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Writeup by Amit Klein (Trusteer): Address Bar Spoofing for IE6
Oct 27 2008 04:14PM
Amit Klein (amit klein trusteer com)
Re: Writeup by Amit Klein (Trusteer): Address Bar Spoofing for IE6
Oct 27 2008 05:01PM
Amit Klein (amit klein trusteer com)
I noticed that some of the crucial information may have been
"reformatted" on the way.
So please note that the HTML markup in attack #1 is
followed by 30 ampersand-NBSP-semicolon, followed by a dot followed by
another 31 ampersand-NBSP-semicolon followed by a dot, followed by 13
ampersand-NBSP-semicolon followed by a dot followed by
The address bar appears like
"http://www.yourbankhere.com" followed by 30 spaces, a dot, 31 spaces, a
dot, 13 spaces, a dot and finally "phish.site/"
Amit Klein wrote:
> Address Bar Spoofing Attacks against Microsoft Internet Explorer 6
> Amit Klein, Trusteer
> IE6 is the second most popular web browser (after IE7), with
> market share of around 25% (according to recent surveys e.g.
> This write-up presents two new phishing attack techniques,
> abusing an address bar issue (security vulnerability) with IE6 in
> combination with non-standard DNS domain names. The net result is
> that a phishing site may present itself via a link that when
> clicked in IE6 displays an almost indistinguishable URL from the
> one in used by the genuine site. The technique is new, i.e. it's
> different than the ASCII similar characters and IDN homographs
> There are two techniques: the first technique presents an address
> bar which is very similar (visually) to the address bar expected
> for the genuine domain, by abusing the NBSP character. The second
> technique presents an address bar visually identical to the one
> expected for the genuine domain, using the fact that a non-DNSish
> characters are not displayed in the address bar in some cases.
> This technique requires registration of a non-standard domain,
> hence it is probably theoretic only (although "site down"
> imitation is still possible).
> The attacks were verified with Windows XP SP2 and Windows XP SP3.
> URLs typically include host name, which tells the browser (after
> DNS resolution) where to fetch the resource from. While regular
> host names contain alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z and 0-9),
> dots, hyphens and (in Intranets only) underscores, it is possible
> to construct (at least syntactically) URLs whose host part
> contain any octet (as explained in RFC 1035 section 3.1). The
> interpretation of such characters when presented as links (when
> IDN is not supported by the browser, see below) by the browser
> and by the DNS infrastructure, as well as the way those
> characters are presented by the browser (in the address bar) are
> the subject of this write-up.
> Non-DNS characters can be provided to the browser in several ways
> (assuming e.g. an anchor HTML tag context):
> * In raw form, i.e. as a byte (octet), e.g. $
> * In HTML-encoded form, e.g. $
> * In URL-encoded form, e.g. %24
> In raw form, the data is provided as-is. In HTML-encoded form,
> the data is considered Unicode, and may undergo encoding. In URL-
> encoded format, the data is (again) directly decodable into raw
> form. The difference is subtle, but important. The octet values
> 00-7F (corresponding to the ASCII characters) have a single
> interpretation across all systems. However, octet values 80-FF
> may have different interpretation depending on the code page and
> encoding system in use.
> Address bar spoofing in IE6
> Non-DNS characters
> Within the ASCII range (00-7F), only the DNS subset of ASCII
> characters is allowed.
> As for higher values (e.g. A9 or %A9): IE6 uses DnsQuery_A to
> resolve the name. DnsQuery_A assumes that the characters are in
> the "current" Windows ANSI codepage (e.g. Windows-1252 or
> Windows-1255, see
> http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/reference/WinCP.mspx for a
> list of Single Byte code pages). It translates the characters
> into UTF-8 representation and sends them this way. So %A9 is URL-
> decoded into the byte (\xA9) by IE6, then this raw byte is
> forwarded to DnsQuery_A, which interprets it according to the
> current codepage (e.g. Windows-1252 or Windows-1255) as
> COPYRIGHT_SIGN, moves to Unicode (U+00A9), and UTF-8 encodes this
> symbol (into the 2 byte sequence (\xC2) (\xA9)). The net result
> is that http://www.foo%A9bar.com goes out as a DNS query on
> As it happens, almost all single-byte character sets (Windows-
> 1250...Windows-1258) interpret (\xA9) as COPYRIGHT_SIGN, and the
> one exception being Windows-874 (Thai) which does not.
