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Testing for Client-side URL Redirect

ID
WSTG-CLNT-04

Summary

This section describes how to check for client-side URL redirection, also known as open redirection. It is an input validation flaw that exists when an application accepts user-controlled input that specifies a link which leads to an external URL that could be malicious. This kind of vulnerability could be used to accomplish a phishing attack or redirect a victim to an infection page.

This vulnerability occurs when an application accepts untrusted input that contains a URL value and does not sanitize it. This URL value could cause the web application to redirect the user to another page, such as a malicious page controlled by the attacker.

This vulnerability may enable an attacker to successfully launch a phishing scam and steal user credentials. Since the redirection is originated by the real application, the phishing attempts may have a more trustworthy appearance.

Here is an example of a phishing attack URL.

http://www.target.site?#redirect=www.fake-target.site

The victim that visits this URL will be automatically redirected to fake-target.site, where an attacker could place a fake page that resembles the intended site, in order to steal the victim’s credentials.

Open redirection could also be used to craft a URL that would bypass the application’s access control checks and forward the attacker to privileged functions that they would normally not be able to access.

How to Test

When testers manually check for this type of vulnerability, they first identify if there are client-side redirections implemented in the client-side code. These redirections may be implemented, to give a JavaScript example, using the window.location object. This can be used to direct the browser to another page by simply assigning a string to it. This is demonstrated in the following snippet:

var redir = location.hash.substring(1);
if (redir)
    window.location='http://'+decodeURIComponent(redir);

In this example, the script does not perform any validation of the variable redir which contains the user-supplied input via the query string. Since no form of encoding is applied, this unvalidated input is passed to the windows.location object, creating a URL redirection vulnerability.

This implies that an attacker could redirect the victim to a malicious site simply by submitting the following query string:

http://www.victim.site/?#www.malicious.site

With a slight modification, the above example snippet can be vulnerable to JavaScript injection.

var redir = location.hash.substring(1);
if (redir)
    window.location=decodeURIComponent(redir);

This can be exploited by submitting the following query string:

http://www.victim.site/?#javascript:alert(document.cookie)

When testing for this vulnerability, consider that some characters are treated differently by different browsers. For reference, see DOM-based XSS.