Developer James Fisher has reported that small changes could be made to Chrome for Android that could enable fake URLs to be displayed and users to be ‘jailed’ in a fake browser, thereby leaving them vulnerable to being duped into visiting fake, malicious pages.
Fake URL Display
Mr Fisher explains on his website about the possible new phishing method here: https://jameshfisher.com/2019/04/27/the-inception-bar-a-new-phishing-method/ .
According to Mr Fisher, if you visit his page URL (as shown above) on Chrome for mobile (Android) and scroll a little way, the page displays itself as hsbc.com. He reports that this is because, as a result of the few small changes he has made, the page is able to ‘jail’ the user into a ‘fake’ browser. Mr Fisher’s website includes a video of how scrolling leads to the fake URL being displayed.
Mr Fisher explains on his website that, using his method in Chrome for mobile, if a user arrives at a web page that they believe to be trustworthy and scrolls down so that the URL is no longer visible, they can then be switched into a fake browser. The user is then ‘jailed’ into the fake browser which can either use an insertion of a screenshot of Chrome’s URL bar on another website (in the case of his demonstration HSBC) in the webpage, or could be made to detect which browser it’s in, and forge an inception bar for that browser. Either way, the user can be tricked into seeing the URL for a page they’re not actually on.
Also, Mr Fisher explains that in his research, as part of trapping the user in a “scroll jail” he was able to include a very tall padding element at the top so that if a user tries to scroll into the padding, they are simply scrolled back down to the start of the content so that it looks like a page refresh. This whole process could, in the wrong hands, be able to dupe a user and trap them on a malicious page.
The obvious risk is that this could be used as a phishing method i.e. directing users to a fake page to enable sensitive data to be stolen or to direct users to a page loaded with malware.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
At least now that the potential security risk has been discovered, explained and demonstrated, this should give Google the opportunity to close this loophole, thereby reducing the risk to users of Chrome for mobile. Although (at the time of writing) there is no fix as yet from Google, Mr Fisher has suggested that one fix could be for Google to retain a small amount of screen space above what he describes as the “line of death”, rather than giving up all screen space to the web page. This could make space for Chrome to signal that ‘the URL bar is currently collapsed’.
Back in December, research by Internet Privacy Company DuckDuckGo was reported to have produced evidence that could show that even in Incognito mode, users of Google Chrome could still be tracked, and searches were still personalised accordingly. Also, in February this year, there were more PR woes for Google when the discovery of a microphone in Google’s Nest Guard product that was not listed in tech spec, but which was put down to an erroneous omission by Google, caused a backlash that escalated to the US Congress.