[Owasp-modsecurity-core-rule-set] Some XSS evasions posted (and some thoughts why ModSec Core Rules users were hit on day 0)

Christian Folini christian.folini at time-machine.ch
Fri Sep 18 12:06:51 UTC 2015

Chaim, Ryan,

Thank you for your extensive and informative responses.

It goes without saying, that juggling that many plates
as you guys are doing will bring shifting priorities
and areas which are neglected. This is natural and we
are all only humans.

Your message reminded me of a business meeting I had
on Tuesday, where the bottleneck of a given process
stated he and his team were so buried in work, they
did not have the ressources to prepare tasks for us
to help them.

I get the same feeling with ModSecurity at times. Your
argumentation makes perfect sense, yet things look a
bit different from the user perspective. Forgive me for
pointing these issues out. It's really not meant as an
offence. It's more an attempt to help you understand
why people like me stand at the sidelines, suffering from
a bad conscience for not supporting you as you deserve.
Meanwhile you fight a lonely battle feeling lost with
all the tickets and requests.

So Trustwave is in a similar position as Breach 
or Ivan Ristić on his own before. Ivan used to blame
it on him picking the GPL license while you guys
shifted to the Apache Licence. But this did not really
change the situation.

Yes, it's Apache Licenced and Trustwave only has the
trademark. But in fact there is a fat Copyright
by Trustwave in all the files I checked for this message.


So Trustwave does commercial support and commercial rules
and it claims the copyright. I do commercial ModSecurity
support and I write rules for a living. So working on
a project where somebody else claims the copyright makes
me feel a bit uneasy.

The Core Rules Project has been transferred to OWASP, which
I think has been a good move. Unfortunately, it did not
bring a vibrant community around it. Attempts to
document existing rules faltered quickly. 
Again, it seems to me the that the core rules are still
very much meant to be a Trustwave / SpiderLabs thing.
Rightly so, you do almost all of the work, but it gives
an exclusive feeling to the community and by exclusive
I mean without us.

But there is a 2nd issue, which I think is very difficult
with pull requests. These are heavily optimised regexes.

Honestly, I am in no position to submit a pull request
to update something like this:

Disassembling it and trying to understand it, would take
me the better part of an hour and I lack the deep
knowledge of the real world http traffic (Honey Pot Project!)
to tell legitimate from attack traffic.

It looks like the 3.0.0 ruleset would be easier to read/understand.
But without a more detailed description of what a given
rule does and how it means to achieve this, it is very hard
to contribute.

In fact I have a few items, which I thought to contribute
to the core rule for some time now. But then life hit me
and I postponed it again and again.

A lot of information is in fact available, but it is spread
over too many sites. Some interlinked, some not. What I
think is missing are the classic contribution / todo
files what accompany other open source projects. There
is developer info on www.modsecurity.org, but it is not
very inviting, I think (and I think it should be) and
there is nothing to be read about the plans Chaim explained
in his message.

I had my doubts if Apache was still a first class platform
for ModSecurity and now I read for the first time black on
white that nginx is now the first class passenger. But that's
only a sidenote to underline the point, that it is very hard
to support you, if we do not know where the train is supposed
to be heading.

Other things just do not seem to work. There are issues and
patches which go unacknowledged. Requests for explanations
or more documentation are sent in vain:

I mean I am a very weak coder and it takes me ages to
nail down an issue. Taking me by the hand and leading me
to the next bug to tackle could actually encourage
me to invest more time. Ignoring a pull request on the
other hand is disappointing.

But as I said, this is not meant to be a fingerpointing message. You
listed all your tasks and duties and responding to a pull request,
nobody else from the community seems to be interested in, does not have
top priority. Given your tasklist, it is beyond imagination to fulfill
all the demands from all sides.  I understand that. It's just not going
to change the situation of you fighting a lonely battle.

There is this video about the leadership lessons of the
dancing guy. Give it a shot if you do not know it. Especially
the comment of the sociologist are right to the point:

@Chaim: Your announcement of a regular message about the
state and the direction of ModSec would be much appreciated.

Me getting involved with certain aspects and sites, could be
an option. What do you have in mind?

Thank you for all your good work. It is much appreciated. So
much, I built a living around Apache and ModSecurity. I no
longer attend international conferences, but I still do many
local talks about successful ModSecurity installations and
I am still thrilled, whenever I get to write cool new rules
(like yesterday, where I was able to create something
really neat). This all would not be possible without you
sitting down and working on ModSecurity every day.



It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to
take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its
success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of
--- Niccolò Machiavelli

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