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Clientless SSL VPN products break the Web

November 30, 2009

Dan Goodin, of The Register, pointed me to a very interesting advisory issued today that again confirms that convenience trumps security, every single time. This particular problem concerns the so-called clientless SSL VPN products, which basically work like a reverse proxies on steroids. When you're on the road, you log into one of these devices and they provide you with a "window" through which you can access the sites you'd normally only see on your own network. Now, I've known about these products for a long time but, never having actually used one, I didn't think much about how they work. Now that I know, I am terrified. They basically map all the sites you're accessing into a single super-site, rewriting everything behind the scenes to maintain the illusion of a browser within a browser.

For example, if your internal's site address is internal.example.com and your clientless SSL VPN's address is vpn.example.com, while you're on the road you access your internal site through https://vpn.example.com/internal.example.com/.

It's pretty slick in how it's very convenient and works with any browser, but it kills the same-origin policy. A single rogue web site that you access through this VPN window is able to take over all your sessions, interact with all your sites and monitor whatever is that you're doing.

And the best part? The problem has been known since at least 2006. You can get more information from Dan's article or from the advisory.

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