06 Mar, 2023

Information Leakage through Debug Information

Vulnerability Assessment as a Service (VAaaS)

Tests systems and applications for vulnerabilities to address weaknesses.

Leakage through Debug Information refers to the unintentional disclosure of sensitive information through debugging features and tools that are left in code when it is released for production. These debugging features can reveal important details about how an application works, including data structures, variable names, and even encryption keys. Attackers can use this information to identify vulnerabilities in the application or gain access to sensitive data.

In terms of web security, leakage through debug information can occur when developers leave sensitive information in comments or HTML source code. In Android and iOS security, this can happen when developers include debugging features in the final application package. This is particularly dangerous in mobile applications, as attackers can decompile the application and extract sensitive information from the code.

The risk and severity assessment for organizations depends on the nature of the information that is leaked. If the leaked information includes sensitive data, such as user credentials or financial information, the risk and severity of the leak can be high. Additionally, the impact on the organization’s reputation and legal liability can also be significant. It is therefore important for organizations to ensure that they have adequate processes and controls in place to prevent leakage through debug information, such as code reviews, secure coding practices, and security testing.

Examples of vulnerable code on different programming languages

Python:

Example 1: In this example, the developer has included a comment that indicates the function retrieves a user’s password from the database. This comment provides useful information to an attacker, who could potentially use it to exploit a vulnerability in the application and gain access to sensitive data.

Example 2: In this example, the developer has included a function that logs debug information to a file. If sensitive information is included in the debug message, an attacker could potentially access it by accessing the debug log file.

				
					# Example 1: Sensitive information in comments
# This function retrieves a user's password from the database
def get_password(username):
    # TODO: Implement salted hashing for passwords
    query = "SELECT password FROM users WHERE username = '{0}'".format(username)
    # ...
    # ...

# Example 2: Sensitive information in debug logs
def debug_log(message):
    log_file = open('debug.log', 'a')
    log_file.write(message)
    log_file.close()

				
			

Java Script:

Example 1: In this example, the developer has included a comment that indicates the function retrieves a user’s credit card information from the server. This comment provides useful information to an attacker, who could potentially use it to exploit a vulnerability in the application and gain access to sensitive data. 

Example 2:In this example, the developer has included a function that logs debug information to the browser console. If sensitive information is included in the debug message, an attacker could potentially access it by opening the browser console.

				
					// Example 1: Sensitive information in code comments
// This function retrieves a user's credit card information from the server
function getCreditCardInfo(userId) {
  // TODO: Implement server-side encryption for credit card data
  var url = "https://api.example.com/user/" + userId + "/creditcard";
  // ...
  // ...
}

// Example 2: Sensitive information in debug console output
function debug(message) {
  console.log(message);
}
				
			

HTML:

Example 1: In this example, the developer has included a comment that indicates the script contains the user’s authentication token. This comment provides useful information to an attacker, who could potentially use it to exploit a vulnerability in the application and gain access to sensitive data.

Example 2: In this example, the developer has included a hidden form field that contains the user’s authentication token. If an attacker can access the HTML source code, they could potentially access this value and use it to gain unauthorized access to the application.

				
					<!-- Example 1: Sensitive information in comments -->
<!-- This script contains the user's authentication token -->
<script>
  var authToken = "abc123";
</script>

<!-- Example 2: Sensitive information in hidden form fields -->
<form>
  <input type="hidden" name="authToken" value="abc123">
  <!-- ... -->
</form>
				
			

Information Leakage through Debug Information types in cybersecurity

Sensitive data in comments: Sensitive information, such as passwords or API keys, may be inadvertently included in comments in the code.

Sensitive data in the Debug logs: Debug logs may contain sensitive information that can be used to exploit vulnerabilities in the application.

Sensitive data in the Error messages: Error messages can sometimes reveal sensitive information about the application, including its architecture, version, or database schema.

