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Syntribos, An Automated API Security Testing Tool

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   === Automated API Scanning  ===

Syntribos is an open source automated API security testing tool that is maintained by members of the OpenStack Security Project.

Given a simple configuration file and an example HTTP request, syntribos can replace any API URL, URL parameter, HTTP header and request body field with a given set of strings. Syntribos iterates through each position in the request automatically. Syntribos aims to automatically detect common security defects such as SQL injection, LDAP injection, buffer overflow, etc. In addition, syntribos can be used to help identify new security defects by automated fuzzing.

Syntribos has the capability to test any API, but is designed with OpenStack applications in mind.

List of Tests

Syntribos is shipped with batteries included, which means, with minimal configuration effort you can initiate automated testing of any API of your choice. If testing OpenStack API is in your mind, then syntribos by default will help you in automatically downloading a set of templates of some of the bigger OpenStack projects like nova, neutron, keystone etc.

A short list of tests that can be run using syntribos is given below:

  • Buffer Overflow
  • Command Injection
  • CORS Wildcard
  • Integer Overflow
  • LDAP Injection
  • SQL Injection
  • String Validation
  • XML External Entity
  • Cross Site Scripting ( XSS )

Buffer Overflow

The idea of buffer overflow attacks in the context of a web application is to force an application to handle more data than it can hold in a buffer. In syntribos a buffer overflow test is attempted by injecting a large string into the body of an HTTP request.

Command Injection

Command injection attacks are done by injecting arbitrary commands in an attempt to execute these commands on a remote system. In syntribos, this is achieved by injecting a set of strings that have been proven to be successful in executing a command injection attacks.

CORS Wildcard

CORS wildcard test is used to verify if a web server allows cross-domain resource sharing from any external URL ( wild carding of Access-Control-Allow-Origin header) rather than a white list of URLs.

Integer Overflow

Integer overflow test in syntribos attempts to inject numeric values that the remote application may fail to represent within its storage, for example a 32 bit integer type trying to store a 64 bit number

LDAP Injection

Syntribos attempts LDAP injection attacks by injecting LDAP statements into HTTP requests; if an application fails to properly sanitize the request content, it may be possible to execute arbitrary commands.

SQL Injection

SQL injection attacks are one of the most common web application attacks. If the user input is not properly sanitized, it is fairly easy to execute SQL queries that may result in an attacker reading sensitive information or gaining control of the SQL server. In syntribos an application is tested for SQL injection vulnerabilities by injecting SQL strings into the HTTP request.

String Validation

String validation attacks in syntribos try to exploit the fact that some string patterns are not sanitized effectively by the input validator and may cause the application to crash. Examples of characters that may cause string validation vulnerabilities are special unicode characters, emojis etc.

XML External Entity

XML external entity attacks are attacks that targets the web application’s XML parser. If an XML parser allows processing of external entities referenced in an XML document then an attacker might be able to cause denial of service, leakage of information etc. Syntribos tries to inject a few malicious strings into an XML body while sending requests to an application in an attempt to obtain an appropriate response.

Cross Site Scripting ( XSS )

An XSS attack is one where malicious JavaScript is injected into a web application. Syntribos tries to find potential XSS issues by injecting string containing “script” and other HTML tags into request fields.

Other than these built-in tests, you can extend syntribos by writing your own custom tests. To do this, download the source code and look at the tests in syntribos/tests directory. The CORS test may be an easy one to emulate. In the same way, users can add different extensions also to the tests. To see how extensions can be written please see syntribos/extensions directory.


Supported Operating Systems

Syntribos has been developed primarily in Linux and Mac environments and would work on most Unix and Linux based Operating Systems. At this point, we are not supporting Windows, but this may change in the future.


Syntribos can be installed directly from pypi with pip

pip install syntribos

If you want the latest changes, you could install syntribos from source with pip.

  • Clone the repository
$ git clone
  • cd to the directory and install with pip
$ cd syntribos
$ pip install .

Initializing the syntribos Environment

Once syntribos is installed, you must initialize the syntribos environment. This can be done manually, or via the init command.

$ syntribos init

By default, syntribos init fetches a set of default payload files from a remote repository maintained by our development team. These payload files are necessary for our fuzz tests to run, but if you would like to disable this behavior, run syntribos with the --no_downloads flag. Payload files can also be fetched by running syntribos download --payloads at any time.

If you’d like to specify a custom root for syntribos to be installed in, specify the --custom_install_root flag after init. This will skip syntribos’ prompts for information from the terminal, which can be handy for Jenkins jobs and other situations where user input cannot be retrieved.

If you’ve already run the init command but want to start over with a fresh environment, you can specify the --force flag to overwrite existing files. The --custom_install_root and --force flags can be combined to overwrite files in a custom install root.