> NOTE: the code page for a particular Windows box is determined
> through the Control Panel (Regional and Language Options ->
> advanced [tab], in the Languages for non-Unicode programs). The
> Windows ANSI code page is derived from the language specified via
> the table as provided in http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-
> us/library/ms776260.aspx. For example, if the language is English
> (all variants) then the Windows ANSI code page is 1252, whereas
> if the language is Hebrew, then the Windows ANSI code page is
> 1255. As can be seen, the only languages whose code page is not
> Windows-1250...Windows-1258 are the far east languages Chinese,
> Japanese, Korean and Thai. So with the exception of these
> languages, IE6 will request a DNS resolution for
> www.foo(\xC2)(\xA9)bar.com when it navigates to
> Attack #1: Raw/HTML-encoded characters
> IE6 allows "raw" high-bit characters to be typed in the address
> bar, e.g.
> In such case, the character is displayed in the address bar
> (unlike %A9 which is not).
> It is possible to present this URL in a link, e.g.:
> <a href="http://www.foo©bar.com">FooBar</a>
> NOTE: An HTML-encoded character is displayed as the corresponding
> Unicode symbol. However, if this symbol is not mapped to the
> current code page, IE will not resolve the host name (it shows an
> "invalid syntax" error page).
> A more interesting, and phishing related example is using the
> Non-Blocking Space character (NBSP, Unicode U+00A0). This
> character is rendered in the address bar as a space (NBSP is
> mapped as 0xA0 in all single-byte character set codepages, i.e.
> Windows-1250...Windows-1258 and Windows-874). Thus it opens up an
> address bar spoofing trick similar in effect to a one already
> disclosed (first reported in BugTraq December 2003:
> http://www.securityfocus.com/archive/1/346948, then picked up by
> CERT http://www.kb.cert.org/vuls/id/652278 and fixed by Microsoft
> as MS04-004).
> For example, consider the following phishing link (mimicking
> www.yourbankhere.com, yet the real page is served from the domain
> href="http://www.yourbankhere.com &n
> bsp; &
> . &nbs
> p; &nb
> sp; &n
> bsp; .
> It should be noted that auto-complete does work for these URLs.
> When the address bar box is not wide enough to show the whole
> URL, the picture is almost identical to that of the genuine URL
> (notice there's no slash after the host name, and the additional
> dots). When the address bar is at its full width, some users may
> still be fooled as the real domain is way off to the right,
> separated from the left part of the hostname by many white
> spaces. This shows up visually as (may wrap around in the text):
> . . .phish.site/
> The attack can be easily implemented using DNS wildcard mapping,
> assuming the attacker controls the phish.site domain. The
> attacker simply needs to add the following line for the
> phish.site zone configuration file (tested with BIND9):
> *.phish.site. IN A ...IP address...
> Note that the Host header will contain raw 0xA0 bytes. So by
> including the following PHP code in the index.php of the phishing
> server, the attacker can cater for multiple simultaneous phishing
> echo "This is a phishing site for ".$match;
> Attack #2 (theoretic): URL-encoded characters
> It's possible to include URL-encoded characters in the address
> bar of IE6. IE6 URL-decodes them before querying the DNS, and
> internally this is how they are kept.
> Now, here's where it gets interesting: high-bit characters will
> not be displayed in the address bar. So instead of showing
> visually as "http://www.foo%A9bar.com/" (or
> "http://www.foo(c)bar.com/") as one may expect, the address bar
> will show "http://www.foobar.com/".
> Theoretically, this can be used for phishing. A phisher can
> register, say foo(\xC2)(\xA9)bar.com and use that in a phishing
> URL (http://www.foo%A9bar.com/). When clicked, the IE6 address
> bar will display the expected URL, http://www.foobar.com/.
> However, this vulnerability seems to be theoretic only, since (in
> the author's limited experience), it's not possible
> administratively to register such domain names.