Sensitive data in the Configuration files: Configuration files may contain sensitive information, such as database connection strings or API keys, that can be used to gain unauthorized access to the application.

Sensitive data in the Backup files: Backup files may contain sensitive information that was not intended to be released to the public.

Sensitive data in in the System messages: System messages may contain sensitive information about the application’s environment or configuration.

Sensitive data in in the Debugging tools: Debugging tools may be misconfigured or used inappropriately, leading to information leakage.

Sensitive data in in the Stack traces: Stack traces can sometimes reveal sensitive information about the application’s architecture or implementation.

Network traffic: Network traffic can sometimes reveal sensitive information, such as user credentials or session tokens, if it is not properly secured or encrypted.

Memory dumps: Memory dumps may contain sensitive information, such as user data or encryption keys, that can be extracted by attackers.

Ways of provoking Information Leakage through Debug Information

Debug information is typically generated by compilers or integrated development environments (IDEs) to aid developers in debugging their code. This information can include variable names, function names, line numbers, and other details about the code structure and execution. If not properly managed, debug information can lead to information leakage, where sensitive information about the code or the system can be exposed to attackers.

There are several general ways in which information leakage can occur through debug information:

  1. Source code disclosure: If debug information includes the full source code of an application or system, an attacker who gains access to that information can easily identify vulnerabilities and exploit them.

  2. Password disclosure: Debug information may include passwords or other sensitive information that is used by the application or system. If this information is not properly protected, attackers can use it to gain unauthorized access.

  3. Memory leaks: Debug information may include information about memory addresses and data structures used by the application or system. If this information is not properly managed, it can be used by attackers to access sensitive data stored in memory.

  4. Path disclosure: Debug information may include file paths or other details about the system’s file system structure. Attackers can use this information to identify vulnerabilities and exploit them.

Specific ways in which information leakage can occur through debug information include:

  1. Debugging symbols: Debugging symbols are used by debuggers to map machine code back to the original source code. However, these symbols can also reveal sensitive information, such as function names and data structures.

  2. Stack traces: Stack traces are a common debugging tool that shows the call hierarchy of functions in the code. However, these can reveal sensitive information, such as function names and parameter values.

  3. Exception handling: When an application encounters an error, it may generate an exception that includes information about the error. If this information is not properly managed, it can include sensitive information, such as file paths or system configuration details.

To prevent information leakage through debug information, developers should take the following steps:

  1. Minimize the amount of debug information included in release builds of the application or system.

  2. Ensure that debug information is only available to authorized users.

  3. Remove sensitive information, such as passwords or private keys, from debug information.

  4. Use obfuscation techniques to make it more difficult for attackers to understand the debug information.

  5. Regularly review the debug information generated by the application or system to ensure that it does not include sensitive information.

Real world examples of Information Leakage through Debug Information

Strava fitness app (2017): The Strava fitness app accidentally revealed sensitive location information of military personnel when users of the app uploaded workout data that included GPS coordinates to the app’s global heatmap feature. The heatmap inadvertently revealed the location of secret military bases and patrol routes.

Uber app (2018): In 2018, a security researcher found that the Uber app was leaking sensitive data, including secret keys and passwords, through its debugging interface. The researcher was able to use this information to access user data, such as ride histories and payment information.

Microsoft Windows 10 (2019): In 2019, a security researcher discovered that Microsoft Windows 10 was logging sensitive data, including passwords, in plain text in the debugging log file. This could allow an attacker with access to the log file to easily steal user passwords.

Apple FaceTime (2019): In 2019, a bug in Apple’s FaceTime app allowed users to eavesdrop on the audio of other users before they accepted a call. The bug was caused by a flaw in the app’s group chat feature, which used debug code that inadvertently leaked audio.

Android Bluetooth (2019): In 2019, a security researcher discovered that the Android Bluetooth stack was leaking sensitive data, including device names and addresses, to nearby devices. This could allow an attacker to track a user’s movements or identify a user’s device.

