A survey of crossdomain.xml vulnerabilities

Vulnerable crossdomain.xml files can be used by malicious people to run CSRF attacks if the victim has Flash installed on their computer. In response to a post by chs on crossdomain.xml proofs of concept and Seth Art’s real-world exploit of Bing using crossdomain.xml, I created an application in Ruby which parses the Alexa top million site list (CSV, 10MB) and scans for vulnerable crossdomain.xml files. Vulnerable here is defined as a crossdomain.xml file which permits connections from any domain name (*). It sorts the domains into four categories:

  • Unable to connect: Ruby was unable to establish a connection to the website. Interestingly enough, a significant portion of Alexa’s top million sites were inaccessible during this survey.
  • Invalid or 404: Returned 404 or the returned XML was not valid.
  • Secure: The XML returned does not contain a reference to allow-access-from domain=”*”. This does not necessarily mean that the whole crossdomain.xml file is secure, just that it is not vulnerable to the most basic of CSRF exploits.
  • Permissive: The XML returned from a GET to /crossdomain.xml does allow access from any domain.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

The Code

I chose Ruby for this project because it has good XML processing libraries, is reasonably fast, and because I needed an excuse to practice Ruby.

require 'net/http'
require 'rexml/document'
include REXML
require 'csv'

counters = {
	'unconnect'   => 0,
	'invalid-404' => 0,
	'permissive'  => 0,
	'secure'      => 0,
	'total-count' => 0

trap 'SIGINT' do
	print counters.inspect
	exit 130

permissive ='permissive.csv','wb')

CSV.foreach('top-1m.csv') do |row|
	counters['total-count'] += 1
	print "\n"+'Getting '+row[1]+'... '
		xd = Net::HTTP.get(row[1], '/crossdomain.xml')
		counters['unconnect'] += 1
		print 'unable to connect'
		xd =
		counters['invalid-404'] += 1
		print 'invalid xml'
	wildcard_access = false
	XPath.each(xd,'//allow-access-from') do |access|
		next unless access.attributes['domain'] == '*' # <allow-access-from domain="*">

		wildcard_access = true
		counters['permissive'] += 1
		print 'permissive'
		permissive << row
	unless wildcard_access
		counters['secure'] += 1
		print 'secure'

print counters.inspect

The Results

After 160,169 websites were inspected over the course of a few days, the script hung.

  • 3,535 (2.2%) of the websites were down at the time of the scan.
  • 84,883 (53%) of the websites had invalid or non-existent XML files at /crossdomain.xml.
  • 67,097 (41.9%) of the websites surveyed had a “secure” crossdomain.xml file.
  • 4,653 (2.9%) of the websites surveyed had insecure crossdomain.xml files.

A wildcard crossdomain.xml file is fine for certain websites, but a quick scan of the results reveals a number of banks, bitcoin websites, and popular entertainment sites (9gag and Vimeo included) with poor crossdomain.xml files. The results as a CSV with columns corresponding to the Alexa rank and the domain name.

Although a full scan of the Alexa top million was not completed, an alarmingly large number of sites have overly permissive and insecure crossdomain.xml files.


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