$ syntribos init --custom_install_root /your/custom/path --force


All configuration files should have at least the section [syntribos]. Depending upon what extensions you are using and what you are testing, you can add other sections as well. For example, if you are using the built-in identity extension you would also need the [user] section. The sections [logging] and [remote] are optional.

Given below is the basic structure of a syntribos configuration file.

# End point URLs and versions of the services to be tested.
# Set payload and templates path

# User credentials and endpoint URL to get an AUTH_TOKEN
# This section is only needed if you are using the identity extension.

# Optional, to define remote URI and cache_dir explicitly
templates_uri=<URI to a tar file of set of templates>
payloads_uri=<URI to a tar file of set of payloads>
cache_dir=<a local path to save the downloaded files>


To test any project, just update the endpoint URL under [syntribos] to point to the API and also modify the user credentials if needed. The endpoint URL in the [syntribos] section is the one being tested by syntribos and the endpoint URL in [user] section is just used to get an AUTH_TOKEN.

Downloading templates and payloads remotely

Payload and template files can be downloaded remotely in syntribos. In the config file under [syntribos] section, if templates and payloads options are not set, then, by default syntribos will download all the latest payloads and the templates for a few OpenStack projects.

As a user you can specify a URI to download custom templates and payloads from as well; this is done by using [remotes] section in the config file. Available options under [remotes] are cache_dir, templates_uri, payloads_uri and enable_cache. The enable_cache option is True by default and can be set to False to disable caching of remote content while syntribos is running. If the cache_dir set to a path, syntribos will attempt to use that as a base directory to save downloaded template and payload files.

The advantage of using these options are that you will be able to get the latest payloads from the official repository and if you are using syntribos to test OpenStack projects, then, in most cases you could directly use the well defined templates available with this option.

This option also helps to easily manage different versions of templates remotely, without the need to maintain a set of different versions offline.

Testing OpenStack keystone API

A sample config file is given in examples/configs/keystone.conf. Copy this file to a location of your choice (default file path for configuration file is: ~/.syntribos/syntribos.conf) and update the necessary fields like user credentials, log, template directory etc.

$ vi examples/configs/keystone.conf

# As keystone is being tested in the example, enter your
# keystone auth endpoint url.
# Set payload and templates path

# User credentials
# Optional, only needed if Keystone V3 API is used
# Optional, api version if required
# Optional, for getting scoped tokens
# If user id is not known
# For V3 API
# For Keystone V2 API

# Optional, Used for cross auth tests (-t AUTH)
# Optional, for getting scoped tokens
# If user id is not known
# For V3 API
# For Keystone V2 API

# Optional, Used to specify URLs of templates and payloads
#cache_dir=<a local path to save the downloaded files>
# To disable caching of these remote contents, set the following variable to False

# Logger options go here
# Optional, compresses http_request_content,
# if you don't want this, set this option to False.


Below are the set of commands that can be specified while using syntribos.

  • init

    This command sets up the syntribos environment after installation. It will create the necessary folders for templates, payloads, and logs, as well as an example configuration file.

    $ syntribos init

    To learn more about syntribos init, see the installation instructions here

  • run

    This command runs syntribos with the given config options

    $ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf -t SQL run
  • dry-run

    This command ensures that the template files given for this run parse successfully without errors. It then runs a debug test which sends no requests of its own.

    Note: If any external calls referenced inside the template file do make requests, the parser will still make those requests even for a dry run.

    $ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf dry_run
  • list_tests

    This command will list the names and description of all the tests that can be executed by the run command.

    $ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf list_tests
  • download

    This command will download templates and payload files. By default, it will download a default set of OpenStack template files (with the –templates flag) or our default set of payloads (with the –payloads flag) to your syntribos root directory. However, the behavior of this command can be configured in the [remote] section of your config file.

    $ syntribos download --templates

All these commands except init will only work if a configuration file is specified. If a configuration file is present in the default path ( ~/.syntribos/syntribos.conf ), then you do not need to explicitly specify a config file and can run syntribos using the command syntribos run.

Running syntribos

To run syntribos against all the available tests, just specify the command syntribos with the configuration file without specifying any test type.

$ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf run

Fuzzy-matching test names

It is possible to limit syntribos to run a specific test type using the -t flag.

$ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf -t SQL run

This will match all tests that contain SQL in their name like SQL_INJECTION_HEADERS, SQL_INJECTION_BODY etc.

Specifying a custom root directory

If you set up the syntribos environment with a custom root (i.e. with syntribos init --custom_install_root), you can point to it with the --syntribos-custom_root configuration option. Syntribos will look for a syntribos.conf file inside this directory, and will read further configuration information from there.

