DNA Lounge update

DNA Lounge update, wherein we're still singing the "doom" song.
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Reverse engineering tools

Dear Lazyweb: What are reasonable reverse engineering tools for web sites?

It seems like every few months I find myself cracking the login and upload or download process on some site -- sorry, some "web application". Invariably they either don't provide an API, or their API is wholely inadequate. The "new web" doesn't want you to script it, because that might prevent them from forcing lock-in on you. They all want to be titans of the industry like Compuserve or AOL, apparently not having heard about this little thing called "The Internet" that got really popular for a minute back in the 90s.

So to do the things I want to do, I often have to crack their undocumented protocols and halfassed security measures. I don't enjoy it, but for my sanity and out of self defense, I do it a lot. "Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On".

The kind of discoveries I end up needing to make usually look like:

  • Their OAuth "application" API is inadequate and intentionally crippled, so let's go straight for the web login page and get a session cookie.
  • Oh look, here's the magic URL you are squirting JSON data down.
  • Oh, but the arguments to that URL are signed.
  • Oh, here's the signing key you embedded in the code but tried to hide.
  • (And you're sniffing user agents. Aw, that's cute.)

I don't have proper tools to easily do the sorts of things I need to do to solve these problems. I mean, I manage, obviously, but it sucks. Here are the kind of questions I find myself asking that are harder to answer than they should be:

  • This form's "Submit" button isn't actually a form element, and the source doesn't have an onclick handler on it. Something somewhere else has installed a handler ...somewhere... so that when I click it, a JS function runs and a URL gets loaded. What function? What URL?

  • Clicking this thing reads and writes a bunch of data to random URLs via XMLHttpRequest, then does a redirect. What URLs did it load and what did it send and recieve? Sometimes I can answer this question using the Resources or Timeline panel in Safari's inspector, but as far as I can tell, the intermediate data vanishes from the timeline as soon as the top-level URL changes, or the DOM gets zeroed out, or something. I don't know. I just know that I can't see a record of URLs being loaded that I know were loaded. Mozilla and Firebug don't seem to be any better than Safari in this respect. "Oh, the document is gone, you must not care about it any more."

  • This page does some Javascript contortions and eventually emits a <video> tag and configures it via JS. Eventually that tag initiates network activity. What URL is it loading? It doesn't show up in the inspector. It is happening out-of-process?

  • A URL is being loaded at the bottom of a giant stack of obfuscated, minimized Javascript. What's the call stack? Basically: if I lived in a world where "javascript debugger" was a thing that actually existed (ha ha ha), how do I set a breakpoint on any network activity?

I could use mitmproxy and Wireshark for some of this, but that's a huge pain in the ass, and more heavy-handed that I usually need. Also Wireshark is awful (it always leaves me thinking "How was this supposed to be any better than tcpdump?") It makes much more sense to intercept this stuff inside the browser. All the information is in there since it's the thing initiating contact with the server.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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