Input Validation Failures

Probably the most important defensive mechanism that can be employed is input validation. Considering all inputs to be hostile until properly validated can mitigate many attacks based on common vulnerabilities. This is a challenge, as the validation efforts need to occur after all parsers have completed manipulating input streams, a common function in web-based applications using Unicode and other international character sets.

Input validation is especially well suited for the following vulnerabilities: Buffer Overflow, Reliance on Untrusted Inputs in a Security Decision, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), Path Traversal, and Incorrect Calculation of Buffer Size.

Input validation may seem suitable for various injection attacks, but given the complexity of the input and ramifications from legal but improper input streams, this method falls short for most injection attacks. What can work is a form of recognition and whitelisting approach, where the input is validated and then parsed into a standard structure that is then executed. This restricts the attack surface to not only legal, but also expected, inputs.

Output validation is just as important in many cases as input validations. If querying a database for a username and password match, the expected forms of the output of the match function should be either one match or none. If using record count to indicate the level of match, a common practice, then a value other than 0 or 1 would be an error. Defensive coding using output validation would not act on values >1, as these are clearly an error and should be treated as a failure.

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