Vulnerability Note VU#987798

BREACH vulnerability in compressed HTTPS

Original Release date: 02 Aug 2013 | Last revised: 08 Aug 2013


By observing the length of compressed HTTPS responses, an attacker may be able to derive plaintext secrets from the ciphertext of an HTTPS stream.


Angelo Prado of reports:

    Extending the CRIME vulnerability presented at Ekoparty 2012, an attacker can target HTTPS responses to recover data from the response body.

    While the CRIME attack is currently believed to be mitigated by disabling TLS/SSL/level compression, compressed HTTP responses represent a significant unmitigated vector which is currently exploitable. By injecting plaintext into an HTTPS request, an attacker can learn information about the corresponding HTTPS response by measuring its size.

    This relies on the attacker being able to observe the size of the cipher text received by the browser while triggering a number of strategically crafted requests to a target site. To recover a particular secret in an HTTPS response body, the attacker guesses character by character, sending a pair of requests for each guess. The correct guess will result in a smaller HTTPS response. For each guess the attacker coerces the victim's browser to issue two requests. The first request includes a payload of the form:

    "target_secret_name=<already known part of secret>+<guess>+<padding>"

    ...while the second request includes a payload of the form:

    "target_secret_name=<already known part of secret>+<padding>+<guess>".

    If the size of the first response is smaller than the second response, this indicates that the guess has a good chance of being correct. This method of sending two similar requests and comparing them is due to Duong and Rizzo. If multiple candidates are found, the following is a useful recovery mechanism: move forward in parallel with both candidates until it becomes clear which guess is correct.

    With a token of length 32 and a character space of size 16 (e.g. hex), the attacker needs an average of approximately 1,000 request if no recovery mechanisms are needed. In practice, we have been able to recover CSRF tokens with fewer than 4,000 requests. A browser like Google Chrome or Internet Explorer is able to issue this number of requests in under 30 seconds, including callbacks to the attacker command & control center.

    [In order to conduct the attack, the following conditions must be true]:
    1. HTTPS-enabled endpoint (ideally with stream ciphers like RC4, although the attack can be made to work with adaptive padding for block ciphers).
    2. The attacker must be able to measure the size of HTTPS responses.
    3. Use of HTTP-level compression (e.g. gzip).
    4. A request parameter that is reflected in the response body.
    5. A static secret in the body (e.g. CSRF token, sessionId, VIEWSTATE, PII, etc.) that can be bootstrapped (either first/last two characters are predictable and/or the secret is padded with something like KnownSecretVariableName="".
    6. An otherwise static or relatively static response. Dynamic pages do not defeat the attack, but make it much more expensive.


A sophisticated attacker may be able to derive plaintext secrets from the ciphertext in an HTTPS stream.


We are currently unaware of a practical solution to this problem. Please consider the following workarounds.

Some of these mitigations may protect entire applications, while others may only protect individual web pages.

  • Disable HTTP compression.
  • Separate the secrets from the user input.
  • Randomize the secrets in each client request.
  • Mask secrets (effectively randomizing by XORing with a random secret per request).
  • Protect web pages from CSRF attacks.
  • Obfuscate the length of web responses by adding random amounts of arbitrary bytes.

Vendor Information (Learn More)

VendorStatusDate NotifiedDate Updated
Apache-SSLUnknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
Apache HTTP Server ProjectUnknown19 Jun 201330 Jul 2013
Apache TomcatUnknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
Apple Inc.Unknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
GoogleUnknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
Microsoft CorporationUnknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
MozillaUnknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
OperaUnknown19 Jun 201319 Jun 2013
If you are a vendor and your product is affected, let us know.

CVSS Metrics (Learn More)

Group Score Vector
Base 2.6 AV:N/AC:H/Au:N/C:P/I:N/A:N
Temporal 2.3 E:F/RL:W/RC:C
Environmental 3.2 CDP:ND/TD:H/CR:H/IR:H/AR:ND



Thanks goes to the following individuals for reporting this vulnerability: Angelo Prado,
Neal Harris, Square
Yoel Gluck,

This document was written by Todd Lewellen.

Other Information

  • CVE IDs: CVE-2013-3587
  • Date Public: 20 Sep 2012
  • Date First Published: 02 Aug 2013
  • Date Last Updated: 08 Aug 2013
  • Document Revision: 36


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