CSRF Worms

I’ve been wondering if it’d be possible to make CSRF worms. Usually we propagate worms using XSS, but with modern frameworks and CSP it’s getting a little harder to find good injections.

But I’ve sort of pieced together a fun attack. Basically we’ll create a worm that has a bunch of layers that have to be peeled away. Each time it spreads it gets smaller and smaller, and the actual “exploit” lives at the very end.

The Setup

For example lets say Twitter was using CSP (which they are), and SameSite cookies and introduced a CSRF that when viewed, added a chosen user as a follower:

GET https://twitter.com/addFollower?user=xc0nradx

  • Adds the user as a follower.

You could try pasting that URL in an image tag all over the place and try to get as many twitter users as possible to view it.

But we can do better. Lets say twitter also introduced another CSRF-able route:

GET https://twitter.com/updateProfilePicture?url= https://gravitar.com/c0nrad@c0nrad.io

  • Sets the profile picture to the url parameter. This image is then displayed on the profile as an image tag.

The Exploit

We can use the updateProfilePicture route to place the addFollower payload and get a bunch of followers. But the people who see it are already our followers. Instead we want the worm to propagate by itself.

The updateProfilePicture route can be used to spread the worm. We can embed the addFollower payload in a couple of ‘setProfilePicture layers’, so when our followers see our profile picture, their profile picture becomes a smaller version of the worm. 

So we could ‘link’ a bunch of CSRFs together to make something like:



So the first time someone see’s this in an image tag, the CSRF will be executed, and their profile image will be the same URL except one ‘link’ smaller.

Anyone who then see’s this profile picture will then copy the URL and become one link smaller.


After the worm has spread for awhile the very last link in the chain will become the profile picture. So now anytime someone views the profile/feed of that user they will follow xc0nradx.

CSRF_Exploit (1).png

Hopefully by this time the worm has spread to a bunch of users. Now all of our friends and their friends and their friends are helping us get followers. Thanks friends!


The only benefit this worm really gives is a better launching point for your original addFollower.

But it doesn’t abuse HTML at all! It should work fine with CSP and XSS encoding frameworks? You might have to be careful about URL encoding and parsing.

Also the chains will probably unlink really fast. Anytime you view yourself you’ll unlink another chain yourself.

And you don’t need to include the https://twitter.com in each stage. Just use the relative URL, but it’s easier to read with the full hostname. The max length of a URL is ~2000.


We created a worm-able CSRF exploit that carried our original CSRF exploit to a bigger userbase. Fun stuff. Feel free to email/comment if you have any more ideas.

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