Man-in-the-browser-cache: persisting HTTPS attacks via browser cache poisoning


In this paper, we present a systematic study of browser cache poisoning (BCP) attacks, wherein a network attacker performs a one-time Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack on a user’s HTTPS session, and substitutes cached resources with malicious ones. We investigate the feasibility of such attacks on five mainstream desktop browsers and 16 popular mobile browsers. We find that browsers are highly inconsistent in their caching policies for loading resources over SSL connections with invalid certificates. In particular, the majority of desktop browsers (99% of the market share) and popular mobile browsers (over a billion user downloads) are affected by BCP attacks to a large extent. Existing solutions for safeguarding HTTPS sessions fail to provide comprehensive defense against this threat. We provide guidelines for users and browser vendors to defeat BCP attacks. Meanwhile, we propose defense techniques for website developers to mitigate an important subset of BCP attacks on existing browsers without cooperation of users and browser vendors. We have reported our findings to browser vendors and confirmed the vulnerabilities. For example, Google has acknowledged the vulnerability we reported in Chrome’s HTML5 AppCache and has fixed the problem according to our suggestion.

In Journal of Computers & Security, 2015 .