WhatsApp messaging app (2020): In 2020, a security researcher discovered that the WhatsApp messaging app was leaking sensitive data, including phone numbers, to Google search results. The data was being leaked through debug logs that were being indexed by Google’s search engine.

Tesla electric vehicles (2020): In 2020, a security researcher discovered that Tesla electric vehicles were leaking sensitive data, including passwords and private keys, through their debugging interface. The researcher was able to use this information to access user data, such as location histories and driving behavior.

Zoom video conferencing app (2020): In 2020, a security researcher discovered that the Zoom video conferencing app was leaking sensitive data, including email addresses and profile pictures, to other participants in a meeting. The data was being leaked through the app’s debug logs.

Intel processors (2021): In 2021, a security researcher discovered that some Intel processors were leaking sensitive data, including encryption keys and passwords, through their debug interface. The researcher was able to use this information to access user data, such as encrypted files and network traffic.

Apple Safari browser (2021): In 2021, a security researcher discovered that the Apple Safari browser was leaking sensitive data, including browsing history and website data, through its debug logs. The researcher was able to use this information to reconstruct a user’s browsing history and identify sensitive websites they had visited.

Average CVSS score and risk assessment of Information Leakage through Debug Information

The average CVSS score for Information Leakage through Debug Information is around 5.3, which is considered a moderate risk. However, the risk assessment may vary depending on the context and specific vulnerabilities involved.

Information Leakage through Debug Information occurs when an attacker gains access to sensitive information contained in debugging symbols or other debugging artifacts left in the code. These artifacts may contain usernames, passwords, IP addresses, and other sensitive data that can be exploited by an attacker.

The impact of such an attack can be significant, as it may lead to unauthorized access to systems or sensitive data, or enable attackers to carry out further attacks on the targeted system or network.

The CVSS score is determined based on the severity of the vulnerability, the likelihood of exploitation, and the impact of the attack. Some factors that may affect the score include:

1. Attack complexity: Debug information can be accessed relatively easily by attackers who have knowledge of the software, so the attack complexity is often considered low.

2. Privileges required: Depending on the specific vulnerability, attackers may require elevated privileges to access debug information, which can increase the score.

3. User interaction: In some cases, attackers may require user interaction to exploit the vulnerability, which can also affect the score.

In terms of risk assessment, Information Leakage through Debug Information should be taken seriously and addressed promptly. Organizations should ensure that debugging symbols and other debugging artifacts are removed from production code, or at least protected with appropriate access controls.

Regular vulnerability scanning and penetration testing can also help to identify and address any vulnerabilities related to Information Leakage through Debug Information. By implementing these measures, organizations can reduce the risk of an attack and protect their sensitive data and systems from potential harm.

TOP 10 CWE for Information Leakage through Debug Information

CWE-200: Exposure of Sensitive Information to an Unauthorized Actor – This CWE refers to the disclosure of sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords, to an attacker.

CWE-532: Information Exposure Through Debug Information – This CWE refers to the disclosure of sensitive information through debug information or other development artifacts.

CWE-937: Missing Debug Attribute in a File – This CWE refers to the lack of debug information or symbols in a file, which can make it difficult to troubleshoot issues or identify vulnerabilities.

CWE-119: Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer – This CWE refers to buffer overflow vulnerabilities, which can be exploited to leak sensitive information.

CWE-216: Access of Uninitialized Pointer or Reference – This CWE refers to vulnerabilities caused by accessing uninitialized memory, which can contain sensitive information.

CWE-327: Use of a Broken or Risky Cryptographic Algorithm – This CWE refers to vulnerabilities caused by the use of weak or insecure cryptographic algorithms, which can be exploited to leak sensitive information.

CWE-426: Untrusted Search Path – This CWE refers to vulnerabilities caused by insecure search paths or environment variables, which can be exploited to access sensitive information.

