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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.

Test Objectives

  • Identify injection points that handle URLs or paths.
  • Assess the locations that the system could redirect to.

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.

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