What Are the 3 Types of Cross-Site Scripting?


Heather Bennett

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a type of security vulnerability that allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. XSS can have serious consequences, including the theft of sensitive information, unauthorized access to user accounts, and even the control of entire websites. There are three main types of XSS attacks: reflected XSS, stored XSS, and DOM-based XSS.

Reflected XSS:
Reflected XSS occurs when an attacker injects malicious code into a website’s URL or input fields that are immediately returned to the user. The injected code is then executed by the victim’s browser when they visit the manipulated URL or submit a form. This type of attack typically Targets unsuspecting users who click on malicious links or visit compromised websites.

Let’s suppose there is a vulnerable website that displays search results based on user input. An attacker could craft a URL like this:
https://example.com/search?query=<script>alert('XSS Attack!

When a user clicks on this link and visits the website, the script will execute in their browser, displaying an alert with the text “XSS Attack! “.

Stored XSS:
Stored XSS occurs when an attacker manages to inject malicious scripts into a website’s database or other persistent storage. These scripts are then served to users whenever they access the affected pages. This type of attack can have widespread impact as it Targets all visitors who view the infected page or interact with compromised data.

Consider a social media platform where users can post comments. If an attacker manages to submit a comment containing malicious JavaScript code, it could be stored in the platform’s database. When other users view this comment, their browsers will execute the injected script, potentially compromising their accounts or spreading malware.

DOM-based XSS:
DOM-based XSS occurs when the vulnerability lies within the Document Object Model (DOM) of a web page. The attack is executed on the client-side, without involving server-side vulnerabilities. It takes advantage of JavaScript code that dynamically modifies the DOM based on user input, potentially leading to unintended execution of malicious scripts.

Imagine a website that allows users to customize their profile by providing a URL for an image. If an attacker tricks a user into submitting a specially crafted URL containing JavaScript code, the code may be executed when the page tries to display the image. This could lead to session hijacking or other malicious activities.

In conclusion, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a severe security vulnerability that can have devastating consequences for websites and their users. Understanding the three main types of XSS attacks – reflected XSS, stored XSS, and DOM-based XSS – is crucial for developers and security professionals alike.

By being aware of these attack vectors and implementing proper security measures, such as input validation and output encoding, website owners can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to XSS attacks. Stay vigilant and ensure your web applications are protected against this prevalent threat!

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