Web browsers are the most vulnerable applications to all types of computer attacks because they are the applications that have direct contact with both the remote servers and the user. Therefore, developers of these browsers, such as Google, Mozilla and Opera should make sure to periodically update their browsers to avoid flaws that could endanger users. Many of these failures are not always due to the browsers, but they rely on the social engineering of hackers.
A Chinese security expert has detected a new phishing attack that trick users and get their data by impersonating websites like Apple, Google and eBay. This type of computer attack is a modern variant of IDN homograph attacks, a series of phishing attacks detected in 2001 that use different characters but are displayed the same (such as the Latin O and Cyrillic O) to deceive users and make them think that they are on a website when they are actually visiting another.
An example of this type of attack is to use the URL ‘xn-80ak6aa92e.com’ which, when viewed in the browser, is displayed as ‘apple.com’. We can see it in the following web test by copying the URL and paste it in our browser.
As we can see, it is practically impossible to differentiate this URL from the original Apple address : https://www.apple.com/.
In addition, both use a valid HTTPS certificate, although Apple relies on Symantec as the issuer of the certificate, while the test depends on Comodo as an issuer.
The latest version of the development of Google Chrome 59 already incorporates a patch to solve this security problem, although everything aims to finally reach all users with the launch of Google Chrome 58, the new browser version planned for this month. Mozilla, for the moment, is studying a solution to this failure, although we can mitigate it manually by changing the value of “network.IDN_show_punycode” to “true” within the browser’s advanced “about: config” configuration menu.
Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge and Vivaldi are not vulnerable
While Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera are some of the vulnerable web browsers, other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge and Vivaldi are protected from this vulnerability because they do not display these characters.
So, if we try to open the web test that we quoted earlier in a browser we can see how the address bar shows us the URL with its real characters, which leads us to suspect it, although it has an HTTPS certificate.
As we can see, computer and phishing attacks are increasingly complex and difficult to detect, but if we have a modern and up-to-date web browser, we are likely to reduce the likelihood of being hacked.