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I'm looking at ways to use .NET to prevent XSS attacks and have come across the following methods to encode data:

        string asdf = WebUtility.UrlEncode(code);
        string asdf1 = HttpUtility.UrlEncode(code);
        string asdf1a = HttpUtility.UrlEncodeUnicode(code); // OBSOLETE
        string asdf1b = HttpUtility.UrlPathEncode(code);
        string asdf1c = Uri.EscapeDataString(code);
        string asdf1d = Uri.EscapeUriString(code);
        string asdf1e = HttpUtility.HtmlEncode(code);
        string asdf1f = HttpUtility.HtmlAttributeEncode(code);

(I omitted the byte[] methods... but there are more)

Given that each one of these methods work in a completely different way, and are located in completely different classes I would assume it's easy to cause an XSS issue given the wrong mix of choices.

For a given situation, when is it appropriate to use a given encoding method? Why?

closed as off-topic by Adi, TildalWave, Steve, Xander, Scott Pack Mar 5 '14 at 3:05

  • This question does not appear to be about Information security within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • It's worth looking at the OWASP ESAPI project, which contains a whole bunch of filtering utilities designed to help prevent XSS in output destined for HTML (inside tags, attributes, etc.), JavaScript, and CSS. Sadly the .NET version isn't quite up-to-speed yet, but it's still usable. – Polynomial Mar 4 '14 at 16:06
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This is sort of the source for preventing XSS in ASP.NET (at least from Microsoft):

How To: Prevent Cross-Site Scripting in ASP.NET

Some important things to glean from the article specific to your question:

  • Use the HttpUtility.HtmlEncode method to encode output if it contains input from the user or from other sources such as databases.

  • use HttpUtility.UrlEncode to encode output URLs if they are constructed from input.

Regarding HTMLAttributeEncode:

  • The HtmlAttributeEncode method converts only quotation marks ("), ampersands (&), and left angle brackets (<) to equivalent character entities. It is considerably faster than the HtmlEncode method.

  • The string result from the HtmlAttributeEncode method should be used only for double-quoted attributes. Security issues might arise when using the HtmlAttributeEncode method with single-quoted attributes.

And finally, with UriEscapeString, use that if what you are escaping is a URI. This SO question discusses the difference between UriEscapeString and UriEscapeDataString.

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