iOS Custom URI Handlers / Deeplinks / Custom Schemes

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Basic Information

Custom URL schemes enable apps to communicate using a custom protocol, as detailed in the Apple Developer Documentation. These schemes must be declared by the app, which then handles incoming URLs following those schemes. It's crucial to validate all URL parameters and discard any malformed URLs to prevent attacks through this vector.

An example is given where the URI myapp://hostname?data=123876123 invokes a specific application action. A noted vulnerability was in the Skype Mobile app, which allowed unpermitted call actions via the skype:// protocol. The registered schemes can be found in the app's Info.plist under CFBundleURLTypes. Malicious applications can exploit this by re-registering URIs to intercept sensitive information.

Application Query Schemes Registration

From iOS 9.0, to check if an app is available, canOpenURL: requires declaring URL schemes in the Info.plist under LSApplicationQueriesSchemes. This limits the schemes an app can query to 50, enhancing privacy by preventing app enumeration.


Testing URL Handling and Validation

Developers should inspect specific methods in the source code to understand URL path construction and validation, such as application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions: and application:openURL:options:. For instance, Telegram employs various methods for opening URLs:

func application(_ application: UIApplication, open url: URL, sourceApplication: String?) -> Bool {
    self.openUrl(url: url)
    return true

func application(_ application: UIApplication, open url: URL, sourceApplication: String?,
annotation: Any) -> Bool {
    self.openUrl(url: url)
    return true

func application(_ app: UIApplication, open url: URL,
options: [UIApplicationOpenURLOptionsKey : Any] = [:]) -> Bool {
    self.openUrl(url: url)
    return true

func application(_ application: UIApplication, handleOpen url: URL) -> Bool {
    self.openUrl(url: url)
    return true

Testing URL Requests to Other Apps

Methods like openURL:options:completionHandler: are crucial for opening URLs to interact with other apps. Identifying usage of such methods in the app's source code is key for understanding external communications.

Testing for Deprecated Methods

Deprecated methods handling URL openings, such as application:handleOpenURL: and openURL:, should be identified and reviewed for security implications.

Fuzzing URL Schemes

Fuzzing URL schemes can identify memory corruption bugs. Tools like Frida can automate this process by opening URLs with varying payloads to monitor for crashes, exemplified by the manipulation of URLs in the iGoat-Swift app:

$ frida -U SpringBoard -l ios-url-scheme-fuzzing.js
[iPhone::SpringBoard]-> fuzz("iGoat", "iGoat://?contactNumber={0}&message={0}")
Watching for crashes from iGoat...
No logs were moved.
Opened URL: iGoat://?contactNumber=0&message=0


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