OWASP Automated Threats to Web Applications


OWASP automated threats mind amp

The OWASP Automated Threats to Web Applications Project has completed a review of reports, academic and other papers, news stories and vulnerability taxonomies/listings to identify, name and classify these scenarios – automated by software causing a divergence from accepted behavior producing one or more undesirable effects on a web application, but excluding tool-based exploitation of single-issue vulnerabilities. The initial objective was to produce an ontology providing a common language for developers, architects, operators, business owners, security engineers, purchasers and suppliers/ vendors, to facilitate clear communication and help tackle the issues. The project also identifies symptoms, mitigations and controls in this problem area. Like all OWASP outputs, everything is free and published using an open source license.


Web applications are subjected to unwanted automated usage – day in, day out. Often these events relate to misuse of inherent valid functionality, rather than the attempted exploitation of unmitigated vulnerabilities. Also, excessive misuse is commonly mistakenly reported as application denial-of-service (DoS) like HTTP-flooding, when in fact the DoS is a side-effect instead of the primary intent. Frequently these have sector-specific names. Most of these problems seen regularly by web application owners are not listed in any OWASP Top Ten or other top issue list. Furthermore, they are not enumerated or defined adequately in existing dictionaries. These factors have contributed to inadequate visibility, and an inconsistency in naming such threats, with a consequent lack of clarity in attempts to address the issues.

Without sharing a common language between devops, architects, business owners, security engineers, purchasers and suppliers/vendors, everyone has to make extra effort to communicate clearly. Misunderstandings can be costly. The adverse impacts affect the privacy and security of individuals as well as the security of the applications and related system components.

Automated Threats

The list of threat events, defined more fully in the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook, is alphabetically:

Not sure which is which? Use the threat identification chart in conjunction with the full handbook.


All the materials are free to use. They are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, so you can copy, distribute and transmit the work, and you can adapt it, and use it commercially, but all provided that you attribute the work and if you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

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Scope and Definitions


The aim was to create a listing of vendor-neutral and technology agnostic terms that describe real-world automated threats to web applications, at a level of abstraction that application owners can relate to. These terms are threat events to web applications undertaken using automated actions.

The focus is on abuse of functionality - misuse of inherent functionality and related design flaws, some of which are also referred to as business logic flaws. There is almost no focus on implementation bugs. It is not that the latter are not the target for attacks, but there is much more knowledge published in that area with a greater agreement on terminology. All the scenarios identified must require the web to exist for the threat to be materialised. Many of the scenarios have impacts upon the organisation that owns or operates web applications, but some scenarios have impacts more focused on individuals or other bodies. An attack that can be achieved without the web is out of scope.


Automated Threats to Web Applications

Threat events to web applications undertaken using automated actions.

An attack that can be achieved without the web is out of scope.



An act taken against an asset by a threat agent. Requires first that contact occurs between the asset and threat agent (Ref 1)


Software that performs a business process i.e. not system software

A software program hosted by an information system (Ref 2)

Application layer

“Layer 7” in the OSI model (Ref 3) and “application layer” in the TCP/IP model (Ref 4)


Anything that is capable of acting in a manner resulting in harm to an asset and/or organization; for example, acts of God (weather, geological events, etc.); malicious actors; errors; failures (Ref 1)

Threat Agent

Any agent (e.g., object, substance, human, etc.) that is capable of acting against an asset in a manner that can result in harm (Ref 1)

Threat Event

Occurs when a threat agent acts against an asset (Ref 1)


The World Wide Web (WWW, or simply Web) is an information space in which the items of interest, referred to as resources, are identified by global identifiers called Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) (Ref 5)

The first three specifications for Web technologies defined URLs, HTTP, and HTML (Ref 6)

Web application

An application delivered over the web

Glossary references:

  1. Risk Taxonomy, Technical Standard, The Open Group, 2009
  2. NISTIR 7298 rev 2, NIST
  3. OSI model, Wikipedia
  4. TCP/IP model, Wikipedia
  5. Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One, W3C
  6. Help and FAQ, W3C

Use Case Scenarios

The following scenarios and organisation names are completely fictitious.

Defining application development security requirements

Cinnaminta SpA intends to build and launch a new multi-lingual and multi-currency ecommerce website. The development will be outsourced and Cinnaminta has been working on the functional design document. Among many other requirements, the application security specification requires that the website must not include any vulnerabilities identified in PCI DSS v3.1 Requirement 6.5, nor any other vulnerabilities that could affect the protection of payment cardholder data. Cinnaminta specifies that the website’s payment functions must not be susceptible to the threat events OAT-001 Carding or OAT-010 Card Cracking as defined in the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook. In addition, the application must interact with the company’s existing fraud detection system to counter OAT-012 Cashing Out. The requirements are specified in terms of these threat events, rather than particular product or service categories. Development houses responding to the call for bids use the ontology to focus their answers to these aspects appropriately.