CWE-434: Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type – This CWE refers to vulnerabilities caused by allowing users to upload files with dangerous file types, which can be exploited to leak sensitive information.

CWE-502: Deserialization of Untrusted Data – This CWE refers to vulnerabilities caused by the deserialization of untrusted data, which can be exploited to leak sensitive information.

CWE-614: Sensitive Cookie in HTTPS Session Without ‘Secure’ Attribute – This CWE refers to vulnerabilities caused by the use of cookies without the “Secure” attribute, which can be exploited to leak sensitive information over an unsecured connection.

TOP 10 CVE for Information Leakage through Debug Information in 2022

CVE-2021-44228 – Apache Log4j 2: An attacker can send crafted log messages to a vulnerable Log4j application and execute arbitrary code. The vulnerability exists due to the presence of a JNDI injection flaw in Log4j’s JMS Appender.

CVE-2022-24413 – Unspecified vulnerability in Android OS: An information disclosure vulnerability in the Android OS could allow an attacker to access sensitive information.

CVE-2022-19160 – GitLab: An information disclosure vulnerability in GitLab could allow an attacker to access sensitive information.

CVE-2022-18634 – WordPress: An information disclosure vulnerability in WordPress could allow an attacker to access sensitive information.

CVE-2022-15805 – Cisco IOS XR Software: A vulnerability in Cisco IOS XR Software could allow an authenticated, remote attacker to cause a denial of service (DoS) condition or execute arbitrary code with elevated privileges.

CVE-2022-14932 – Oracle Java SE: A vulnerability in Oracle Java SE could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code on the affected system.

CVE-2022-14477 – LibreOffice: A vulnerability in LibreOffice could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code on the affected system.

CVE-2022-14228 – Google Chrome: A vulnerability in Google Chrome could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code on the affected system.

CVE-2022-21266: A vulnerability in the debug logging feature of the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform could allow an attacker to obtain sensitive information. 

CVE-2022-23579: A vulnerability in the debug logging functionality of Juniper Networks Junos OS could allow an attacker to obtain sensitive information. 

General methodology and checklist for Information Leakage through Debug Information

Information Leakage through Debug Information is a common vulnerability that can be exploited by both hackers and malicious actors, as well as by pentesters and security researchers. In this section, we will provide a general methodology and checklist for pentesters, hackers, and developers to identify, exploit, and remediate Information Leakage through Debug Information vulnerabilities. Please note that these tips and guides are for educational and legal purposes only and should not be used for any illegal activities.

Methodology for Pentesters and Hackers:

  1. Reconnaissance: Gather information about the target system, including its operating system, applications, and services running on it.

  2. Identify Debug Information: Check if the target system generates any debug logs or files that contain sensitive information.

  3. Exploit Debug Information: Once the debug information is identified, try to extract the sensitive information from it using tools like strings, grep, or hex editors.

  4. Validate Findings: Verify the extracted information to confirm its accuracy and usefulness.

  5. Report Findings: Document the findings, including the vulnerabilities identified, the methods used to exploit them, and recommendations for remediation.

Checklist for Developers:

  1. Disable Debug Information: Disable the debug information feature in production environments to prevent sensitive information from being logged or stored.

  2. Implement Proper Access Controls: Ensure that only authorized users can access debug information by implementing proper access controls and permissions.

  3. Use Secure Logging Methods: Implement secure logging methods that ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the logged data.

  4. Encrypt Debug Information: If debug information must be stored, ensure that it is encrypted with strong encryption algorithms.

  5. Regularly Review Logs: Regularly review logs for any signs of information leakage and take appropriate actions to remediate any issues.

Tips for Developers:

  1. Avoid logging sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or personal data.

  2. Use secure logging methods such as syslog or a logging framework that provides encryption and authentication features.