Logging and Results

Two types of logs are generated by syntribos, results and debug logs. While results log is the representation of results ( collection of issues ) from a given syntribos run, debug logs contain debugging information captured during a particular run. Debug logs may include exception messages, warnings, raw but sanitized request/response data and a few more details as well. A modified version of Python logger is used for collecting debug logs in syntribos.

Results Log

The results log as described above is a collection of issues (failures and errors) generated at the end of a syntribos run. The “failures” key represents tests that have failed, indicating a possible security vulnerability and the “errors” key gives us information on any unhandled exceptions such as connection errors encountered on that run.

An example failure object is seen below:

   "defect_type": "xss_strings",
   "description": "The string(s): '[\"<STYLE>@import'';</STYLE>\"]',
   known to be commonly returned after a successful XSS attack, have been found in the
   response. This could indicate a vulnerability to XSS attacks.",
   "failure_id": 33,
   "instances": [
        "confidence": "LOW",
        "param": {
          "location": "data",
          "method": "POST",
          "type": null,
          "variables": [
      "severity": "LOW",
      "signals": {
         "diff_signals": [
         "init_signals": [
         "test_signals": [
      "strings": [
   "url": ""

Errors take the form:

  "error": "Traceback (most recent call last):\n  File \"/Users/test/syntribos/tests/fuzz/\",
   line 58, in tearDownClass\n    super(BaseFuzzTestCase, cls).tearDownClass()\n
   File \"/Users/test/syntribos/tests/\", line 166, in tearDownClass\n
   raise[\"exception\"]\nReadTimeout: HTTPConnectionPool(host='', port=8080):
   Read timed out. (read timeout=10)\n",
   "test": "tearDownClass (syntribos.tests.fuzz.sql.image_data_image_data_get.template_SQL_INJECTION_HEADERS_sql-injection.txt_str21_model1)"

Debug Logs

Debug logs include details about HTTP requests and responses, and other debugging information like errors and warnings across the project. The default path where debug logs are saved is .syntribos/logs/. Debug logs are arranged in directories based on the timestamp and in these directories, in files named according to the templates.

For example:

$ ls .syntribos/logs/
2016-09-15_11:06:37.198412 2016-09-16_10:11:37.834892 2016-09-16_13:31:36.362584
2016-09-15_11:34:33.271606 2016-09-16_10:38:55.820827 2016-09-16_13:36:43.151048
2016-09-15_11:41:53.859970 2016-09-16_10:39:50.501820 2016-09-16_13:40:23.203920
$ ls .syntribos/logs/2016-09-16_13:31:36.362584

Each log file includes some essential debugging information like the string representation of the request object, signals and checks used for tests etc.

The request:

request method.......: PUT
request url..........:
request params.......:
request headers size.: 7
request headers......: {'Content-Length': '0', 'Accept-Encoding': 'gzip, deflate',
'Accept': 'application/json',
'X-Auth-Token': <uuid>, 'Connection': 'keep-alive',
'User-Agent': 'python-requests/2.11.1', 'content-type': 'application/xml'}
request body size....: 0
request body.........: None

The response:

response status..: <Response [415]>
response headers.: {'Content-Length': '70',
'X-Compute-Request-Id': <random id>,
'Vary': 'OpenStack-API-Version, X-OpenStack-Nova-API-Version',
'Openstack-Api-Version': 'compute 2.1', 'Connection': 'close',
'X-Openstack-Nova-Api-Version': '2.1', 'Date': 'Fri, 16 Sep 2016 14:15:27 GMT',
'Content-Type': 'application/json; charset=UTF-8'}
response time....: 0.036277
response size....: 70
response body....: {"badMediaType": {"message": "Unsupported Content-Type", "code": 415}}
[2590]  :  XSS_BODY
(<syntribos.clients.http.client.SynHTTPClient object at 0x102c65f10>, 'PUT',
{'headers': {'Accept': 'application/json', 'X-Auth-Token': <uuid> },
'params': {}, 'sanitize': False, 'data': '', 'requestslib_kwargs': {'timeout': 10}}
Starting new HTTP connection (1):
"PUT HTTP/1.1" 501 93

And the signals captured:


Debug logs are sanitized to prevent storing secrets to log files. Passwords and other sensitive information are masked with astericks using a slightly modified version of oslo_utils.strutils.mask_password

Debug logs also includes body compression, wherein long fuzz strings are compressed before being written to the logs. The threshold to start data compression is set to 512 characters. While compression can be turned off by setting the variable “http_request_compression” under logging section in the config file to False, it is not recommended.

Anatomy of a request template

This section will give you a brief idea on writing templates and on how to run specific tests. Templates are input files which has raw http requests and may also be supplemented with variable data using extensions.

Syntribos template files are ordinary text files containing raw http requests.

Using external functions in templates

These template files can also be supplemented with variable data, or data retrieved from external sources. This is handled using ‘extensions.’

