more structured and formal Threat modeling session you may want to look at the OpenSAMM project.

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