Guide to server misconfiguration

The term "server misconfiguration" is rather broad but for now, we'll stick to the basics. In this instance server misconfiguration refers to when an administrator has not removed software versions, these versions can sometimes be found within the request headers or default error pages. But further information can be found elsewhere.

Here is an example server response, perhaps you're able to see where the version number is leaked.

GET: HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2022 14:25:49 GMT
Server: Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS)
X-Powered-By: PHP/4.6.25
Expires: Thu, 19 Nov 1981 08:52:00 GMT
Cache-Control: no-store, no-cache, must-revalidate, post-check=0, pre-check=0
Pragma: no-cache
Content-Length: 5988
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

As you can see from the example above, when the server responds with the requested page it is also sending some information about the software it's using. In this instance, it's Apache/2.2.15. Additionally, it's even leaking the operating system it's running on top of, CentOS, a Linux-based operating system.

Along with the web server version, you may have also noticed that we're able to see that the PHP version is being leaked X-Powered-By: PHP/4.6.25. Similar to the previous example, this can be somewhat harmless but could also inform a malicious user of what exploits and attacks may have some success. For example, it's somewhat common knowledge that versions of PHP less than 5.3.4 are susceptible to null bytes. Now, this is getting a little off-topic now but a null byte can be used as a string terminator which means it can be used in vulnerabilities such as local file inclusion.

Correcting server misconfiguration

Depending on the web server the website is running on will depend on what steps are needed to secure it, there are a number of high-profile web servers running on the web today. Here's a list of some of the most popular web servers.

- Apache  -

- Nginx  -

- Lighthttp  -

- Microsoft IIS  -

For help with configuration and preventing information leakage we'd strongly recommend referring to the official documentation for the selected web server, this will help ensure you're receiving the most up-to-date information available.

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