Understanding Insecure Direct Object References
A study by the cybersecurity firm Checkmarx found that IDOR vulnerabilities were present in 21% of the applications they tested. Another study by OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) found that IDOR vulnerabilities were one of the top ten most critical web application security risks.
Given the prevalence of IDOR vulnerabilities and the potential impact of IDOR attacks on an organization’s data security, it is important for organizations to prioritize the detection and prevention of IDOR vulnerabilities and to implement security measures to mitigate the risk of IDOR attacks. This includes conducting regular security assessments, implementing access controls and authorization checks, and educating employees on the risks of IDOR vulnerabilities.
What is insecure direct object reference (IDOR)?
Insecure direct object reference occurs when a software application allows a user to directly access and manipulate a resource or object without proper authorization or validation. This means that an attacker can exploit the vulnerability to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or resources by directly referencing an object or resource that should not be accessible to them.
Common IDOR vulnerabilities
Insecure direct object references (IDOR) pose several risks to a software application and its users. Some of these risks include:
- Unauthorized access: Attackers can exploit IDOR vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive data or resources that they are not authorized to view or manipulate.
- Data manipulation: Attackers can use IDOR to manipulate or delete data, which can result in data loss or corruption.
- Data theft: Attackers can use IDOR to steal sensitive data such as personal information, financial records, or trade secrets.
- Denial of service: Attackers can use IDOR to exhaust system resources by repeatedly accessing or manipulating a specific object or resource, which can result in system crashes or downtime.
- Reputation damage: If a software application is known to have IDOR vulnerabilities, it can damage the reputation of the application and its developers, resulting in loss of trust and credibility among users.
IDOR attack examples
There are a variety of ways attackers may try to exploit IDOR vulnerabilities in a software application. A few examples include:
- Account takeover: An attacker may attempt to perform an IDOR attack by modifying the ID value in the URL to access the account of another user. For instance, if the URL for a user’s profile is “example.com/user/profile/1234”, the attacker may modify the value of 1234 to access the profile of another user, which may contain sensitive information or allow them to take over the account.
- Unauthorized access to data: An attacker may attempt to perform an IDOR attack by manipulating the ID value in the URL to access data that they should not have access to. For example, if the URL for a user’s order history is “example.com/order/history/1234”, an attacker may modify the value of 1234 to access the order history of another user.
- Exploiting hidden fields: An attacker may attempt to perform an IDOR attack by exploiting hidden fields in a web form. For instance, if a web form contains a hidden field for a user ID, an attacker may modify the value of the hidden field to access or manipulate data that they should not have access to.
- Bypassing authorization checks: An attacker may attempt to perform an IDOR attack by bypassing authorization checks to gain access to restricted resources. For example, if an application uses sequential IDs to reference resources, an attacker may be able to guess the ID value of a restricted resource and bypass authorization checks to gain access to it.
IDOR testing best practices
Testing for insecure direct object references (IDOR) involves identifying and testing every object or resource that can be directly referenced or manipulated by a user without proper authorization. Here are some steps to perform an IDOR test:
- Identify all objects or resources: Make a list of all objects or resources that can be directly referenced or manipulated by a user, including URLs, API endpoints, and parameters.
- Attempt to access restricted resources: Attempt to access resources that a user should not be able to access. This can include modifying parameters in a URL or API endpoint to access restricted resources.
- Attempt to manipulate data: Attempt to manipulate data by modifying parameters in a URL or API endpoint to access and modify data that should not be accessible or modifiable.
- Verify authorization: Verify that all objects or resources require proper authorization before being accessed or manipulated by a user.
- Review code: Review the code to ensure that objects or resources are properly validated and authorized before being accessed or manipulated.
- Repeat testing: Repeat testing for all objects or resources to ensure that no IDOR vulnerabilities are missed.
- Document and report: Document any vulnerabilities found and report them to the development team for remediation.
Depending on the jurisdiction, IDOR attacks may fall under various legal categories, such as computer fraud, unauthorized access, or theft of trade secrets.
In the United States, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a federal law that criminalizes various forms of computer-related fraud and hacking, including unauthorized access to computer systems and networks. Under the CFAA, IDOR attacks may be considered a form of unauthorized access, which can result in fines and imprisonment.
In addition to federal laws, many states and countries have their own laws and regulations that govern cybercrime and data privacy. For instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union imposes strict data protection and privacy regulations and includes severe penalties for violations, including IDOR attacks.
Insecure direct object reference prevention
Preventing insecure direct object reference (IDOR) vulnerabilities involves implementing proper security measures to ensure that users cannot directly access or manipulate resources without proper authorization. Here are some steps to prevent IDOR:
- Implement access controls: Implement access controls that restrict access to resources based on user permissions and roles.
- Use unique identifiers: Use unique identifiers to reference objects or resources rather than relying on sequential or easily guessable values.
- Validate user input: Validate user input to ensure that it conforms to expected formats and is not attempting to access or manipulate restricted resources.
- Use indirect references: Use indirect references, such as database IDs or hashes, to reference objects or resources rather than relying on direct references.
- Implement authorization checks: Implement authorization checks at every level of the application to ensure that users are authorized to access or manipulate resources.
- Use encryption: Use encryption to protect sensitive data and resources from unauthorized access or manipulation.
- Regularly test and audit: Regularly test and audit the application for IDOR vulnerabilities to ensure that they are discovered and remediated in a timely manner.
BigID’s Approach to Insecure Direct Object Reference (IDOR)
BigID is a data intelligence platform for privacy, security, and governance platform that helps organizations prevent and manage insecure direct object reference (IDOR) vulnerabilities by identifying and classifying sensitive data throughout the organization. Here are a few ways that BigID can help:
- Data Discovery: BigID leverages advanced AI and machine learning technologies to automatically discover and classify sensitive data across an organization’s infrastructure, including databases, file servers, cloud storage, and applications. This can help organizations identify areas where IDOR vulnerabilities may exist and prioritize remediation efforts.
- Access Controls: BigID’s Access Intelligence App enforces access controls to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. This includes identifying users and their access levels, setting permissions and policies for data access, and monitoring access activity to detect and prevent IDOR attacks.
- Compliance Management: BigID can help organizations comply with various data privacy and security regulations, such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA. This includes monitoring access activity to detect and prevent IDOR attacks and generating compliance reports for audits and regulatory filings.
- Remediation: BigID’s Data Remediation App provides recommendations for remediating IDOR vulnerabilities, such as improving access controls, implementing unique identifiers, and validating user input.
To gain greater visibility into your sensitive data, enforce access controls, and comply with regulations— get a 1:1 demo with BigID today.