Vertical And Horizontal Privilege Escalation

What is Vertical And Horizontal Privilege Escalation?  Does your application support for this internally authorisation verification of work?  I expect not, it is really an over sight of the architecture and application planning that this is missed out and more importantly when it becomes an issue it is more often than not too late to implement any changes.

So what is Vertical And Horizontal Privilege Escalation?  

Privilege escalation is the act of exploiting a bug, design flaw or configuration oversight in an operating system or software application to gain elevated access to resources that are normally protected from an application or user. The result is that an application with more privileges than intended by the application developer or system administrator can perform unauthorized actions.

You may find that you have alternative methods to protect against privilege escalation:

  • Authorize attribute: This is used to authorize a user or role to access any resource in the application after authenticated. This helps to have User and Role level protections.
  • Http Referrer Check: This is to prevent an URL request which is not from the site, but from an external link or the link directly executed at the browser navigation
  • Anti Forgery Token: This is a powerful option to prevent any hidden field manipulation while form posting and prevents Cross-Site Request Forgery
  • HTML Encoding: It is advised to encode all user inputs to prevent Cross Site Scripting attack/ XSS attack etc.,
  • Encryption of Query string parameters. This is good way to prevent manipulation of query string parameters. 
  • URL Activity Tampering, we provide a key in the URL that can only be used for that URL

Even though you may not support Privilege Escalation directly you can place a front line of defence, Privilege escalation means a user receives privileges they are not entitled to. These privileges can be used to change information, view private information, or install unwanted programs such as viruses. It usually occurs when a system has a bug that allows security to be bypassed or, alternatively, has flawed design assumptions about how it will be used. Privilege escalation occurs in two forms:

  • Vertical privilege escalation, also known as privilege elevation, where a lower privilege user or application accesses functions or content reserved for higher privilege users or applications 
  • Horizontal privilege escalation, where a normal user accesses functions or content reserved for other normal users
I hope this help you understand, that planning and understanding issues from the outset is so important.