Web Spoofing: Threat Models, Attacks and Current Defenses

The initial design of  Web protocols and Internet assumed benign environment, where servers, clients and routers cooperate and follow the standard protocols, except for unintentional errors. However, as the amount and sensitivity of usage increased, concerns about security, fraud and attacks became important. In particular, since currently Internet access is widely (and often freely) available, it is very easy for attackers to obtain many client and even host connections and addresses, and use them to launch different attacks on the network itself (routers and network services such as DNS) and on other hosts and clients. In particular, with the proliferation of commercial domain name registrars allowing automated, low-cost registration in most top level domains, it is currently very easy for attackers to acquire essentially any unallocated domain name, and place there malicious hosts and clients. We call this the unallocated domain adversary: an adversary who is able to issue and receive messages using many addresses in any domain name, excluding the finite list of already allocated domain names. This is probably the most basic and common type of adversary.

Unfortunately, we believe, as explained below, that currently, most web users are vulnerable even against unallocated domain adversaries. This claim may be surprising, as sensitive web sites are usually protected using the SSL or TLS protocols, which, as we explain in the following subsection, securely authenticate webpages even in the presence of intercepting adversaries (often referred to as Man In The Middle (MITM) attackers).Intercepting adversaries are able to send and intercept (receive, eavesdrop) messages to and from all domains.Indeed, even without SSL/TLS, the HTTP protocol securely authenticates web pages against spoofing adversaries, which are able to send messages from all domains, but receive only messages sent to unallocated (adversary-controlled) domains. However, the security by SSL/TLS (against intercepting adversary; or by HTTP against spoofing adversary) is only with respect to the address (URL) and security mechanism (HTTPS, using SSL/TLS, or ‘plain’ HTTP) requested by the application (usually browser). In a phishing attack (and most other spoofing attacks), the application specifies, in its request, the URL of the spoofed site. Namely, web spoofing attacks focus on the gap between the intentions and expectations of the user, and the address and security mechanism specified by the browser to the transport layer.

 

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