How You Can Get Your Consumers To Hate You With IDOR

Recently, I was traveling abroad & had to book a cab to attend a meeting. However, the meeting got rescheduled & I had to cancel the cab. As I had spare time till the meeting so I thought of playing around with the taxi mobile app that I used for booking the cab.

While looking at various features of the app I figured out that the application was providing me direct access to the resources belonging to other users. This vulnerability is called Insecure Direct Object Reference or IDOR which allows the attackers to bypass authorization and access unauthorized resources such as database entries or files in the system directly. This vulnerability is exploited by modifying the parameter used to directly refer to an internal object in the system.

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Run a Taxi Mobile App? Here’s How I Can Get Your Consumers To Hate You With IDOR

To have a complete understanding of this vulnerability through the vulnerability assessment tool & how it can be exploited let me walk you through the following demonstration where you can see how we were able to cancel the upcoming trips of arbitrary users without their consent.

1. Book a cab from our account on the mobile app

2. Intercept the traffic using any proxy tool say Burp Proxy

3. When you click on “My Trips” in the app then you can see your current & upcoming bookings. Cancel one of your bookings where the original request going in the proxy looks as follows:

original request

4. The response for successful cancellation that can be seen in the proxy is shown below:

response for successful cancellation

5. Now, copy the above cancel trip request to Repeater Tool available in Burp Proxy & tamper the passenger log id to some arbitrary value of your choice as shown below. It's better to choose adjacent values as there is a high possibility that a trip would exist. Forward this modified request & check the response received.

modified request

6. Once the request is forwarded, if any trip exists with the passenger log id mentioned in the request then you will see a response saying that the trip is canceled as shown below and the concerned user will get an SMS confirmation for the same.

modified response

Business Impact

The potential impact of the above vulnerability varies depending on what kind of data the attacker can get hold of and what business value that exposed data hold. It may lead to a huge loss to the business where firstly, considering the above scenario where any advanced or current bookings can be canceled, the business will be affected monetarily & secondly, the business will lose its customer base as such situations will lead to customer dissatisfaction.

This kind of vulnerability can let you access a user’s bank statements or user’s PII or modify a user’s data etc. As mentioned above the impact varies from business to business but it can compromise entire system data & hence leads to the disclosure of highly sensitive information along with a financial & reputational loss to the business.


It’s a very common security weakness seen in applications these days. However, a little effort by application developers & proactive nature toward security can improve the application & prevent the business from such exploits. To avoid this vulnerability the application should implement proper access control where the user needs to be authorized for the requested information before the server provides it.

Another solution to prevent an attacker from exploiting this issue is by using an indirect reference to internal objects of the system. For an instance, the crucial element in the exploit demonstrated above is the internal object identifier – passenger log ID. This passenger ID is easily predictable by anyone. If a random string instead of an incrementing integer is used to refer to internal objects then it will be difficult for anyone to exploit. However, it's not a foolproof solution & should not be implemented as the only prevention for such attacks.

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Published on Sep 22, 2017
Subho Halder
Written by Subho Halder
Subho Halder is the CISO and Co-Founder of Appknox. He started his career researching Mobile Security. Currently, he helps businesses to detect and fix security vulnerabilities. He has also detected critical loopholes in companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and others


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