Industry News

Browser Redirect Feature Makes Installing Malware a Walk in the Park

A little known feature of modern browsers can be used to install malware on victims’ computers. The discovery, documented by Google security engineer Michal Zalewski, was demonstrated in a proof of concept attack on Tuesday.

The attack is based on the fact that one document can navigate other, non-same-origin windows to URLs of choice that may contain malware. When this feature is successfully exploited, the attacker can initiate a malicious download that appears to originate from a legitimate page.

The social engineering part is extremely efficient, as the attacker can force the malicious download on a page the user would normally expect to offer a legitimate file. More than that, the address of the website will not get updated to reflect the redirect, which is reassuring enough for the average user.

“The problem also poses an interesting challenge to sites that frame gadgets, games, or advertisements from third-party sources; even HTML5 sandboxed frames permit the initiation of rogue downloads, wrote Zalewski on his blog.

The proof-of-concept code has been confirmed to work with the top three browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox). Although all three vendors have been notified, no fix is available yet. The report also states that, apart from Google, other vendors will likely not address the issue.

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About the author

Loredana BOTEZATU

A blend of teacher and technical journalist with a pinch of e-threat analysis, Loredana Botezatu writes mostly about malware and spam. She believes that most errors happen between the keyboard and the chair. Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years and has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.