Sharing intelligence within a sector

Unlimited Innovations Inc develops and supports patient-facing software solutions to a range of healthcare providers, many of which participate in the National Health Service Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center (NHS-CISC). Unlimited Innovations already builds continuous monitoring capabilities into its software and decides to provide an optional enhancement so that customers could choose to share their misuse event data with each other, to benefit from the combined threat intelligence. Rather than sharing large quantities of low-level data, Unlimited Innovations aggregates information and broadcasts validated and categorised threat data amongst the participating organisations. Automation attacks are classified according to the threat events defined in the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook so that each receiving party understands the nature of the threat. Even organisations that do not want to take part in this information sharing can benefit, since their own categorised information is made available to internal business management in the form of an easy-to-comprehend monitoring dashboard. The information gathered can also be fed into their other business information management systems to help improve patient service.

Exchanging threat data between CERTs

National Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) recognise that sharing of local information can contribute to worldwide prevention of cyber attacks. Despite advances in cooperation between CERTs, anything to increase continuity and interoperability, such as standards for data exchange, is encouraged. CERT Zog is concerned about the sparsity of application-specific data it receives, and also the classification of that data. It has a particular concern about attacks and breaches that affect sectors defined in Zog’s 2015 national cyber security strategy. CERT Zog and its neighbour CERT Tarset agree to tag threat events using the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook in order to add greater context to existing solutions being used for threat data exchange between them. The programme also collects sector metadata, so that all organisations within these can benefit from the centralised intelligence.

Enhancing application penetration test findings

Specialist application security penetration testing firm Cherak Industries Pte Ltd works primarily for financial services companies in the banking and insurance sectors, and is looking to expand its business throughout Asia. Cherak has some innovative pen test result reporting systems which integrate with client software fault and vulnerability tracking systems, and it actively looks for methods to provide additional value to its clients. Cherak has identified that pen test clients would benefit from help to in understanding the effects of combinations of vulnerabilities, especially design flaws, and has decided to utilise the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook to define and explain the automation-related threats. The individual vulnerabilities were scored as normal using CVSSv2 and v3, the matching CWEs identified, and mitigations in place documented. In addition, Cherak uses the threat events defined in the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook to help create a new section in the executive summary that explains how combinations of the issues found could lead to automation threats and the possible technical and business impacts. For example, an assessment for one client had identified weaknesses in authentication so that there is a risk of OAT-008 Credential Stuffing. The defined identifier was provided to the client, so its technical staff could refer to additional information on the OWASP website.

Specifying service acquisition needs

Falstone Paradise Inc is concerned about malicious use of their portfolio of hotel and resort websites. The majority of the websites use a shared application platform, but there are some unique applications and a large number of other micro-sites, some of which use generic content management systems such as Wordpress and Drupal. Falstone Paradise has identified that its IT operations team are spending too much time dealing with the effects of automated misuse, such as cleaning up data, resetting customer accounts and providing extra capacity during attacks. Furthermore, the unwanted automation is also causing some instabilities leading to negative feedback from customers. Therefore Falstone Paradise decides to go out to the security marketplace to identify, assess and select products or services that might help address these automation issues for all its websites. Their buying team works with their information technology colleagues to write the detailed requirements in an Invitation to Tender (ITT) document. This describes the types of attacks its web applications are receiving, their frequency of occurrence and their magnitudes. These are defined according to the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook, so that vendors do not misunderstand the requirements, and each vendor’s offering can be assessed against the particular automation threat events of concern.

Characterising vendor services

Better Best Ltd has developed an innovative technology to help gaming companies defend against a range of automated threats that can otherwise permit cheating and distortion of the game, leading to disruption for normal players. The solution can be deployed on premises, but is also available in the cloud as a service. But Better Best is finding difficulty explaining its solution in the market place, especially since it does not fit into any conventional product category. Better Best decide to use the terminology and threat events listed in the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook to define their product’s capabilities. They hope this will provide some clarity about their offering, and also demonstrate how their product can be used to replace more than one other conventional security device. Additionally, Better Best writes a white paper describing how their product has been successfully used by one of their reference customers Hollybush Challenge Games to protect against OAT-006 Expediting, OAT-005 Scalping, OAT-016 Skewing and OAT-013 Sniping.



The A-Z list of automated threat events and summary descriptions, defined in full in the OWASP Automated Threat Handbook, is:

Identifier OAT Name Summary Defining Characteristics
OAT-020 Account Aggregation Use by an intermediary application that collects together multiple accounts and interacts on their behalf
OAT-019 Account Creation Create multiple accounts for subsequent misuse
OAT-003 Ad Fraud False clicks and fraudulent display of web-placed advertisements
OAT-009 CAPTCHA Defeat Solve anti-automation tests
OAT-010 Card Cracking Identify missing start/expiry dates and security codes for stolen payment card data by trying different values
OAT-001 Carding Multiple payment authorisation attempts used to verify the validity of bulk stolen payment card data
OAT-012 Cashing Out Buy goods or obtain cash utilising validated stolen payment card or other user account data
OAT-007 Credential Cracking Identify valid login credentials by trying different values for usernames and/or passwords
OAT-008 Credential Stuffing Mass log in attempts used to verify the validity of stolen username/password pairs
OAT-021 Denial of Inventory Deplete goods or services stock without ever completing the purchase or committing to the transaction
OAT-015 Denial of Service Target resources of the application and database servers, or individual user accounts, to achieve denial of service (DoS)
OAT-006 Expediting Perform actions to hasten progress of usually slow, tedious or time-consuming actions
OAT-004 Fingerprinting Elicit information about the supporting software and framework types and versions
OAT-018 Footprinting Probe and explore application to identify its constituents and properties
OAT-005 Scalping Obtain limited-availability and/or preferred goods/services by unfair methods
OAT-011 Scraping Collect application content and/or other data for use elsewhere
OAT-016 Skewing Repeated link clicks, page requests or form submissions intended to alter some metric
OAT-013 Sniping Last minute bid or offer for goods or services
OAT-017 Spamming Malicious or questionable information addition that appears in public or private content, databases or user messages
OAT-002 Token Cracking Mass enumeration of coupon numbers, voucher codes, discount tokens, etc
OAT-014 Vulnerability Scanning Crawl and fuzz application to identify weaknesses and possible vulnerabilities

