Threat actors could abuse the iOS URL Scheme to undermine user privacy and stage other attacks with respect to certain vendors’ apps.

Trend Micro observed that several iOS apps available for download in China, specifically the payment app WeChat and the retail program Suning, were susceptible to attacks involving the iOS URL Scheme. Designed by Apple as a compensating workaround to its mobile sandbox technology, the URL Scheme is a feature that allows apps to load on a iOS device using URLs. This functionality enables apps to share information with one another, all the while limiting the scope of damage if one of those apps suffered a compromise.

In its research, Trend Micro traced the danger to the fact that multiple apps could abuse the same Sample:// URL Scheme. For instance, the security firm noted that bad actors could abuse this shared Scheme to request a login token for a user’s WeChat account and abuse that token to authenticate themselves in Suning. At that point, they could steal sensitive information from and/or abuse both accounts. They could also abuse the feature to trick a user into paying other people’s bills and to launch other malicious apps.

Other Attacks Abusing the iOS URL Scheme

This isn’t the first time that researchers have spotted threat actors abusing the iOS URL Scheme. In February 2015, for instance, FireEye observed an updated version of the Masque Attack iOS flaw that it named Masque Attack II. This exploit leveraged the ability to bypass iOS prompts and hijack the native URL Scheme to intercept communications between apps and, in turn, launch phishing attacks designed to steal users’ login credentials. Later that year, Mobile Iron reported on a group of vulnerabilities called XARA that also hinged on URL Scheme hijacking with iOS devices.

Monitor App Behavior With AI Tools

Security professionals can help defend their organizations against threats that abuse the iOS URL Scheme by using artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor how apps behave across devices and analyze events in which those programs take unexpected actions. Companies should also create human partnerships and develop internal security checks and balances to defend their assets against AI-powered insider threats.

More from

Detecting Insider Threats: Leverage User Behavior Analytics

3 min read - Employees often play an unwitting role in many security incidents, from accidental data breaches to intentional malicious attacks. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the right protocols and processes to identify potential risks posed by their workforce. Based on a survey conducted by SANS Institute, 35% of respondents said they lack visibility into insider threats, while 30% said the inability to audit user access is a security blind spot in their organizations. In addition, the 2023 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index reported that…

3 min read

Poor Communication During a Data Breach Can Cost You — Here’s How to Avoid It

5 min read - No one needs to tell you that data breaches are costly. That data has been quantified and the numbers are staggering. In fact, the IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach estimates that the average cost of a data breach in 2022 was $4.35 million, with 83% of organizations experiencing one or more security incidents. But what’s talked about less often (and we think should be talked about more) is how communication — both good and bad — factors into…

5 min read

Increasingly Sophisticated Cyberattacks Target Healthcare

4 min read - It’s rare to see 100% agreement on a survey. But Porter Research found consensus from business leaders across the provider, payer and pharmaceutical/life sciences industries. Every single person agreed that “growing hacker sophistication” is the primary driver behind the increase in ransomware attacks. In response to the findings, the American Hospital Association told Porter Research, “Not only are cyber criminals more organized than they were in the past, but they are often more skilled and sophisticated.” Although not unanimous, the…

4 min read

Ransomware Renaissance 2023: The Definitive Guide to Stay Safer

2 min read - Ransomware is experiencing a renaissance in 2023, with some cybersecurity firms reporting over 400 attacks in the month of March alone. And it shouldn’t be a surprise: the 2023 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index found backdoor deployments — malware providing remote access — as the top attacker action in 2022, and aptly predicted 2022’s backdoor failures would become 2023’s ransomware crisis. Compounding the problem is the industrialization of the cybercrime ecosystem, enabling adversaries to complete more attacks, faster. Over the last…

2 min read