Extensions are found in syntribos/extensions/ .

Calls to extensions are made in this form:

CALL_EXTERNAL|{extension dot path}:{function}:{arguments}

One example packaged with syntribos enables the tester to obtain an auth token from keystone. The code is located in identity/

To use this extension, you can add the following to your template file:

X-Auth-Token: CALL_EXTERNAL|syntribos.extensions.identity.client:get_token_v3:["user"]|

The “user” string indicates the data from the configuration file we added in examples/configs/keystone.conf

Another example is found in random_data/ . This returns a UUID when random but unique data is needed. This can be used in place of usernames when fuzzing a create user call.

"username": "CALL_EXTERNAL|syntribos.extensions.random_data.client:get_uuid:[]|"

The extension function can return one value or be used as a generator if you want it to change for each test.

Built in functions

Syntribos comes with a slew of utility functions/extensions, these functions can be used to dynamically inject data into templates.

Utility Functions
Method Parameters Description
hash_it [data, hash_type (optional hash type, default being SHA256)] Returns hashed value of data
hmac_it [data, key, hash_type (optional hash type, default being SHA256)] Returns HMAC based on the has algorithm, data and the key provided
epoch_time [offset (optional integer offset value, default is zero)] Returns the current time minus offset since epoch
utc_datetime [] Returns current UTC date time
base64_encode [data] Returns base 64 encoded value of data supplied
url_encode [url] Returns encoded URL

All these utility functions can be called using:

CALL_EXTERNAL|common_utils.client.{method_name}:{comma separated parameters in square brackets}

For example:

"encoded_url": "CALL_EXTERNAL|common_utils.client:url_encode:['http://localhost:5000']|

There are a few other functions that return random values as well, they are:

Random Functions
Method Parameters Description
get_uuid [] Returns a random UUID
random_port [] Returns random port number between 0 and 65535
random_ip [] Returns random ipv4 address
random_mac [] Returns random mac address
random_integer [beg (optional beginning value, default is 0), end (optional end value)] Returns an integer value between 0 and 1468029570 by default
random_utc_datetime [] Returns random UTC datetime

These can be called using:

CALL_EXTERNAL|random_data.client.{method_name}:{comma separated parameters in square brackets}

For example,

"address": "CALL_EXTERNAL|random_data.client:random_ip:[]|"

Action Field

While syntribos is designed to test all fields in a request, it can also ignore specific fields through the use of Action Fields. If you want to fuzz against a static object ID, use the Action Field indicator as follows:

"ACTION_FIELD:id": "1a16f348-c8d5-42ec-a474-b1cdf78cf40f"

The ID provided will remain static for every test.

Running a specific test

As mentioned above, some tests included with syntribos by default are LDAP injection, SQL injection, integer overflow, command injection, XML external entity, reflected cross-site scripting, Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) wildcard and SSL.

In order to run a specific test, simply use the -t, --test-types option and provide syntribos with a keyword or keywords to match from the test files located in syntribos/tests/.

For SQL injection tests, use:

$ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf -t SQL

Another example, to run SQL injection tests against the template body only, use:

$ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf -t SQL_INJECTION_BODY

For all tests against HTTP headers only, use:

$ syntribos --config-file keystone.conf -t HEADERS

Executing unittests

To execute unittests automatically, navigate to the syntribos root directory and install the test requirements.

$ pip install -r test-requirements.txt

Now, run

$ python -m unittest discover tests/unit -p "test_*.py"

If you have configured tox you could also do

$ tox -e py27
$ tox -e py35

This will run all the unittests and give you a result output containing the status and coverage details of each test.

Contributing Guidelines

Syntribos is an open source project and contributions are always welcome, if you have any questions, we can be found in the #openstack-security channel on Freenode IRC.

  1. Follow all the OpenStack Style Guidelines (e.g. PEP8, Py3 compatibility)
  2. All new classes/functions should have appropriate docstrings in RST format
  3. All new code should have appropriate unittests (place them in the tests/unit folder)
  4. Any change you make can be tested using tox:
pip install tox
tox -e pep8
tox -e py27
tox -e py35
tox -e cover

Anyone wanting to contribute to OpenStack must follow the OpenStack development workflow

All changes should be submitted through the code review process in Gerrit described above. All pull requests on Github will be closed/ignored.

Bugs should be filed on the syntribos launchpad site, and not on Github. All Github issues will be closed/ignored.

Breaking changes, feature requests, and other unprioritized work should first be submitted as a blueprint here for review.

Note: README.rst is an auto generated file, from the rst files in the docs directory. The file can be generated by running python from the syntribos/scripts directory. When the README needs to be updated; modify the corresponding rst file in syntribos/doc/source and generate it by running the script.

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