Comparison with other dictionaries, taxonomies and lists

Common Attack Pattern Enumeration and Classification (CAPEC)

Venn diagram showing OWASP Autoamted Threats (OATs) fromCAPEC point of view

CAPEC is a dictionary and classification taxonomy of known attacks on software. Its primary classification structures are:

  • Domains of attack (3000) - Social Engineering (403), Supply Chain (437), Communications (512), Software (513), Physical Security (514), Hardware (515)
  • Mechanism of Attack (1000) - Gather Information (118), Deplete Resources (119), Injection (152), Deceptive Interactions (156), Manipulate Timing and State (172), Abuse of Functionality (210), Probabilistic Techniques (223), Exploitation of Authentication (225), Exploitation of Authorization (232), Manipulate Data Structures (255), Manipulate Resources (262), Analyze Target (281), Gain Physical Access (436), Malicious Code Execution (525), Alter System Components (526), Manipulate System Users (527)

WASC Threat Classification

Venn diagram showing OWASP Autoamted Threats (OATs) from WASC point of view

The WASC Threat Classification classifies weaknesses and attacks that can lead to the compromise of a website, its data, or its users.

OWASP WASC Web Hacking Incidents Database Project (WHID)

WHID classifies publicly known incidents using:

  • attack methods e.g. ARP spoofing, abuse of functionality, account compromise, administration error, automation, backdoor, banking trojan, brute force, clickjacking, code injection, content injection, content spoofing, credential/session prediction, cross site request forgery (CSRF), cross-site scripting (XSS), denial of service, directory traversal, domain hijacking, DNS hijacking, forceful browsing, HTTP response splitting, hidden parameter manipulation, hosting malicious code, information leakage, insufficient authentication, known vulnerability, local file inclusion (LFI), malvertising, malware, malware injection, mass assignment, misconfiguration, OS commanding, parameter manipulation, path traversal, phishing, predictable resource location, process automation, redirection, remote file inclusion (RFI), rogue 3rd party app, scaping, search engine poisoning, shell injection, social engineering, stolen credentials, SQL injection, unintentional information disclosure, weak password recovery validation, worm
  • weakness e.g. abuse of functionality, application misconfiguration, directory indexing, improper filesystem permissions, improper input handling, improper output handling, information leakage, insecure indexing, insufficient anti-automation, insufficient authentication, insufficient authorization, insufficient entropy, insufficient password recovery, insufficient process validation, insufficient session expiration, insufficient transport layer protection, misconfiguration, predictable resource location, weak password
  • outcome e.g. account hijacking, account takeover, botnet participation, chaos, credit card leakage, data loss, defacement, DDoS attacks, DNS hijacking, DNS redirection, disinformation, disclosure only, downtime, extortion, fraud, information warfare, leakage of information, link spam, loss of sales, malware distribution, monetary loss, phishing, planting of malware, service disruption, session hijacking, spam, spam links, stolen credentials, worm Plus other/various/unknown.


The following academic, open source, commercial and news sources were used in the research on automated threats to web applications. OWASP is a worldwide not-for-profit charitable organization focused on improving the security of software. We operate under a vendor neutral policy and we do not endorse products or services.

