Finding a vulnerability when you just want to buy a car

Posted on Jun 7, 2023

About 2 months ago, I was browsing the car auctions for broken BMWs on a saturday night, as you do. It’s well known that all Australian auction platforms compete with each other on who has the worst website, according to literally everyone I know that has used one (or more) of these sites.

Anyways, that’s not really the point of this post, we are supposed to be talking about hacker stuff.

Saturday night enjoyers ๐Ÿ‘€

I am on looking at a listing for one of the said BMWs, and realise there’s been like 130 something bids on it so far, who are all these people spending their saturday night looking at cars that don’t run? Why aren’t they outside, socialising, having a good time? weirdos.

list of said weirdos

The “bidding details” are the bidder’s initials and their suburb, why do we need to see the initials of every single bidder? I mean it has no use other than to see who you are in a bidding war with. Maybe it’s a psychological tactic to drive up the egos of bidders so they can go like “yeah I will beat J.K this time around”?

Being able to see the initials got me thinking ๐Ÿง , surely I can see the full names, right? I wanted to see if there were juicy things hidden inside the page. To do it, I had to use the only hacker tool I know.

Right click > Inspect, all you need to subvert any website known to man

Clicking this will launch the developer tools of your browser, you can see what kinds of network calls the website is making.


So we know a few things, they have some sort of a database to store all bidder details, they MUST know the full name of the bidders (because they have the initials, duh) and they are somehow getting this data from the database and displaying it on the website for your eyeballs to see.

While we have the inspect element open (and on the ’network’ tab), we see the network calls being made as soon as we click the ‘view bidders’ button. One request returns a list of bidder information for that listing

"Bids": [
    "LotId": 20982268,
			"UserId": "379e6d8f-7608-4d38-b10f-7330e7c03c7c",
			"UserInitials": "M.W",
			"Date": "/Date(1686147660227)/",
			"Price": 27250,
			"Quantity": 1,
			"WinningQuantity": 1,
			"OriginalDate": "/Date(1686135239583)/",
			"MaximumBidPrice": 0,
			"UserShortAddress": "Wembley WA",
			"FormattedDate": "08/06/2023 <a href=\"\" title=\"&#40;UTC&#43;10&#58;00&#41;&#32;Canberra,&#32;Melbourne,&#32;Sydney\">12.21.00 AM AEST</a>",
			"FormattedPrice": "<span class=\"currency\"><span class=\"abbr\"><span title=\"AUD\">AU $</span></span>27,250</span>"

At a first glance, I don’t reallyyy get anything out of this, UserInitials is there, but nothing else that seemed “oh no” worthy1

More clicking around

While we have mr.inspector open, why don’t we just browse the website around? I’m just going to click 1 link, just 1 more.

Clicking ‘My Grays’ will show you a page with a form, a form prefilled with all your details when you signed up; full name, email and all the other private details. All of this is being fetched how?

We make another network call to account/yourdetails.aspx. With this request, you have to specify exactly who’s details you want to get. We can see that through the request headers.

GET /mygrays/account/yourdetails.aspx HTTP/2
2 Host:
3 Cookie: forterToken=80fc631a26ff4aa481958f63433821d_1682220260323_715_UAL9_11ck; deviceScreenSize=xl;
deviceSmallScreenSizeSet=0;AMCV_grays$40Adobe0rg=T;s_fid=71D698F8C5D8A0EE-2C2EA6F58CA0BB37;5_vnuM= 1704890873504826vnS3D17;
_zUcmid=1Dr lW2Au3Sd155K; ItemsPerPage=100; Murray_Identity=
Ka19664a9-694c-412d-9507-ef6ce2f0flae}20230423T032451:20; _nr=1682220300169-Repeat;visited=1;
land-marines2282C822EntityCategoryType 2283A822Industrialยฎ22%7D$7D; RequestCorrelationId=
(28b673a8-1bbf-4df8-90bc-7c7228dae006; Murray_TimeZone=AUSEasternStandardTime;s_ev50-Browse;5_5q=

I looked at this for about 30 minutes before I saw it. Can you see it? CAN YOU?


This looks just like the UserID we saw from the other request, the one to get the bidder details ๐Ÿ˜ณ

So what if I just replace my own Murray_Identity 2 to ANY of the ones I got from the list of bidders and forward the request? Do I try? I have to, right? I mean I’m sure it won’t do anything and will just redirect me somewhere else… right?? Using Burp Suite (another elite hacking tool), we can intercept the request, change the Murray_Identity and forward it like nothing happened.


Me looking at things I shouldn't be looking at? maybe?

oh no

It’s just there.

At this point I was fairly sure I was looking at some information that was not meant for me to see and I was kinda worried that I was somehow doing something wrong, but like, not enough to stop.

