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URL Redirection to Untrusted Site ('Open Redirect')

ID: 601Date: (C)2012-05-14   (M)2018-03-09
Type: weaknessStatus: DRAFT
Abstraction Type: Variant


A web application accepts a user-controlled input that specifies a link to an external site, and uses that link in a Redirect. This simplifies phishing attacks.

Extended Description

An http parameter may contain a URL value and could cause the web application to redirect the request to the specified URL. By modifying the URL value to a malicious site, an attacker may successfully launch a phishing scam and steal user credentials. Because the server name in the modified link is identical to the original site, phishing attempts have a more trustworthy appearance.

Likelihood of Exploit: Low to Medium

Applicable Platforms
Language Class: Language-independent
Architectural Paradigm: Web-based

Time Of Introduction

  • Architecture and Design
  • Implementation

Related Attack Patterns

Common Consequences

ScopeTechnical ImpactNotes
Bypass protection mechanism
Gain privileges / assume identity
The user may be redirected to an untrusted page that contains malware which may then compromise the user's machine. This will expose the user to extensive risk and the user's interaction with the web server may also be compromised if the malware conducts keylogging or other attacks that steal credentials, personally identifiable information (PII), or other important data.
Bypass protection mechanism
Gain privileges / assume identity
The user may be subjected to phishing attacks by being redirected to an untrusted page. The phishing attack may point to an attacker controlled web page that appears to be a trusted web site. The phishers may then steal the user's credentials and then use these credentials to access the legitimate web site.

Detection Methods

Manual Static Analysis
Since this weakness does not typically appear frequently within a single software package, manual white box techniques may be able to provide sufficient code coverage and reduction of false positives if all potentially-vulnerable operations can be assessed within limited time constraints.
Automated Dynamic Analysis
Automated black box tools that supply URLs to every input may be able to spot Location header modifications, but test case coverage is a factor, and custom redirects may not be detected.
Automated Static Analysis
Automated static analysis tools may not be able to determine whether input influences the beginning of a URL, which is important for reducing false positives.
Whether this issue poses a vulnerability will be subject to the intended behavior of the application. For example, a search engine might intentionally provide redirects to arbitrary URLs.

Potential Mitigations

Input Validation
Assume all input is malicious. Use an "accept known good" input validation strategy, i.e., use a whitelist of acceptable inputs that strictly conform to specifications. Reject any input that does not strictly conform to specifications, or transform it into something that does.
When performing input validation, consider all potentially relevant properties, including length, type of input, the full range of acceptable values, missing or extra inputs, syntax, consistency across related fields, and conformance to business rules. As an example of business rule logic, "boat" may be syntactically valid because it only contains alphanumeric characters, but it is not valid if the input is only expected to contain colors such as "red" or "blue."
Do not rely exclusively on looking for malicious or malformed inputs (i.e., do not rely on a blacklist). A blacklist is likely to miss at least one undesirable input, especially if the code's environment changes. This can give attackers enough room to bypass the intended validation. However, blacklists can be useful for detecting potential attacks or determining which inputs are so malformed that they should be rejected outright.
Use a whitelist of approved URLs or domains to be used for redirection.
Architecture and Design
 Use an intermediate disclaimer page that provides the user with a clear warning that they are leaving the current site. Implement a long timeout before the redirect occurs, or force the user to click on the link. Be careful to avoid XSS problems (CWE-79) when generating the disclaimer page.
Architecture and Design
Enforcement by Conversion
When the set of acceptable objects, such as filenames or URLs, is limited or known, create a mapping from a set of fixed input values (such as numeric IDs) to the actual filenames or URLs, and reject all other inputs.
For example, ID 1 could map to "/login.asp" and ID 2 could map to "http://www.example.com/". Features such as the ESAPI AccessReferenceMap [R.601.4] provide this capability.
Architecture and Design
 Ensure that no externally-supplied requests are honored by requiring that all redirect requests include a unique nonce generated by the application [R.601.1]. Be sure that the nonce is not predictable (CWE-330).
 Note that this can be bypassed using XSS (CWE-79).
Architecture and Design
Identify and Reduce Attack Surface
Understand all the potential areas where untrusted inputs can enter your software: parameters or arguments, cookies, anything read from the network, environment variables, reverse DNS lookups, query results, request headers, URL components, e-mail, files, filenames, databases, and any external systems that provide data to the application. Remember that such inputs may be obtained indirectly through API calls.
Many open redirect problems occur because the programmer assumed that certain inputs could not be modified, such as cookies and hidden form fields.
Use an application firewall that can detect attacks against this weakness. It can be beneficial in cases in which the code cannot be fixed (because it is controlled by a third party), as an emergency prevention measure while more comprehensive software assurance measures are applied, or to provide defense in depth.
An application firewall might not cover all possible input vectors. In addition, attack techniques might be available to bypass the protection mechanism, such as using malformed inputs that can still be processed by the component that receives those inputs. Depending on functionality, an application firewall might inadvertently reject or modify legitimate requests. Finally, some manual effort may be required for customization.


Related CWETypeViewChain
CWE-601 ChildOf CWE-896 Category CWE-888  

Demonstrative Examples   (Details)

  1. The following code is a Java servlet that will receive a GET request with a url parameter in the request to redirect the browser to the address specified in the url parameter. The servlet will retrieve the url parameter value from the request and send a response to redirect the browser to the url address.
  2. The following code obtains a URL from the query string and then redirects the user to that URL.

Observed Examples

  1. CVE-2005-4206 : URL parameter loads the URL into a frame and causes it to appear to be part of a valid page.
  2. CVE-2008-2951 : An open redirect vulnerability in the search script in the software allows remote attackers to redirect users to arbitrary web sites and conduct phishing attacks via a URL as a parameter to the proper function.
  3. CVE-2008-2052 : Open redirect vulnerability in the software allows remote attackers to redirect users to arbitrary web sites and conduct phishing attacks via a URL in the proper parameter.

For more examples, refer to CVE relations in the bottom box.

White Box Definitions

Black Box Definitions

Taxynomy Mappings

Anonymous Tool Vendor (under NDA)  
URl Redirector Abuse


  1. Craig A. Shue Andrew J. Kalafut Minaxi Gupta .Exploitable Redirects on the Web: Identification, Prevalence, and Defense.
  2. Russ McRee .Open redirect vulnerabilities: definition and prevention Issue 17. (IN)SECURE. Section:'Page 43'. Published on July 2008.
  3. Jason Lam .Top 25 Series - Rank 23 - Open Redirect. SANS Software Security Institute. 2010-03-25.
  4. OWASP .OWASP Enterprise Security API (ESAPI) Project.

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