DIMACS TR: 2004-23

Protecting (even) Na´ve Web Users, or: Preventing Spoofing and Establishing Credentials of Web Sites

Authors: Amir Herzberg and Ahmad Gbara

In spite of the use of standard web security measures, swindlers often clone sensitive web sites and/or present false credentials, causing substantial damages to individuals and corporations. Several papers presented such web spoofing attacks, and suggested countermeasures, mostly by improved browser user interface. However, we argue that these countermeasures are inappropriate to most non-expert web users; indeed, they are irrelevant to most practical web-spoofing attacks, which focus on non-expert users. In fact, even expert users could be victim of these practical, simple spoofing attacks.

We present the trusted credentials area, a simple and practical browser UI enhancement, which allows secure identification of sites and validation of their credentials, thereby preventing web-spoofing, even for na´ve users. The trusted credentials area is a fixed part of the browser window, which displays only authenticated credentials, and in particular logos, icons and seals. In fact, we recommend that web sites always provide credentials (e .g. logo) securely, and present them in the trusted credentials area; this will help users to notice the absence of secure logo in spoofed sites.

Existing web security mechanisms (SSL/TLS) may cause substantial overhead if applied to most web pages, as required for securing credentials (e.g. logo) of each page; we present a simple alternative mechanism to secure web pages and credentials, with acceptable overhead. Finally, we suggest additional anti-spoofing measures for site owners and web users, mainly until deployment of the trusted credentials area.

Paper Available at: ftp://dimacs.rutgers.edu/pub/dimacs/TechnicalReports/TechReports/2004/2004-23.pdf

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