…anything else in this page?
Well, damn if all this info is in this treasure trove of computer spaghetti, maybe there’s wayyyy more. Perhaps this HTML contains the lost launch codes to the Sydney Opera House, or Harold Holt 3

What if I click on the “Payment” tab and intercept the request like did I above, surely they must have some extra security ๐Ÿ” on veeerrry sensitive data?

This is better, they seem to be only fetching the last 4 digits of card numbers, no pre-population of field going on here

Does this mean I can go through all the pages one by one, as if someone else is logged in? I mean I wanted to, but I didn’t 4

What have i done

Googling for “how many customers does grays have?” returns 3 million customers. Obviously only the people who actually bid on items were exposed to this vulnerability. But that’s still a lot of people.

I’d now found people’s:

  • Full names
  • Phone numbers
  • Home addresses
  • Last 4 digits of credit cards

What else?

The website periodically sends out a request called GetLoginStatus, this is to check if you’re still logged in, so that it can notify you if you have been outbid on the not working car you want to buy. Replacing the Murray_Identity 5 header in the request returns stuff.


Page refreshes and i’m given a whole bunch of data that I wasn’t supposed to be given. Hold on….


Intrusive thoughts took over and I had a sudden realisation, I could buy some poor soul this monstrosity and they couldn’t do anything about it.

i could have bought someone a bathtub on wheels

By this point I’d had enough clicking around and was like oh jeez oh boy oh jeez. I gotta get someone somehow to take a look at this. I wasn’t just going to email grays “hey i found thousands (millions?) of people’s leaked info on your website”, because that’s how you go to jail.

Disclosing the problem

I’ve always thought about the issue and complexity of disclosing a vulnerability when you accidentally find it:

  • how do i contact the company?
  • what do i say?
  • have i done a crime?

First thought I had is to ask my fellow software engineer friend, i don’t really have a good explanation for this so i’m just gonna post the screenshots.

The planet may be dying, but we live in a truly unparalleled age of content.

He suggested I take up a lawyer’s advice, followed by… “just ask reddit bro”. I contacted a lot of people about this. If my calculations are correct 6, I called at least 10 friends and other people in the hacker industry who may have the slightest clue on what to do 7

trying to ask a lawyer if I gone and done a crime

Before I went and told everyone about my HTML frolicking, I spent like 3 days calling legal aid numbers, lawyers, and otherwise trying to figure out if I’d done a crime 8.

During this time, I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done. I asked if any laws would be broken if “someone” had “logged into a website accidentally using someone else’s publicly available info and found personal information”. Do you see how that’s not even a lie? I’m starting to see how lawyers do it.

asking an actual professional for help

Then I remembered about Troy Hunt, he knows the pain of disclosure, surely he can help me out.

I prepare a professionally written email to Troy explaining what my eyes had seen, and await his response.

Email response from Troy, who thinks I am not scared of jail

Yeah that’s not gonna work Troy. Too many horror stories of innocent(?) security researchers ending up in jail because they want to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities.

he gets it

So I tell him exactly what had happened, and how to replicate what I had done, basically what you’ve read so far in this here blog post. And he got back to me almost immediately.

wait, LinkedIn is actually useful for once?

email from an important person telling me the problem is no longer a problem anymore (not fully)

Closing credits

How it works

The entirety of this vulnerability stems from exposing the unique user identifiers while viewing the bidding history for an auction lot. Without the user identifier, it would not be possible to swap the cookie session 9. Updating the session cookie based on one request header is a silly idea.

Timeline of events

  • Apr 22 - Issue found
  • Apr 22 - I realise the issue is much bigger than it is
  • Apr 23 - I learn from lawyers that I have not done a crime ๐Ÿ’ฏ
  • Apr 23 - I contact Troy Hunt in hopes of him assisting me with resposible disclosure
  • Apr 24 - Contacted important guy from Grays
  • Apr 25 - First part of issue fixed
  • Apr 26 - All parts of issue fixed
  • Apr 30 - I turn 25 ๐Ÿฅณ
  • Jun 13 - Various friends finish reviewing this post
  • Today - You read this post instead of letting it read you, nice job you.

  1. not that I was hoping to find anything i swear ↩︎

  2. Whatever that means ↩︎

  3. Harold Holt was a former Prime Minister and we… lost him? He disappeared while going for a swim one morning. This is not a joke. We named Harold Holt Memorial Swim Centre after him. I repeat, this is not a joke. ↩︎

  4. you’ll have to trust me on this ↩︎

  5. Still not sure what it means ↩︎

  6. I’ve always wanted to say that ↩︎

  7. They didn’t ↩︎

  8. I’m not really sure what my plan was. If I had done a crime, what was I gonna do, not report the publicly available sensitive data of thousands of people? ↩︎

  9. Because you wouldn’t have the user identifier ↩︎