Home Cyber Attack The Inception Bar: A New Android Chrome Phishing Method Disclosed

The Inception Bar: A New Android Chrome Phishing Method Disclosed

by Abeerah Hashim
Chrome for Android zero-day

Heads-up Android users! A new phishing attack is geared up to bluff you. Specifically, it is a Chrome for Android phishing technique that shows a fake address bar on your Android device browser.

Chrome for Android Phishing With Fake Address Bar

A developer pointed out a potential vulnerability in the Google Chrome browser for Android phones. Exploiting this flaw can allow an attacker to wage a new phishing attack.

The developer James Fisher has explained this methodology in his blog post. Named ‘The Inception’, the trick exploits the Chrome mobile browser feature of hiding URL bars upon scrolling page down. Normally, the URL bar reappears as the user scroll up the page again. However, a potential attacker can force the browser to behave otherwise. This will allow the attacker to display their own fake address bar.

“In Chrome for mobile, when the user scrolls down, the browser hides the URL bar, and hands the URL bar’s screen space to the web page. Because the user associates this screen space with “trustworthy browser UI”, a phishing site can then use it to pose as a different site, by displaying its own fake URL bar – the inception bar!”

Fisher explains that soon after Chrome for Android hides the URL, the entire page moves into a ‘scroll jail’. Thus, the user merely interacts with a browser within the browser.

“Once Chrome hides the URL bar, we move the entire page content into a “scroll jail” – that is, a new element with overflow:scroll.”

A potential attacker can also prevent the user from reaching the top of the page to see the original URL bar reappear by another trick.

“We insert a very tall padding element at the top of the scroll jail. Then, if the user tries to scroll into the padding, we scroll them back down to the start of the content! It looks like a page refresh.”

The following video shared by Fisher demonstrates how the trick works as he plays it on the HSBC website.

Possible Mitigation

The phishing trick demonstrated by Fisher specifically works on Android phones. iOS users remain safe since the Chrome for iOS continues to display the URL bar.

Fisher calls the Inception a security flaw in the Chrome for Android browser. He says that the technique is powerful enough to trick most users. As a possible fix, he suggests Google include some feature signaling URL bar collapse instead of entirely hiding it from the web page.

“One compromise would be for Chrome to retain a small amount of screen space… to signal that “the URL bar is currently collapsed”, e.g. by displaying the shadow of an almost-hidden URL bar.”

For now, we advise all Android users to be very careful while browsing on their phones. Since the trick is now publicly disclosed, you never know when one may actually fall prey to this phishing technique by a threat actor.

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