A Taxonomy of Browser Attacks

A Taxonomy of Browser Attacks

Anil Saini (Malaviya National Institute of Technology, India), Manoj Singh Gaur (Malaviya National Institute of Technology, India) and Vijay Laxmi (Malaviya National Institute of Technology, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6324-4.ch019
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Abstract

Browser attacks over the years have stormed the Internet world with so many malicious activities. They provide unauthorized access and damage or disrupt user information within or outside the browser. This chapter focuses on the complete attack actions adopted by an attacker while crafting an attack on Web browser. The knowledge gained from the attacker's actions can be framed into a suitable taxonomy, which can then be used as a framework for examining the browser attack footprints, vulnerability in browser design, and helps one to understand the characteristics and nature of an attacker. This chapter presents a browser attack taxonomy that helps in combating new browser attacks and improving browser security.
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Introduction

A Web browser is an important component of every computer system as it provides the interface to the Internet world. The browser allows users to view and interact with content on the web pages. It provides users the interface to perform wide range of activities, such as, personal financial management, online shopping, social networking and professional business. Hence, the web browsers are becoming an increasingly adequate and important platform for millions of Internet users. With the rapid increase in the number of users, browsers are becoming the potential source of attacks. The appearance of various browser attacks executed on web browsers cause real challenges to Internet user in protecting their information from an attacker. The browser attacks provide an unauthorized access, damage or disruption of the user information within or outside the browser. For example, suppose an attacker is able to inject malicious scripts that do not change the website’s appearance, but silently redirect you to another web site controlled by an attacker without your notice. This redirected malicious web site may execute some malicious program to download a malicious file on your machine (Howes, 2004). The major goal of such attacks is to allow remote access of your machine to the attackers, and to capture personal information, often related to obtaining credit card, banking information and data used for identify theft.

Like other software, web browsers are vulnerable to attack and exploit if appropriate updates and security patches are not applied. Moreover, a fully patched web browser can still be vulnerable to attack or exploit if the browser plug-ins and add-ons are not fully patched. The plug-ins and add-ons are third party software used to enhance Browser functionality, but at the same time they are vulnerable to attacks. The vulnerabilities in Firefox extension system have been mentioned in the literature (Beaucamps, Reynaud & Loria-Nancy, 2008), where the risks associated with the Firefox extension have been explained. The plug-in and add-on softwares are not automatically patched with the Browser updates, instead they require some extra support from third party for updating their versions and patching vulnerabilities

Traditionally, browser-based attacks are commonly originated only from malicious web sites (Obied & Alhajj, 2009). However, the attackers have recently been introduced attacks which are beyond the malicious web sites. Over the years, the browser-based attacks are initiated different attack vectors apart from malicious web sites. The attacks may arises from trusted and legitimate web applications, since all web applications developers are not security experts and due to poor security coding the vulnerabilities occurs in these web applications. The attacker can exploit vulnerabilities present in trusted or legitimate web sites to deploy attacks. For instance, an attacker can take advantage of vulnerabilities within browser to run arbitrary code, which can steal user’s sensitive information or install malware. Plug-in and extension vulnerabilities can also be exploited by an attacker to initiate browser-based attacks.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Attack Taxonomy: Classification of attacks scenarios.

Browser Attack: Offensive action against Browser.

Web Application Attacks: Malicious action against the Web Application.

Vulnerability: Security weakness in software.

Code Injection: Injecting malicious code in victim machine to gain access.

Browser Security: Application of Internet security for securing Browsers.

Privilege Escalation: Gaining elevated access to resources that are normally under protection.

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