Analyzing Android Browser Apps for file:// Vulnerabilities

  • Daoyuan Wu
  • Rocky K. C. Chang
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8783)


Securing browsers in mobile devices is very challenging, because these browser apps usually provide browsing services to other apps in the same device. A malicious app installed in a device can potentially obtain sensitive information through a browser app. In this paper, we identify four types of attacks in Android, collectively known as FileCross, that exploits the vulnerable file:// to obtain users’ private files, such as cookies, bookmarks, and browsing histories. We design an automated system to dynamically test 115 browser apps collected from Google Play and find that 64 of them are vulnerable to the attacks. Among them are the popular Firefox, Baidu and Maxthon browsers, and the more application-specific ones, including UC Browser HD for tablet users, Wikipedia Browser, and Kids Safe Browser. A detailed analysis of these browsers further shows that 26 browsers (23%) expose their browsing interfaces unintentionally. In response to our reports, the developers concerned promptly patched their browsers by forbidding file:// access to private file zones, disabling JavaScript execution in file:// URLs, or even blocking external file:// URLs. We employ the same system to validate the ten patches received from the developers and find one still failing to block the vulnerability.


External File Custom Engine Symbolic Link Concolic Testing Android Version 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
  2. 2.
    Terada, T.: Chrome for Android download function information disclosure,
  3. 3.
    Terada, T.: Chrome for Android bypassing SOP for local files by symlinks,
  4. 4.
    Terada, T.: Mfsa 2013-84: Same-origin bypass through symbolic links,
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
    Chin, E., Felt, A.P., Greenwood, K., Wagner, D.: Analyzing inter-application communication in Android. In: Proc. ACM MobiSys (2011)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
  10. 10.
    Sounthiraraj, D., Sahs, J., Greenwood, G., Lin, Z., Khan, L.: SMV-Hunter: Large scale, automated detection of SSL/TLS man-in-the-middle vulnerabilities in Android apps. In: Proc. ISOC NDSS (2014)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Wu, D., Chang, R.: Analyzing Android browser apps for file: vulnerabilities (Technical Report) (2014),
  12. 12.
    Selenium: Selenium - web browser automation,
  13. 13.
    Rastogi, V., Chen, Y., Enck, W.: AppsPlayground: Automatic security analysis of smartphone applications. In: Proc. ACM CODASPY (2013)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Dai, S., Tongaonkar, A., Wang, X., Nucci, A., Song, D.: Networkprofiler: Towards automatic fingerprinting of Android apps. In: Proc. IEEE INFOCOM (2013)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Anand, S., Naik, M., Harrold, M., Yang, H.: Automated concolic testing of smartphone apps. In: Proc. ACM FSE (2012)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Machiry, A., Tahiliani, R., Naik, M.: Dynodroid: An input generation system for Android apps. In: Proc. ACM FSE (2013)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Luo, T., Hao, H., Du, W., Wang, Y., Yin, H.: Attacks on webview in the Android system. In: Proc. ACM ACSAC (2011)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Chin, E., Wagner, D.: Bifocals: Analyzing webView vulnerabilities in Android applications. In: Kim, Y., Lee, H., Perrig, A. (eds.) WISA 2013. LNCS, vol. 8267, pp. 129–146. Springer, Heidelberg (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Georgiev, M., Jana, S., Shmatikov, V.: Breaking and fixing origin-based access control in hybrid web/mobile application frameworks. In: Proc. ISOC NDSS (2014)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Grace, M., Zhou, Y., Wang, Z., Jiang, X.: Systematic detection of capability leaks in stock Android smartphones. In: Proc. ISOC NDSS (2012)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lu, L., Li, Z., Wu, Z., Lee, W., Jiang, G.: CHEX: Statically vetting Android apps for component hijacking vulnerabilities. In: Proc. ACM CCS (2012)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Zhou, Y., Jiang, X.: Detecting passive content leaks and pollution in Android applications. In: Proc. ISOC NDSS (2013)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Octeau, D., McDaniel, P., Jha, S., Bartel, A., Bodden, E., Klein, J., Traon, Y.: Effective inter-component communication mapping in Android with Epicc: An essential step towards holistic security analysis. In: Proc. Usenix Security (2013)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wu, L., Grace, M., Zhou, Y., Wu, C., Jiang, X.: The impact of vendor customizations on Android security. In: Proc. ACM CCS (2013)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Wang, R., Xing, L., Wang, X., Chen, S.: Unauthorized origin crossing on mobile platforms: Threats and mitigation. In: Proc. ACM CCS (2013)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Terada, T.: Facebook for Android - information diclosure vulnerability,
  27. 27.
    Azim, T., Neamtiu, I.: Targeted and depth-first exploration for systematic testing of Android apps. In: Proc. ACM OOPSLA (2013)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Choi, W., Necula, G., Sen, K.: Guided GUI testing of Android apps with minimal restart and approximate learning. In: Proc. ACM OOPSLA (2013)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Hao, S., Liu, B., Nath, S., Halfond, W., Govindan, R.: PUMA: Programmable UI-automation for large scale dynamic analysis of mobile apps. In: Proc. ACM MobiSys (2014)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daoyuan Wu
    • 1
  • Rocky K. C. Chang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ComputingThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHung HomHong Kong

Personalised recommendations