  • 10 years of Application Security, Denyall http://www.denyall.com/resources/whitepapers/?aliId=3438442
  • 2012 Payment Card Threat Report https://www.securitymetrics.com/static/resources/orange/2012%20Payment%20Card%20Threat%20Report%20copy.pdf
  • 2014 Bot Traffic Report: Just the Droids You were Looking for http://www.incapsula.com/blog/bot-traffic-report-2014.html
  • 3 Types of ‘Return Fraud’ to Monitor this Holiday Season http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/3168-3-Types-of-%E2%80%98Return-Fraud-to-Monitor-this-Holiday-Season
  • 7 Ways Bots Hurt Your Website, Distil Networks http://www.distilnetworks.com/7-ways-bots-hurt-website-whitepaper/
  • Abusing HTML 5 Structured Client-side Storage 2008 http://packetstorm.wowhacker.com/papers/general/html5whitepaper.pdf
  • Acquiring Experience with Ontology and Vocabularies, Walt Melo, Risa Mayan and Jean Stanford, 2011 http://www.omg.org/news/meetings/workshops/SOA-HC/presentations-2011/13_SC-6_Melo_Stanford_Mayan.pdf
  • An Anatomy of a SQL Injection Attack Hacker Intelligence Initiative Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/HII_An_Anatomy_of_a_SQL_Injection_Attack_SQLi.pdf
  • The Anatomy of Clickbot.A https://www.usenix.org/legacy/event/hotbots07/tech/full_papers/daswani/daswani.pdf
  • Anatomy of comment spam Hacker Intelligence Initiative Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/HII_Anatomy_of_Comment_Spam.pdf
  • Anti-Automation Monitoring and Prevention 2015 https://www.clerkendweller.uk/2015/1/29/AntiAutomation-Monitoring-and-Prevention
  • Anti-DDoS Solution for Internet Corporation http://www.nsfocus.com/uploadfile/Solution/NSFOCUS%20Anti-DDoS%20Solution%20for%20Internet%20Corporation.pdf
  • Anti-Fraud Principles and Proposed Taxonomy Sep 2014 http://www.iab.net/media/file/IAB_Anti_Fraud_Principles_and_Taxonomy.pdf
  • Apache Security Ivan Ristic
  • Application Security Desk Reference, OWASP https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Category:OWASP_ASDR_Project
  • Application Security Guide For CISOs, OWASP, 2013 https://www.owasp.org/index.php/File:Owasp-ciso-guide.pdf
  • AppSensor, OWASP https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_AppSensor_Project
  • Attack & Defense Labs http://www.andlabs.org/html5.html
  • Attack categories OWASP https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Category:Attack
  • Attack Trees, Schneier, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, December 1999 https://www.schneier.com/paper-attacktrees-ddj-ft.html
  • Attacking with HTML5 2010 https://media.blackhat.com/bh-ad-10/Kuppan/Blackhat-AD-2010-Kuppan-Attacking-with-HTML5-wp.pdf
  • Automated attacks Hacker Intelligence Initiative Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/HII_Automation_of_Attacks.pdf
  • Avoiding the Top 10 Software Security Design Flaws http://cybersecurity.ieee.org/images/files/images/pdf/CybersecurityInitiative-online.pdf
  • Bad Bots On The Rise Dec 2014 http://www.darkreading.com/informationweek-home/bad-bots-on-the-rise/d/d-id/1318276
  • Banking Botnets Persist Despite Takedowns, Dell SecureWorks, 2015 http://www.secureworks.com/cyber-threat-intelligence/threats/banking-botnets-persist-despite-takedowns/
  • The Barracuda Web Application Firewall: XML Firewall https://www.barracuda.com/assets/docs/White_Papers/Barracuda_Web_Application_Firewall_WP_XML_Firewall.pdf
  • Blocking Brute Force Attacks http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~csadmin/gen_support/brute_force.php
  • Bot Traffic Growing Problem for Digital Oct 2014 http://www.netnewscheck.com/article/36537/bot-traffic-growing-problem-for-digital
  • BotoPedia Incapsula http://www.botopedia.org/
  • Boy in the Browser Imperva http://www.imperva.com/DefenseCenter/ThreatAdvisories/Boy_in_the_Browser
  • Business Logic Attacks - Bots and BATs, Eldad Chai, 2009 http://www.owasp.org/images/9/96/AppSecEU09_BusinessLogicAttacks_EldadChai.ppt
  • Bypassing Client Application Protection Techniques http://www.securiteam.com/securityreviews/6S0030ABPE.html
  • A CAPTCHA in the Rye Hacker Intelligence Initiative Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/HII_a_CAPTCHA_in_the_Rye.pdf
  • Characterizing Large Scale Click fraud http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~voelker/pubs/za-ccs14.pdf
  • Charter Addition Proposal: “Trusted Code” for the Web https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-webappsec/2015Mar/0150.html
  • A cheesy Apache / IIS DoS vuln (+a question) http://www.securityfocus.com/archive/1/456339/30/0/threaded
  • China’s Man-on-the-Side Attack on GitHub http://www.netresec.com/?page=Blog&month=2015-03&post=China%27s-Man-on-the-Side-Attack-on-GitHub
  • The CISO Survey and Report, OWASP, 2013 https://www.owasp.org/index.php/File:Owasp-ciso-report-2013-1.0.pdf
  • Common Attack Pattern Enumeration and Classification (CAPEC), Mitre https://capec.mitre.org/
  • Common Cyber Attacks: Reducing the Impact CERT-UK https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/400106/Common_Cyber_Attacks-Reducing_The_Impact.pdf
  • Corporate espionage – the internet’s new growth industry http://www.itproportal.com/2015/03/19/corporate-espionage-internets-new-growth-industry/
  • CSA Top Threats to Cloud Computing https://cloudsecurityalliance.org/topthreats/csathreats.v1.0.pdf
  • CSRF vulnerability in GMail service http://seclists.org/fulldisclosure/2009/Mar/29
  • CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors, 2011 http://cwe.mitre.org/top25/
