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XSS Vulnerability Shows How Security Issues Can Creep into Popular Software

After some testing work against the latest releases of two popular applications, Vanilla Forum 2.1.1 and Piwik 2.5.0, I found out that both suffer from cross site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities caused by a lack of input validation. As a consequence, thousands of live websites using these applications are exposed to XSS attacks due to the wide usage of these two open source web applications.

How Were These Vulnerabilities Introduced in the Application?

When tracking the roadmap of Vanilla Forums, I was surprised that Vanilla Forums developers were actually using a filter to remove dangerous characters from the user-supplied value of parameter DeliveryType in the previous Vanilla 2.0 version (tested with Vanilla 2.0 version).  I could not figure out the reason for removing the filter, but I assume it was accidental. When it comes to Piwik, the vulnerabilities were introduced when a new function was added into Piwik since Piwik 2.2.0 was release on April 7, 2014. When the new function was implemented, no security method was adopted to remove potential security threats. Just give another peek at the roadmap of the security report of Piwik, and you will find that there is a long history of fighting against XSS in this application. But it was hard to eliminate this kind of vulnerability completely because there are always new features added. Same thing happens to Vanilla Forums. A lot of vulnerabilities have been reported and fixed in the past several years if you check the CVE List. However, Vanilla is still suffering from XSS vulnerabilities that were actually eliminated in the previous version. These two examples are not going to conclude that new version is worse than an older version from a security perspective. But it should make you keep in mind that it is very likely that risks of security threats are growing with new features or changes in your web applications due to neglect or lack of security background when the changes or features are implemented in your applications.

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