SQL Injection/XSS attacks and URLScan 3.0

In my previous post I wrote about protecting web sites from SQL Injections, XSS and other URL manipulation by using ISA Server. The question for this post is what can users and system administrators without ISA do to protect their (Microsoft) web servers. URLScan 3.0is a free tool from Microsoft and answer to the above question. URLScan was recently release and will run on IIS 5.1 and newer including IIS 7 running on Windows 2008. It works as ISAPI filter and will check any URL passed to the server. If the URL matches any filter criteria URLScan ISAPI filter will block such request.

After downloading URL Scan and following simple installation instructions we can start configuring our own filters and settings.

First, let’s create an error file that will show an error when an illegal URL is passed to the server. We can create this file inside the website working folder (default "c:\inetpub\wwwroot"). I named my error file "err.htm".

In this file we can enter any message to users passing malformed URL that we want. Message can be HTML formatted or if you want you can even create aspx file that will display visitors IP address or redirect bad request to some other address (e.g. default page). For this demonstration I used simple text message stating "Illegal URL detected…" (picture below)

Now we can open and edit urlscan.ini file by default located in"\Windows\System32\inetsrv\urlscan\".

First let’s edit


 is name of the file that we created above. Any rejected URL request will get redirected to this file (picture below)

Next lets scroll down in the urlscan.ini fille to[DenyURLSequences] segment where we can add additional filters. This could include:

  • "Char("
  • "exec(@s)"
  • "..."

And others that I mentioned on my previous post or the ones that you might discovered on your own.

Your urlscan.ini file might now look something like this (picture below)

Any user passing illegal URL to our web server will get an error like this (picture below)

Recommendation: Check out other options in urlscan.ini file that might be useful to you. E.g. if you want to limit URL length you can also edit [RequestLimits] segment


with values that work in your environment. This is actually something that you will have to test in your environment first.

Conclusion: Personally, I prefer to use ISA Server for such filtering when I can. It stops these kinds of attacks at the network edge before the malformed URL even "touches" the web server.

Note: This was never meant as permanent cure for SQL Injection or XSS attacks. This is just a precaution and to buy some time to check and fix any potential vulnerabilities in the web applications.

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