  • Cyber Fraud - Tactics Techniques and Procedures http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781420091274
  • Cybercrime Report: Q1 2015, ThreatMetrix, 2015 http://info.threatmetrix.com/WP-2015Q1CybercrimeReport_WP-LP.html
  • Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 2014 http://www.verizonenterprise.com/DBIR/2014/
  • Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 2015 http://www.verizonenterprise.com/DBIR/2015/
  • Data Breaches Fuel Login Attacks Akamai Feb 2015 http://www.stateoftheinternet.com/downloads/pdfs/2014-state-of-the-internet-threat-advisory-public-data-breaches-fuel-login-attacks.pdf
  • Data Scraping Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_scraping
  • DDoS Quick Guide https://www.us-cert.gov/sites/default/files/publications/DDoS%20Quick%20Guide.pdf
  • DDoS Threat Landscape Report, 2013-2014 http://lp.incapsula.com/rs/incapsulainc/images/2013-14_ddos_threat_landscape.pdf
  • Defending Against an Internet-based Attack on the Physical World http://avirubin.com/scripted.attacks.pdf
  • Defending Against Application-Based DDoS Attacks with the Barracuda Web Application Firewall https://www.barracuda.com/assets/docs/White_Papers/Barracuda_Web_Application_Firewall_WP_Defending%20Against%20Application-Based_%20DDoS_%20Attacks.pdf
  • Demystifying HTML 5 Attacks http://resources.infosecinstitute.com/demystifying-html-5-attacks/
  • Denial of Service Attacks: A Comprehensive Guide to Trends Techniques and Technologies Hacker Intelligence Initiative Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/HII_Denial_of_Service_Attacks-Trends_Techniques_and_Technologies.pdf
  • Detecting and Blocking Site Scraping Attacks Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/WP_Detecting_and_Blocking_Site_Scraping_Attacks.pdf
  • Detecting Automation of Twitter Accounts: Are you a human cyborg or a bot? http://www.cs.wm.edu/~hnw/paper/tdsc12b.pdf
  • Detecting Malice Robert “RSnake” Hansen 2009 http://www.detectmalice.com/
  • Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1414072277428&uri=CELEX:32002L0058
  • Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/ALL/?uri=CELEX:31995L0046
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Cyber-Attacks Risk Mitigation and Additional Resources Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council http://www.ffiec.gov/press/PDF/FFIEC%20DDoS%20Joint%20Statement.pdf
  • Do Evil - The Business of Social Media Bots Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/lutzfinger/2015/02/17/do-evil-the-business-of-social-media-bots/
  • DoS and DDoS Glossary of Terms prolexic http://www.prolexic.com/knowledge-center-dos-and-ddos-glossary.html#layer-7-ddos-attack
  • E-commerce Malware Trustwave https://gsr.trustwave.com/topics/placeholder-topic/e-commerce-malware/
  • Exploiting Software, G. Hoglund and G. McGraw, Addison-Wesley, 2004
  • Five Trends to Track in E-Commerce Fraud, ThreatMetrix, 2013 http://info.threatmetrix.com/rs/threatmetrix/images/Five_Trends_eCommerce_Fraud_WP.pdf
  • Hacker builds cheatbot for hit app Trivia Crack http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/26/hacker_builds_trivia_crack_cheat_app/
  • Has Walmart opened itself up to “Denial of inventory” attacks? https://arstechnica.com/business/2012/05/has-walmart-opened-itself-up-to-denial-of-inventory-attacks/
  • How Hoarder Bots Steal sales from Online Retailers https://www.internetretailer.com/mobile/2016/12/16/how-hoarder-bots-steal-sales-online-retailers
    • How to Defend Against DDoS Attacks - Strategies for the Network Transport and Application Layers Prolexic http://www.prolexic.com/kcresources/white-paper/strategies-for-the-network-transport-and-application-layers-412/Strategies_for_the_Network_Transport_and_Application_Layers_Prolexic_White_Paper_A4_082412.pdf
  • How to Defend Online Travel Websites in the Era of Site Scraping, Distil Networks http://www.distilnetworks.com/defend-online-travel-websites-era-site-scraping-download/
  • How to Shop for Free Online - Security Analysis of Cashier-as-a-Service Based Web Stores http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/145858/caas-oakland-final.pdf
  • HTML5 Overview A look at HTML5 Attack Scenarios Trend Micro 2011 http://www.trendmicro.com/cloud-content/us/pdfs/security-intelligence/reports/rpt_html5-attack-scenarios.pdf
  • HTML5 Top 10 Threats Stealth Attacks and Silent Exploits 2012 https://media.blackhat.com/bh-eu-12/shah/bh-eu-12-Shah_HTML5_Top_10-WP.pdf
  • HTML5 web security 2011 http://media.hacking-lab.com/hlnews/HTML5_Web_Security_v1.0.pdf
  • HTTPPOST - Slow POST Wong Onn Chee OWASP AppSec DC 2010 https://www.owasp.org/images/4/43/Layer_7_DDOS.pdf
  • If you’ve got @British_Airways account may make sense to change your password. Just had all my Avios cleared out! https://twitter.com/suttonnick/status/581556027948195840/photo/1
  • Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 19, 2014 http://www.symantec.com/content/en/us/enterprise/other_resources/b-istr_main_report_v19_21291018.en-us.pdf
  • An Investigation into the Detection and Mitigation of Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks http://www.springer.com/gb/book/9788132202769
  • Is Your Data Center Ready for Today’s DDoS Threats? DDoS attack types protection methods and testing your detection and mitigation defenses http://www.fortinet.com/sites/default/files/whitepapers/WP-DDoS-Testing.pdf