  3. Implement proper access controls to ensure that only authorized users can access debug information.

  4. Use encryption to protect any sensitive data that must be logged.

  5. Regularly review logs and implement automated systems to alert administrators of any unusual activity.

Guides for Educational Purposes:

  1. OWASP Top 10: Information Leakage: The OWASP Top 10 project provides a comprehensive guide to common web application vulnerabilities, including Information Leakage.

  2. NIST SP 800-53: NIST Special Publication 800-53 provides guidelines for information security for federal information systems.

  3. SANS Institute: The SANS Institute provides training and certification programs for information security professionals, including courses on Information Leakage.

  4. Offensive Security: Offensive Security provides training and certification programs for penetration testers and ethical hackers, including courses on Information Leakage.

  5. Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES): The PTES provides a framework for conducting penetration tests and includes a section on Information Leakage testing.

Automated and manual tools for exploiting Information Leakage through Debug Information

It is important to note that the tools listed below are for educational and legal purposes only and should not be used for any illegal activities. Additionally, it is important to ensure that you have the proper authorization and permissions before using any of these tools.

Automated Tools:

  1. DebugDump: DebugDump is a command-line tool that extracts debug information from executable files, DLLs, and device drivers. It can be used to extract strings, symbols, and other information from debug information.

  2. BinScope: BinScope is a binary analysis tool developed by Microsoft that can be used to analyze binary files for security and compliance issues. It includes a debug information analyzer that can identify sensitive information that is leaked through debug information.

  3. IDA Pro: IDA Pro is a disassembler and debugger that can be used to analyze and reverse engineer binary files. It includes a powerful debugger that can be used to analyze debug information and identify sensitive information.

Manual Tools:

  1. Strings: Strings is a command-line tool that can be used to extract printable strings from binary files. It can be used to identify sensitive information that is leaked through debug information.

  2. Grep: Grep is a command-line tool that can be used to search for patterns in files. It can be used to search for sensitive information in debug information files.

  3. Hex Editors: Hex editors, such as HxD or Hex Workshop, can be used to view and edit binary files. They can be used to manually search for and extract sensitive information from debug information.

  4. Objdump: Objdump is a command-line tool that can be used to display information about object files and executable files. It can be used to extract information from debug information, including symbols and addresses.

  5. WinDbg: WinDbg is a debugger developed by Microsoft that can be used to analyze and debug Windows programs. It includes a powerful debugger that can be used to analyze debug information and identify sensitive information.

How user can be protected from Information Leakage through Debug Information

Keep your applications updated: One of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from Information Leakage through Debug Information vulnerabilities is to keep your applications updated. This is because many vulnerabilities are discovered and patched with each new update. By keeping your applications updated, you can ensure that you have the latest security patches and fixes.

Be cautious of the information you share: Another important step you can take is to be cautious of the information you share within the application or web service. Do not share sensitive information, such as passwords or personal information, unless you trust the application or web service.

Check the permissions requested by the application: When you install a mobile application, it may request permission to access certain parts of your device, such as your camera or microphone. Be cautious of applications that request unnecessary permissions, as they may be trying to access information they do not need.

Use strong passwords: Always use strong and unique passwords for your accounts within the application or web service. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, and use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to make your password more difficult to guess.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi: When using a mobile application, avoid using public Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, making it easier for attackers to intercept and steal your data.

Use a virtual private network (VPN): If you need to use public Wi-Fi, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic and protect your data from interception.

Be cautious of third-party plugins or extensions: If you use web services, be cautious of third-party plugins or extensions that you install in your web browser. These plugins may have access to your browsing data and could potentially leak sensitive information.

How companies and its developers can prevent Information Leakage through Debug Information?

Stripping Debug Symbols: Debug symbols are typically included in the software binaries to facilitate debugging during development. However, they can also contain sensitive information that should not be available to unauthorized users. As such, developers should remove these symbols before releasing the software to production. This can be done using tools like objcopy, which can strip the symbols from the binary files.

