[Esapi-user] ESAPI Random Number Generation Broken

Bruno Girin bruno at energydeck.com
Tue Jun 24 20:16:24 UTC 2014

Hi all,

Apologies for going completely silent after having promised to look into
this. Real life caught up with me. That said I will be in Cambridge
tomorrow and Thursday and would be keen to talk about the future (or lack
thereof) of ESAPI if anybody is interested.



*Bruno Girin*, CTO, EnergyDeck Ltd
Email: bruno at energydeck.com, Mobile: +44 7990 545 927, Direct: +44 20 3021
Web: www.energydeck.com, Twitter: @EnergyDeck
Address: Level 4, 17-19 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5BL, UK

On 11 April 2014 02:58, Jim Manico <jim.manico at owasp.org> wrote:

> I think this is a code error, not a documentation error. Our random string
> generator, which effects CSRF tokens, has poor randomness now reported by
> two folks, in addition to several that noted it off list.
> But I think Jeff's concearn about Burb is totally fair, I hope we are
> wrong and that it's only Burp that is in error, but I doubt it. A bunch of
> bits are bytes.
> More on the Burp's random sequencer tester here
> http://portswigger.net/burp/sequencer.html and here
> http://www.securityninja.co.uk/application-security/burp-
> suite-tutorial-sequencer-tool/ - These are at least FIPS compliant tests
> (and more), and FIPS demands 20,000 samples to test, which was in line with
> Mr. Rooks tests.
> Kevin, can you toss us your test code when you have a chance?
> Aloha,
> Jim
> On 4/10/14, 12:33 AM, Jeff Williams wrote:
>> Since most calls like this in Java are exclusive, we should just change
>> the documentation.
>> On the bigger issue, the Burp tool is based on the NIST test suite right?
>> I grabbed a copy from NIST and ran a bunch of tests.  The first thing is
>> that you have to be very careful generating the file to make sure you don't
>> accidentally write two byte characters.  So I'd like to see the real code
>> you are using to generate tests.
>> Second, my understanding is that the Burp tests work on bitstreams, not
>> bytes.  If you just looked at bits, you would see a very obvious pattern in
>> ESAPI random strings using APLHANUMERIC.  The top and bottom few bits of
>> each byte would always be zero.  From Burp's point of view the bits don't
>> appear random at all causing the test to fail.
>> Could that explain the results?  I tried a test with ESAPI's
>> getRandomString and a charset of all characters (0-255) and got passing
>> results, although I want to confirm further.
>> --Jeff
>>  On Apr 9, 2014, at 8:58 PM, "Kevin W. Wall" <kevin.w.wall at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>> A more thorough reply, now that I'm at a REAL keyboard. :)
>>> On Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 6:45 PM, Bruno Girin <bruno at energydeck.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> I had a look at the code and I am slightly confused with regards to the
>>>> root
>>>> problem so Jim if you could send me the original email from David Rook,
>>>> it
>>>> would be very useful as it would give me a bit of context.
>>>> Now for the things I found out by trying to break down the problem in
>>>> individual pieces.
>>>> #1 Bug 217 - getRandomInteger(1, 2) always returns 1
>>>> This is because the [Secure]Random.nextInt(n) method returns a number
>>>> from 0
>>>> (inclusive) to n (exclusive) and the DefaultRandomizer implementation
>>>> doesn't take that into account. So as suggested in the bug report,
>>>> there are
>>>> two ways to do this: either fix the code or fix the documentation. I
>>>> can do
>>>> either.
>>> Hmmm... my gut tells me that people who have actually used this
>>> are more likely using it as  getRandomInteger(1, N) where N is
>>> larger than 2; e.g., N = 1000, and that they have never noticed it.
>>> So I guess my own preference would be to fix it to match the existing
>>> documentation, which is most people's expectations. (Hopefully,
>>> there are not that many people using it who have begin to adjust
>>> for its bugs. But that's something that we should note in the release
>>> notes.
>>>  This is unrelated to the 2 points below as getRandomString doesn't use
>>>> getRandomInteger.
>>> Good thing, eh? ;)
>>>  #2 getRandomString(int length, char[] characterSet) potentially skewed
>>>> At the moment, this method creates the string one character at a time by
>>>> selecting a character at random in the characterSet array. So in the
>>>> case of