  • Joomla Reflection DDoS-for-Hire Akamai Feb 2015 http://www.stateoftheinternet.com/downloads/pdfs/2015-state-of-the-internet-threat-advisory-joomla-reflection-attack-ddos-for-hire.pdf
  • Layer 7 DDOS – Blocking HTTP Flood Attacks http://blog.sucuri.net/2014/02/layer-7-ddos-blocking-http-flood-attacks.html
  • Lenovo Superfish put smut on my system’ – class-action lawsuit The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/23/lenovo_superfish_class_action_lawsuit/
  • List of Attack Vectors Relative Vulnerability Rating TECAPI http://www.tecapi.com/public/relative-vulnerability-rating-gui.jsp#
  • Man in the Browser http://scisweb.ulster.ac.uk/~kevin/IJACI-Vol4No1-maninbrowser.pdf
  • Man in the Browser Attack https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Man-in-the-browser_attack
  • Mapping and Measuring Cybercrime, Oxford Internet Institute http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/publications/FD18.pdf
  • Massive Changes in the Criminal Landscape Europol 2015 https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/massive-changes-criminal-landscape
  • Matching Attack Patterns to Security Vulnerabilities in Software-Intensive System Designs http://collaboration.csc.ncsu.edu/laurie/Papers/ICSE_Final_MCG_LW.pdf
  • Mitigating DDoS Attacks with F5 Technology F5 https://f5.com/resources/white-papers/mitigating-ddos-attacks-with-f5-technology
  • Mitigating the DoS/DDosS Threat, Radware, 2012 http://www.radware.com/PleaseRegister.aspx?returnUrl=6442452061
  • Modern Web Attacks, Sophos, 2007 http://www.sophos.com/en-us/why-sophos/our-people/technical-papers/modern-web-attacks.aspx
  • ModSecurity Advanced Topic of the Week: Mitigating Slow HTTP DoS Attacks https://www.trustwave.com/Resources/SpiderLabs-Blog/(Updated)-ModSecurity-Advanced-Topic-of-the-Week–Mitigating-Slow-HTTP-DoS-Attacks/
  • Most common attacks on web applications https://ipsec.pl/web-application-security/most-common-attacks-web-applications.html
  • Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Hierarchies Daniel Miessler https://danielmiessler.com/study/multi-dimensional-vulnerability-hierarchies/
  • New Wave of DDoS Attacks Launched BankInfoSecurity.com Mar 2013 http://www.bankinfosecurity.com/new-wave-ddos-attacks-launched-a-5584/op-1
  • NOMAD: Toward Non-Invasive Moving Target Defense Against Web Bots http://faculty.cs.tamu.edu/guofei/paper/NOMAD_CNS13.pdf
  • Online Ad Fraud Exposed: Advertisers Losing $6.3 Billion To $10 Billion Per Year Sep 2014 http://www.darkreading.com/analytics/threat-intelligence/online-ad-fraud-exposed-advertisers-losing-$63-billion-to-$10-billion-per-year/d/d-id/1317979
  • Online Data Companies versus Bots: The Fight is on for Control of Online Data, Distil Networks http://www.distilnetworks.com/online-data-companies-vs-bots-download/
  • Optimal Airline Ticket Purchasing Using Automated User-Guided Feature Selection http://ijcai.org/papers13/Papers/IJCAI13-032.pdf
  • Payment Checkout Flaws and Bugs 2014 https://www.clerkendweller.uk/2014/11/4/Payment-Checkout-Flaws-and-Bugs
  • PCI Compliance Report 2015 Verizon http://www.verizonenterprise.com/pcireport/2015/
  • Pixel Perfect Timing Attacks with HTML5 2013 http://www.contextis.com/services/research/white-papers/pixel-perfect-timing-attacks-html5/
  • Polymorphism as a Defense for Automated Attack of Websites http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-07536-5_30
  • Preventing Web Scraping: Best Practice https://creativedigitalideas.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/best-practice-to-prevent-web-scraping.pdf
  • Profile: Automated Credit Card Fraud http://old.honeynet.org/papers/profiles/cc-fraud.pdf
  • Protecting Against Web Floods, Radware http://www.radware.com/PleaseRegister.aspx?returnUrl=6442452968
  • Q4 2014 State of the Internet Security Report prolexic http://www.stateoftheinternet.com/downloads/pdfs/2014-internet-security-report-q4.pdf
  • Reflection injection http://cybersecurity.ieee.org/images/files/images/pdf/CybersecurityInitiative-online.pdf
  • A Report on taxonomy and evaluation of existing inventories, ENISAhttp://ecrime-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/E-Crime-Deliverable-2-1-20141128_FINAL.pdf
  • Reporting Intellectual Property Crime: A Guide for Victims of Copyright Infringement, Trademark Counterfeiting, and Trade Secret Theft, Dept of Justice http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/docs/ip-victim-guide-and-checklist-march-2013.pdf
  • SANS Top 20 Critical Controls https://www.sans.org/critical-security-controls/
  • Securing Websites, Sophos, 2011 http://www.sophos.com/en-us/why-sophos/our-people/technical-papers/securing-websites.aspx
  • Security Insights: Defending Against Automated Threats http://www.securityweek.com/security-insights-defending-against-automated-threats
  • Server side DDoS Imperva http://www.imperva.com/DefenseCenter/ThreatAdvisories/DDOS_Attack_Method_Payload_05182010
  • Slow Read Denial of Service attack https://code.google.com/p/slowhttptest/wiki/SlowReadTest
  • Slow-Read DoS Attack https://www.trustwave.com/Resources/SpiderLabs-Blog/ModSecurity-Advanced-Topic-of-the-Week–Mitigation-of–Slow-Read–Denial-of-Service-Attack/
  • Slowloris HTTP DoS http://ha.ckers.org/slowloris/
  • So what are the “most critical” application flaws? On new OWASP Top 10 https://ipsec.pl/application-security/2013/so-what-are-most-critical-application-flaws-new-owasp-top-10.html
