Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


05:45 PM
Connect Directly

7 Mobile Browsers Vulnerable to Address-Bar Spoofing

Flaws allow attackers to manipulate URLs users see on their mobile devices, Rapid7 says.

Security vendor Rapid7, in collaboration with independent researcher Rafay Baloch, this week disclosed details on new vulnerabilities in seven mobile browsers — including Safari and Opera — that allow attackers to spoof information showed in the browser's address bar.

The vulnerabilities are the latest examples of a common security weakness in software where the user interface can be tricked into displaying erroneous information or to make it appear as if the information comes from a trusted source. Phishers have routinely taken advantage of the user interface misrepresentation issue to trick users into navigating to malicious sites or to fool them into thinking they are on a trusted site when, in fact, they are not.

Related Content:

As Smartphones Become a Hot Target, Can Mobile EDR Help

State of Endpoint Security: How Enterprises Are Managing Endpoint Security Threats

New on The Edge: 8 New and Hot Cybersecurity Certifications for 2020

"The issues identified by Rafay Baloch's research are all unique issues per browser, but they all fall in the general vulnerability category described by CWE-451 — 'User Interface Misrepresentation of Critical Information,'" says Tod Beardsley, director of research at Rapid7.

Such vulnerabilities allow an attacker to control both the content of a website and the apparent source of the website, which can lead to very convincing-looking but malicious web pages.  According to Beardsley, the new vulnerabilities that Baloch discovered essentially give attackers a way to display false content when a mobile browser refreshes the address bar.

"Exploitation all comes down to, 'Javascript shenanigans'," Beardsley said in a blog this week. "By messing with the timing between page loads and when the browser gets a chance to refresh the address bar, an attacker can cause either a pop-up to appear to come from an arbitrary website or can render content in the browser window that falsely appears to come from an arbitrary website."

In all instances, a mobile user would need to be lured to an attacker controlled website, he said.

In addition to Safari and Opera, the other impacted mobile browsers include those from Yandex, UCWeb, and Raise IT Solutions. UCWeb's UC Browser has more than 500 million downloads, while the Yandex browser has over 100 million, according to Beardsley. So far only Apple and Opera have addressed the vulnerabilities in their browsers after being notified of the problem in August.

New Spin on Old Issue
Address spoofing and other information manipulation is by no means new. But detecting the trickery on a mobile browser can be considerably harder than on a desktop browser.

Because of the relatively limited screen sizes available on most modern smartphones, browser makers have little real estate for introducing security indicators that warn users when something might be wrong. As a result, the address bar on a mobile browser is often the main way to validate the source of a web page or a particular piece of content. Most browser vendors have recognized this and have implemented controls for ensuring that what's shown on the screen is inexorably linked to where that data came from, Beardsley says.

Hank Schless, senior manager, security solutions at mobile security vendor Lookout, describes URL spoofing as one of the most common ways attackers trick people into clicking a phishing link, especially on mobile devices. As an example, he points to how quickly users are apt to click on links to check tracking information or the other notifications they might receive when they purchase something online. Because the screen is smaller, it's difficult to identify a spoofed URL that has small changes, such as an added accent or special character to one letter in the address.

Brandon Hoffman, CISO at Netenrich, says the new vulnerabilities involve an old technique that's garnering fresh interest due to limitations on mobile browsers.

"These vulnerabilities are not really all that different from other vulnerabilities users have been dealing with on their desktops," he says.

The only reason they are interesting is because attacks that exploit these issues would be easier to obfuscate on a mobile device, Hoffman adds.

"If people continue to go to the sites they like within the proper apps and using the correct URLs, then they don't need to be overly concerned," he says.

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Cyberattacks Are Tailored to Employees ... Why Isn't Security Training?
Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian,  6/17/2021
7 Powerful Cybersecurity Skills the Energy Sector Needs Most
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer,  6/22/2021
Microsoft Disrupts Large-Scale BEC Campaign Across Web Services
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/15/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Shopware is an open source eCommerce platform. In versions prior to the admin api has exposed some internal hidden fields when an association has been loaded with a to many reference. Users are recommend to update to version You can get the update to regularly via the Auto-U...
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Shopware is an open source eCommerce platform. In versions prior to private files publicly accessible with Cloud Storage providers when the hashed URL is known. Users are recommend to first change their configuration to set the correct visibility according to the documentation. The visibilit...
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Shopware is an open source eCommerce platform. Versions prior to 5.6.10 are vulnerable to system information leakage in error handling. Users are recommend to update to version 5.6.10. You can get the update to 5.6.10 regularly via the Auto-Updater or directly via the download overview.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Shopware is an open source eCommerce platform. Versions prior to 5.6.10 suffer from an authenticated stored XSS in administration vulnerability. Users are recommend to update to the version 5.6.10. You can get the update to 5.6.10 regularly via the Auto-Updater or directly via the download overview.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-24
Shopware is an open source eCommerce platform. Potential session hijacking of store customers in versions below We recommend to update to the current version You can get the update to regularly via the Auto-Updater or directly via the download overview. For older versions o...