Monthly Archives: January 2016

How Open Redirection Threatens Your Web Applications

Open redirection is listed in the OWASP Top 10 for 2013 and 2010 (10th position in both lists) since it is still an active threat in modern web applications. Open redirection occurs when a vulnerable web page is redirected to an untrusted and malicious page that may compromise the user.  Open redirection attacks usually come with a phishing attack because the modified vulnerable link is identical to the original site, which increases the likelihood of success for the phishing attack.

While open redirection is not exactly common, my research was able to uncover several open source applications that were vulnerable. In this article, I describe the results of my research, and some recommendations for avoiding open redirection vulnerabilities in your code.

Vulnerability Found and Fixed in Moodle

Six months ago when I was evaluating the popular open source learning management software Moodle, I discovered an open redirect vulnerability caused by a lack of constraints on the referer parameter. This vulnerability could redirect users to a non-local website and launch a phishing attack. It has been fixed (by adding code to replace the referer with a local URI when the referer value was used as a redirection vector), and the detail has been listed in CVE-2015-3175 and MSA-15-0019.

Proof of Concept

GET /moodle/mod/forum/post.php?forum=1 HTTP/1.1
Host: Yourhost
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:35.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/35.0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.5
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
Connection: keep-alive

By make the request and clicking the “cancel” button in the response page, the user will be redirected to By taking advantage of this vulnerability, an attacker could launch a phishing attack there very easily.

Research Uncovered More Vulnerable Applications

After submitting this issue and getting it accepted by the Moodle developer team, I decided to commit some time to check whether open redirection is a popular and underlying threat that could damage modern web applications.

I conducted some pen tests against some popular web sites as well as some web applications in a bounty list.

After conducting research off-and-on for several months, the results are bittersweet.  The good news is that most web applications are deployed with some input validation to block redirection to a different domain when there are users’ input requiring a URL value.  However, some web applications do not implement the countermeasure correctly or they do not protect against open redirection at all, which leaves them vulnerable.

More details could be found at Qualys Community blog