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Salt Security Addresses Critical OAuth Vulnerabilities Enhancing API Security with OAuth Protection Package

Eric Schwake
Apr 25, 2024

OAuth is an important part of modern authorization frameworks, granting access to resources across different applications easily. However, vulnerabilities in OAuth implementations can create significant security risks. Following research released by Salt labs that uncovered critical vulnerabilities in the world's most popular authorization mechanism, Salt has released a multi-layered protection package to detect attempts to exploit OAuth and proactively fix the vulnerabilities.

Salt Security is enhancing its API protection platform with a comprehensive suite of new OAuth threat detections and posture rules to address this growing challenge. These innovations empower organizations to identify and mitigate malicious attempts to exploit OAuth flows, ultimately safeguarding sensitive data and user accounts.

The OAuth Attack Landscape

Let's take a closer look at the types of OAuth attacks these new capabilities will address:

  • Access Token and Authorization Code Theft: Vulnerabilities in OAuth systems can leave access tokens or authorization codes susceptible to theft. Attackers can leverage those stolen elements to impersonate legitimate users and gain unauthorized access to sensitive resources and applications.
  • Increasing OAuth Attacks: OAuth has been in widespread use for over a decade but we have seen attacks on the rise.  This is caused by organizations' increased usage of APIs and microservices making OAuth even more popular while increasing the complexity of securing it. Attackers have taken advantage of this by crafting specific OAuth-based attacks with continuing attempts to find additional OAuth vulnerabilities to exploit.

Real-World Consequences: Lessons from ChatGPT

Salt Security's recent investigation exposed several critical security flaws within the OAuth implementations of popular ChatGPT plug-ins highlighted in a blog post by Salt Labs.

The blog above provides specific details of these security flaws. Firstly, ChatGPT's plugin installation process was vulnerable. An attacker could exploit this to inject malicious plugins, potentially accessing any messages sent within ChatGPT.

Secondly, the plugin development framework, PluginLab, needed proper authentication. This allowed attackers to masquerade as victims and take over their plugin accounts. This vulnerability could have been exploited in plugins like "AskTheCode" to compromise connected GitHub accounts with 0-click attacks.

Finally, several plugins had OAuth redirection vulnerabilities. Attackers could exploit this by sending malicious links to victims and stealing their plugin credentials, enabling account takeovers.

Beyond this most recent example of OAuth threats with ChatGPT, the Salt Labs team has found several other OAuth-specific exploitable vulnerabilities, indicating the critical need for tools to help find and mitigate these types of risks before attackers can take advantage.  The Salt Labs team found these vulnerabilities that used a variety of OAuth attack methodologies with, Grammarly,, and Expo/CodeCademy.

These real-world examples underscore the importance of robust security measures to thwart sophisticated OAuth attack tactics before they can inflict significant damage. By implementing strong OAuth security controls, organizations can safeguard their users' data, prevent unauthorized access to critical resources, and maintain user trust.

Salt Security's Solution: Multi-Layered OAuth Defense

Salt Security's upcoming enhancements offer a comprehensive approach to OAuth security:

  • New OAuth Threat Detections: Enhancing Salt’s industry-leading behavior threat analysis system, we will carefully examine specific parameters and configurations used in API requests and responses related to OAuth. Utilizing AI/ML techniques will create a standard pattern for "normal" requests. Alerts will be generated for requests that deviate from established patterns, indicating possible OAuth attacks or other exploits. We are introducing new attack type detections in this release including OAuth hijacking attacks, OAuth CSRF attacks, and OAuth leaked secrets. This advanced behavioral analysis enables the identification of sophisticated OAuth attacks which threat actors are using in the wild today.
  • OAuth Posture Rules: To enhance the capabilities of Salt’s API Posture Governance engine, there will be customized OAuth posture rules which will enable organizations to define and enforce their own specific security standards for OAuth implementations. This will guarantee that APIs adhere to the best practices in security and greatly reduce the risk of vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit. To illustrate, organizations can use pre-defined rules to help prevent leaked client secrets and prevent authorization code injection attacks. This level of control allows businesses to customize their OAuth security posture according to their specific risk tolerance and compliance requirements.

The Business Case for Enhanced OAuth Protection

This enhanced functionality from Salt Security provides robust OAuth defenses that help organizations achieve several critical security objectives. Firstly, it proactively shields customer accounts, intellectual property, and authorization tokens from malicious actors who continuously seek to exploit vulnerabilities in OAuth implementations. Secondly, organizations that demonstrate a commitment to robust security practices foster user confidence and enhance brand reputation, leading to stronger customer relationships and a competitive edge in the marketplace. Thirdly, the potential for severe financial and reputational damage stemming from a successful OAuth attack is significantly reduced. OAuth exploits can cause data breaches that are incredibly costly, and reputational damage can take years to repair. Finally, Salt Security's unwavering commitment to research and development ensures that its solutions remain effective against emerging OAuth attack techniques. Salt’s proactive approach keeps businesses a step ahead of evolving threats, allowing them to operate with greater confidence and agility.

See the OAuth Posture Rules in Action.


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