> As for domain security, as far as IE6 is concerned, these are two
> different domains. Cookies are not shared, access across domains
> is denied, SSL certificate will not match, etc. Also, the Host
> header includes the value with the original raw character - i.e.
> the Host header is:
> Host: www.foo(\xA9)bar.com
> Even if no real domain can be registered, this can still be
> somewhat of an annoyance. For example, spam can offer a URL as
> evidence that a company's site is not available, or was hacked.
> So if an attacker wants to defame www.foobar.com, he may do so by
> sending spam with text such as "foobar inc. went chapter 11 -
> site is down. Check out http://www.foo%A9bar.com/". This will end
> up in DNS resolution failure.
> Auto-completion applies to the address bar string (not the real
> URL), hence auto-completing, say, www.fo will result in
> www.foobar.com (the real domain name), and the browser will
> navigate to the genuine site.
> Vendor status
> Microsoft (MSRC) was informed of the two issues on January 13th,
> 2008. MSRC acknowledged the two problems and assigned the first
> one the ticket MSRC7899, and the second one MSRC7900. However,
> Microsoft declined to fix the issues.
> Additional notes and observations
> Label and name lengths
> Labels are limited (per RFC 1034 section 2.3.4) to 63 octets.
> This means that no more than 31 consecutive NBSPs can be used.
> The trick is to split them into labels (by inserting a dot).
> Names are limited to 255 octets (per RFC 1034 section 2.3.4).
> This includes the accumulated length of all labels, plus a length
> octet preceding all labels (including the 0-length root label).
> Apparently, both restrictions are enforced by DnsQuery_A (in
> fact, names are limited to 254-256 bytes, including dots).
> Additionally, it seems that a non-DNS character counts as 3
> octets towards the total name limit (but not towards the label
> length limit). A possible explanation is that when a non-ASCII
> character is encountered, the worst case UTF-8 representation
> length is used (3 octets) rather than the actual UTF-8
> rerpesentation length (2 bytes for characters whose Unicode index
> is smaller than 0x800 e.g. NBSP, 3 bytes for all other Unicode
> characters). Thus, it is impossible to use more than 85 such
> HTTP Caching
> There seems to be an additional bug in IE6 regarding how
> resources whose URL contain high-bit set bytes are cached. The
> key URL is constructed in an erroneous manner. It seems that the
> key is constructed as following: take the string consisting of
> the URL-encoded URL, e.g. http://www.foo%A9bar.com/, and
> overwrite it with the decoded (shorter) URL,
> http://www.foo(\xA9)bar.com/, in this case resulting in
> http://www.foo(\xA9)bar.comom/. Obviously no regular URL will
> match this key, so the caching is meaningless.
> The key used for caching retrieval is probably the URL-encoded
> version of the URL. And since it's never there, the effect is of
> DNS caching
> It was also verified that BIND 9 (the most popular DNS server
> software) is capable of serving such domains, both as an
> authoritative server and as a caching DNS server (verified with
> BIND 9.2.4 as an authoritative and caching server, and 9.4.1-P1
> as a caching server). In order to configure BIND to serve the
> domain as an authoritative name server, the high-bit bytes
> (\xC2)(\xA9) should be inserted to the zone file. Care should be
> exercised here with the choice of editor, since some text editors
> don't handle high-bit bytes well. It is advised to review the
> file contents with a hex-dump tool (e.g. od) to ensure that the
> correct bytes were entered.
> Windows DNS server (verified with Windows 2003 for Small Business
> Server SP2) as a cache server also supports such domain names (no
> testing was done regarding Windows DNS server as an authoritative
> Root and TLD support
> Apparently, the root servers and the .COM/.NET gTLD servers are
> indifferent to non-ASCII characters in sub-domains, and they will
> happily respond to such queries pointing at the authoritative DNS
> server (which would be the attacker's server).
> IDN and homographs
> The first attack, while abusing the same underlying phenomenon
> (different logical symbols which are rendered into graphically
> identical or almost indistinguishable forms - SP and NBSP in our
> case) is nonetheless completely different than the homograph
> attack (http://www.shmoo.com/idn/homograph.txt), which makes use
> of the IDN extension to DNS.
> The second (theoretic) attack is completely different because the
> non-DNS characters simply do not appear in the address bar.
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