What Is the Difference Between Cross Site Scripting and Cross Site Request Forgery?


Larry Thompson

What Is the Difference Between Cross Site Scripting and Cross Site Request Forgery?

Web applications are susceptible to various security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers. Two common vulnerabilities that often cause confusion are Cross Site Scripting (XSS) and Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF). While both can have serious consequences, they differ in their nature and how they are exploited.

XSS: Injecting Malicious Scripts

Cross Site Scripting (XSS) is a security vulnerability that allows an attacker to inject malicious scripts into a trusted website. This occurs when user input is not properly validated or sanitized before being rendered on a webpage. The injected script is then executed in the victim’s browser, leading to unauthorized access, data theft, or other malicious activities.

Types of XSS Attacks:

  • Stored XSS: Also known as persistent XSS, this occurs when the malicious script is permanently stored on the Target server. It is later retrieved and executed whenever the vulnerable page is accessed.
  • Reflected XSS: In this type of attack, the payload is embedded in a URL or input field, which is then reflected back to the victim as part of the server’s response.

    When the victim clicks on a manipulated link or submits a form, the script is executed.

  • DOM-based XSS: This type of attack exploits vulnerabilities in client-side scripts that manipulate Document Object Model (DOM) elements. By manipulating the DOM tree directly, an attacker can inject and execute malicious code.

CSRF: Forging Unauthorized Requests

Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF), also known as session riding or one-click attack, is a vulnerability that tricks users into unintentionally executing unwanted actions on a trusted website. Unlike XSS, CSRF does not directly inject malicious scripts. Instead, it leverages the trust between a user and a website to execute unauthorized requests on behalf of the user.

How CSRF Attacks Work:

An attacker crafts a malicious webpage or email containing a request to the Target website. This request is designed to perform an action that requires the victim’s authorization, such as changing account settings or making a transaction. The victim unknowingly triggers the request by visiting the attacker-controlled page or clicking on a manipulated link, leading to unintended consequences.

Differences Between XSS and CSRF

Although both XSS and CSRF can be used for unauthorized actions, they differ in their Targets and methods:

  • Target: XSS Targets users by injecting malicious scripts into their browsers, whereas CSRF Targets websites by forging requests on behalf of users.
  • Exploit Method: XSS exploits insecure input handling mechanisms, allowing attackers to inject malicious code. In contrast, CSRF leverages the trust between users and websites to trick them into executing unintended actions.
  • Impact: XSS attacks primarily affect users’ browsers and can lead to session hijacking, data theft, or defacement of websites. On the other hand, CSRF attacks directly affect websites and can result in unauthorized actions performed by authenticated users.


In summary, Cross Site Scripting (XSS) allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into trusted websites, compromising user browsers. Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF), on the other hand, tricks users into unknowingly executing unauthorized actions on trustworthy websites. Understanding the differences between these vulnerabilities is crucial for developers and users to implement appropriate security measures and protect against potential attacks.

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