Online retailer AliExpress fixed an open redirect vulnerability in its online shopping portal last October that could have been exploited to display a fake coupon designed to phish sensitive information from those who viewed it.
Using this technique, malicious actors would be able to bypass AliExpress's protections against cross-site scripting, explains Check Point in both a blog post and corresponding report authored by researchers Dikla Barda, Roman Zaikin and Oded Vanunu, head of product vulnerability research.
A fake AliExpress coupon would have a strong chance of fooling a victim because the retailer – a subsidiary of Alibaba – commonly uses coupons to entice shoppers, even asking recipients to enter their credit card details for easier online payment and checkout. In the fake version, however, the customer's details would be sent directly back to the attacker's server.
However, "AliExpress uses only a simple method to thwart these kind of attacks... The method involved checking the referer header of the request and if the referer was not set or was incorrect then the request would be denied by the server," Check Point explains in its blog post, noting that a referer "is an HTTP header that identifies the URL of the webpage where the request was requested from."
To get around this, the researchers knew they needed to send their malicious link from an approved, trusted AliExpress URL instead. "In order to achieve that, we looked for links in AliExpress that redirected to a second link in AliExpress, a link that we could replace with our own malicious link," the blog post explains.