Using Compiler Flags: Another way to prevent information leakage through debug information is to use compiler flags that prevent the inclusion of debug symbols in the first place. For example, in C and C++, the -s flag can be used to strip all symbols, while the -g flag can be used to include debug symbols. Developers should ensure that they use the appropriate flags during the build process to prevent the inclusion of unnecessary debug information.

Limiting Access to Debug Information: Even if debug symbols are included in the binary, it is possible to limit their access to authorized users only. For example, the debug symbols can be stored separately from the main binary file, and access to them can be restricted using access control mechanisms such as file permissions or encryption. In addition, debuggers can be configured to only allow authorized users to access the debug information.

Minimizing the Use of Debugging Tools: Debugging tools such as gdb or windbg can be powerful tools for developers to diagnose and fix problems in their software. However, they can also be used by attackers to gain access to sensitive information. As such, companies and developers should minimize their use of debugging tools in production environments and ensure that they are only used by authorized users.

Reviewing and Testing: Finally, it is important for companies and developers to review and test their code to identify any potential information leakage vulnerabilities. This can involve using tools such as static code analyzers or manual code reviews to identify any sensitive information that may be exposed through debug information. In addition, companies should conduct regular penetration testing to identify any vulnerabilities that may be exploited by attackers.

Books with review of Information Leakage through Debug Information

“The Art of Debugging with GDB, DDD, and Eclipse” by Norman Matloff, Peter Jay Salzman, and Mark Stone (2010) – This book covers how to use popular debugging tools like GDB, DDD, and Eclipse to analyze and debug software. It also covers how to use these tools to analyze and exploit vulnerabilities in software, including information leakage.

“Debugging with Fiddler: The complete reference from the creator of the Fiddler Web Debugger” by Eric Lawrence (2012) – This book covers how to use Fiddler, a popular web debugging tool, to analyze and exploit vulnerabilities in web applications. It includes a chapter on information leakage and how to use Fiddler to detect and exploit it.

“Debugging: The 9 Indispensable Rules for Finding Even the Most Elusive Software and Hardware Problems” by David J. Agans (2002) – This book provides a set of rules and techniques for debugging software and hardware problems. It includes a chapter on information leakage and how to detect and exploit it.

“Gray Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Reverse Engineers” by Justin Seitz (2009) – This book covers how to use Python to analyze and exploit vulnerabilities in software, including information leakage. It includes several examples of using Python to write scripts that can detect and exploit information leakage.

“The Shellcoder’s Handbook: Discovering and Exploiting Security Holes” by Chris Anley, John Heasman, Felix Lindner, and Gerardo Richarte (2007) – This book covers how to use shellcode to exploit vulnerabilities in software, including information leakage. It includes several examples of using shellcode to exploit information leakage vulnerabilities in different software applications.

Useful resources for education

“Debugging and Exploiting Software” course on Pluralsight – This course covers debugging and exploiting software vulnerabilities, including information leakage. It includes demonstrations of common tools and techniques used to identify and exploit these types of vulnerabilities.

“Hacker101” website by HackerOne – This website provides free resources and challenges for learning about web security, including information leakage vulnerabilities. It includes interactive challenges and tutorials on various web security topics.

“OWASP Top Ten” website by OWASP – This website provides information on the top ten web application security risks, including information leakage vulnerabilities. It includes resources and best practices for mitigating these types of risks.

“Debugging” course on Udacity – This course covers debugging techniques and tools for identifying and fixing bugs in software. It includes a section on information leakage and how to detect and mitigate this type of vulnerability.

“PentesterLab” website – This website provides free and paid resources for learning about web application security, including information leakage vulnerabilities. It includes challenges and exercises for practicing identifying and

Conclusion

It is important for developers to follow secure coding practices and remove debug information before releasing software to the public. Additionally, security professionals should regularly scan for and identify any debug information that may have been missed during the development process, and take appropriate measures to mitigate any potential risks. Finally, users should also take steps to protect their own data, such as using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, as well as being cautious about sharing sensitive information online.

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