  • Social Media Bots Offer Phony Friends and Real Profit NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/20/fashion/social-media-bots-offer-phony-friends-and-real-profit.html?_r=1
  • Software Vulnerability Analysis, Krsul, 1998 http://www.krsul.org/ivan/articles/main.pdf
  • Sophos Security Threat Report http://blogs.sophos.com/2014/12/11/our-top-10-predictions-for-security-threats-in-2015-and-beyond/
  • SpoofedMe Social Login Attack Discovered by IBM X-Force Researchers http://securityintelligence.com/spoofedme-social-login-attack-discovered-by-ibm-x-force-researchers/#.VSuiEhPSngM
  • State of Software Security Report, Volume 5, Veracode, 2013 https://info.veracode.com/state-of-software-security-report-volume5.html
  • Stopping Automated Attack Tools http://www.technicalinfo.net/papers/StoppingAutomatedAttackTools.html
  • Taxonomy on Online Game Security http://www.math.snu.ac.kr/~jhcheon/publications/2004/Taxonomy%20on%20online%20game%20security_EL.pdf
  • A Taxonomy of Computer Program Security Flaws, with Examples, Landwehr https://cwe.mitre.org/documents/sources/ATaxonomyofComputerProgramSecurityFlawswithExamples%5BLandwehr93%5D.pdf
  • A Taxonomy of Security Faults in the UNIX Operating System, Aslam, 1995 https://cwe.mitre.org/documents/sources/ATaxonomyofSecurityFaultsintheUNIXOperatingSystem%5BAslam95%5D.pdf
  • Testing Guide, v4, OWASP, 2014 https://www.owasp.org/images/5/52/OWASP_Testing_Guide_v4.pdf
  • The Bot Baseline: Fraud in Digital Advertising https://s3.amazonaws.com/whiteops-public/WO-ANA-Baseline-Study-of-Bot-Fraud.pdf
  • The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA) 2014 https://www.europol.europa.eu/content/internet-organised-crime-threat-assesment-iocta
  • The Notorious Nine Cloud Computing Top Threats in 2013 CSA https://downloads.cloudsecurityalliance.org/initiatives/top_threats/The_Notorious_Nine_Cloud_Computing_Top_Threats_in_2013.pdf
  • The Risks of Content Management Systems, IBM, 2015 https://portal.sec.ibm.com/mss/html/en_US/support_resources/pdf/CMS_Threats_MSS_Threat_Report.pdf
  • The Spy in the Sandbox – Practical Cache Attacks in Javascript http://iss.oy.ne.ro/SpyInTheSandbox.pdf
  • Thousands of Hacked Uber Accounts Selling on Dark Web for $1 http://thehackernews.com/2015/03/thousands-of-hacked-uber-accounts_30.html?m=1
  • Threat Intelligence Quarterly, IBM, 1Q 2015 https://www.ibm.com/services/forms/signup.do?source=swg-WW_Security_Organic&S_PKG=ov33510&S_TACT=C327017W&dynform=18101
  • Threat Modeling: Designing for Security, Adam Shostack, Wiley, April 2014 http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118809998.html
  • Threats and Mitigations: A Guide to Multi-Layered Web Security - eBook Prolexic http://www.prolexic.com/knowledge-center/prolexic-download/guide-multi-layered-web-security-ebook.pdf
  • Trapping Unknown Malware in a Context Web, Sophos http://www.sophos.com/en-us/medialibrary/PDFs/technical%20papers/HuqSzabo-VB2013.pdf?la=en.pdf
  • Trustwave Global Security Report 2014 https://www2.trustwave.com/GSR2014.html?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=GSR2014
  • TurboTax’s Anti-Fraud Efforts Under Scrutiny http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/02/turbotaxs-anti-fraud-efforts-under-scrutiny/
  • Two Security Vulnerabilities in the Spring Framework’s MVC pdf (from 2008) http://blog.diniscruz.com/2011/07/two-security-vulnerabilities-in-spring.html
  • The Underground Economy of Spam: A Botmaster’s Perspective of Coordinating Large-Scale Spam Campaigns http://static.usenix.org/events/leet11/tech/full_papers/Stone-Gross.pdf
  • Understanding Web Bots and How They Hurt Your Business Encapsula http://www.slideshare.net/Incapsula/understanding-web-bots-and-how-they-hurt-your-business
  • Use of A Taxonomy of Security Faults, Taimur Aslam, Ivan Krsul and Eugene H Spafford, 1996 http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2304&context=cstech
  • The WASC Threat Classification v2.0 http://projects.webappsec.org/w/page/13246978/Threat%20Classification
  • Warhol Worms: The Potential for Very Fast Internet Plagues http://www.iwar.org.uk/comsec/resources/worms/warhol-worm.htm
  • Web Application Attack Report #5 Imperva http://www.imperva.com/docs/HII_Web_Application_Attack_Report_Ed5.pdf
  • Web Application Defender’s Cookbook: Battling Hackers and Protecting Users, Ryan Barnett, Wiley, December 2012 http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118362187.html
  • Web Attacks in the Wild Corsaire https://www.owasp.org/images/a/a7/Web_attacks_in_the_wild_-_ap.pdf
  • Web Automation Friend or Foe? https://www.owasp.org/images/5/58/OWASP_Israel_-May_2009-Ofer_Shezaf-_Automation_Attacks.pdf
  • Web Spambot Detection Based on Web Navigation Behaviour http://pedramhayati.com/papers/Web_Spambot_Detection_Based_on_Web_Usage_Behaviour.pdf
  • Website Security Statistics Report, 2014 http://info.whitehatsec.com/rs/whitehatsecurity/images/statsreport2014-20140410.pdf
  • What is Zeus? http://www.sophos.com/medialibrary/pdfs/technical%20papers/sophos%20what%20is%20zeus%20tp.pdf
  • When Web 2.0 Attacks! Understanding Ajax Flash and other highly interactive web technologies… https://www.owasp.org/images/f/fc/When_Web_2.0Attacks-_Understanding_Security_Implications_of_Highly_Interactive_Technologies-Rafal_Los.pdf
  • Where have all of our Passwords Gone? Gartner 2015 http://blogs.gartner.com/avivah-litan/2015/01/22/where-have-all-our-passwords-gone/
  • WS-Attacks.org http://www.ws-attacks.org/index.php/Main_Page