>>>> the current implementation of CSRF tokens, it calls
>>>> secureRandom.nextInt(62)
>>>> 8 times.
>>>> Kevin, your suggested implementation does this instead:
>>>>     byte[] nonce = new byte[ n ];
>>>>     secureRandom.nextBytes(nonce);
>>>>     StringBuilder result = new StringBuilder(length);
>>>>     for( int i = 0; i < nonce.length; i++ ) {
>>>>         char c = characterSet[ Math.abs( (nonce[i] %
>>>> characterSet.length) )
>>>> ];
>>>>         result.append( c );
>>>>     }
>>>>     return result.toString();
>>>> So instead of calling secureRandom.nextInt(characterSet.length) to
>>>> avoid a
>>>> potential bias, we call secureRandom.nextBytes(). So far so good.
>>>> However,
>>>> this code introduces a bias in the loop through the modulo operator:
>>>> nonce[i] % characterSet.length
>>>> Assuming secureRandom.nextBytes() is not biased, the bytes in the nonce
>>>> will
>>>> be evenly distributed between -128 and 127. Taking a modulo of those
>>>> bytes
>>>> will therefore introduce bias if characterSet.length is not a power of
>>>> 2.
>>> Right; this is where I earlier wrote
>>>    Regarding your #2... another reason I bumped it to 64 chars in the
>>> char set. 64 == 2**6
>>> I couldn't figure out how to (easily) map it to a uniform distribution
>>> w/out some
>>> complicated smoothing, so I figured 64 would work. Unfortunately, it
>>> breaks backward
>>> compatibility by adding to additional characters so if someone has a
>>> regex matcher
>>> against (say) CSRF tokens that looks something like this:
>>>         [A-Za-z0-9]{8}
>>> it would fail to match all possibilities because of the '_' and '.'
>>> characters that
>>> I added.
>>> However, unlike base64 encoding, this encoding gives you the exact #
>>> of characters
>>> you request. That coupled with the fact that the '/', '+', and '='
>>> that are used in
>>> base64 encoding are not safe for URLs, that might be an advantage.
>>>  So all this to say that I'm really not sure we can make getRandomString
>>>> un-biased in the general case.
>>> I agree. I suppose in theory we could do it, since it is should be
>>> statistically
>>> possible (although some bias may remain; see the Javadoc for
>>> Random.nextInt() for instance), but practically speaking, I think it
>>> would way over complicate things. And if we had it wrong when it
>>> was relatively simple, my confidence in getting it correct when it
>>> was unduly complicated plummets close to zero. (Bruno: No intent
>>> to disparage your coding abilities it is what it is and we all know
>>> that complexity is an enemy of security.)
>>>  #3 CSRF tokens
>>>> Those have a number of problems as identified by Kevin: irrespective of
>>>> bias, an 8 character string with each character taken out of a set of
>>>> 62 has
>>>> limited entropy. The only way to fix that is in DefaultUser rather than
>>>> DefaultRandomizer so shall I create a new User implementation that
>>>> returns
>>>> longer CSRF tokens using a variation on base 64 encoding using '_' and
>>>> '.'?
>>> Dang. No, don't do that. Just change the DefaultUser to use a (new)
>>> property
>>> from ESAPI.properties file. (It never really should have been hard coded
>>> as '8'
>>> to start with.)  I think of CSRF tokens as being more associated with
>>> authenticators--maybe just because they are a secondary cryptographic
>>> token--but maybe something like
>>>     # Set this to 8 to make it backward compatible with the insecure
>>> setting in ESAPI 2.1.0 and earlier
>>>     Authenticator.CSRF.tokenlength=20
>>> You will have to also tweak SecurityConfigurator and
>>> DefaultSecurityConfigurator classes
>>> to add something to retrieve that property, and then call it from
>>> DefaultUser.resetCSRFToken.
>>> But I'd prefer that over forking DefaultUser. Doing that means that we
>>> have to have a
>>> way to define the user class of choice in ESAPI.properties (not
>>> present today). Seems
>>> like a lot of work for little return IMHO.
>>> I really appreciate your helping out with this. Thanks so much!
>>> -kevin
>>> --
>>> Blog: http://off-the-wall-security.blogspot.com/
>>> NSA: All your crypto bit are belong to us.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Esapi-user mailing list
>>> Esapi-user at lists.owasp.org
>>> https://lists.owasp.org/mailman/listinfo/esapi-user
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.owasp.org/pipermail/esapi-user/attachments/20140624/a703cf2c/attachment.html>

More information about the Esapi-user mailing list