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you mean by “web”, “application” and “automated threat”?

See the definitions in the project’s glossary.

What is an “ontology”?

An ontology is a set of types, properties, and relationship. These together define a subject description language. This particular ontology is meant to represent what automated threats real world owners observe affecting their web applications in usual operations.

Isn’t this another bug (vulnerability) list?

No, none of the named automated threat events are implementation bugs - they relate to abuse of functionality using automated means.

But is it an OWASP Top N List?

Again no, it’s an ontology which currently contains 21 items but there may be more identified in the future. Also it is not an ordered list (like OWASP Top N lists) - the OAT identification numbers were randomly assigned, so the list is often written in alphabetical order to emphasize this.

I thought “so and so” already did that?

We found that it did not exist. While many threats are mentioned in the sources researched, there was no overall list or definitions. We found the automated threat events tended to all be in a small number of definied items from Mitre CAPEC and WASC Threat Classification. If you know of other automated threat lists/taxonomies/ontologies, please share them.

What is an “oat”?

It is our abbreviation for OWASP Automated Threat (OAT).

I am confused and don’t know which OAT my problem is - how do I identify it?

In 2017 we created a threat identification chart to help identify the correct OAT, which can then be confirmed by reading the full description in the handbook. The short summaries are important explanations of each OAT name.

How can I help?

Please join our Google Group, send ideas, contribute clarifications, corrections and improvement, and let other people know about the project and its handbook.

Acknowledgements and Sponsors


  • Sumit Agarwal
  • Jason Chan
  • Mark Hall
  • Omri Iluz
  • José Santos Martins Pereira
  • Andrew van der Stock
  • Roland Weber
  • Colin Watson
  • Tin Zaw

Additionally other professional colleagues and website owners and operators who provided feedback.


  • Igor Andriushchenko
  • Gabriel Mendez Justiniano
  • Matt Tesauro


All OWASP Projects are run and developed by volunteers and rely on personal donations and sponsorship to continue their development. OWASP does not endorse or recommend commercial products or services, allowing our community to remain vendor neutral with the collective wisdom of the best minds in software security worldwide. This project has received the sponsorship part of their Corporate OWASP membership fees from Verizon Digital Media Services in 2016 and Distil Networks in 2017, which has already contributed to the v1.2 production design costs, and will also be utilised to help promote knowledge of the project.

Verizon Digital Media logo

Distil Networks logo

Road Map and Getting Involved

We want to keep the Automated Threat Handbook Updated.

Can you help? The project is looking for information on the prevalence and types of automated threats seen by web application owners in the real world. This will be used to refine and organise the information gathered from research papers, whitepapers, security reports and industry news. Please use the project’s Google Group to keep up-to-date with what’s going on, and to contribute your ideas, feedback, and experience:

To share information confidentially, you can email the project leaders directly: Tin Zaw and Colin Watson.