What Is Clickjacking and How Does It Work?

Haseeb Awan
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April 5, 2023

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Clickjacking, also known as UI redressing, is a type of cyber-attack that tricks users into clicking on links or buttons with a different intended function. This malicious technique can steal sensitive information, install malware, spread false information, and more. As the internet becomes more ubiquitous in our daily lives, the threat of clickjacking attacks is growing, making it essential for individuals to be aware of this attack and take steps to protect themselves. We will dive into clickjacking, how it works, and the different forms it can take. We intend to teach you to safeguard yourself from clickjacking and keep your online activities protected.

What is Clickjacking and How Does it Work?

Clickjacking, also known as UI Redressing, is a type of cyber-attack that tricks a user into clicking on a button or link that performs an unintended action. This action is achieved by using malicious code to overlay an invisible layer on top of a legitimate website or web page, making it appear as if the user is clicking on something else entirely.

When the user clicks on the seemingly harmless button or link, the attacker can gain control of their mouse clicks and use them to perform actions such as liking a page, posting a message, or downloading malware. This can be accomplished without the user's knowledge or consent, making clickjacking a dangerous and stealthy attack.

Clickjacking attacks can take many forms, but they all rely on exploiting users' trust in websites and web applications. By disguising a malicious button or link as something legitimate, the attacker can manipulate the user into performing actions they would not have otherwise taken. This is why it's essential to be aware of clickjacking and follow best practices to protect against it.

The Growing Threat of Clickjacking

The threat of clickjacking is increasing, making it more critical than ever for individuals to be aware of this attack and take steps to protect themselves.

One reason for the growing clickjacking threat is the increasing use of social media and other online platforms. With more and more people using the internet for communication, entertainment, and commerce, there are more opportunities for attackers to launch clickjacking attacks and exploit vulnerabilities in browsers, software, and websites.

Another factor contributing to the growing threat of clickjacking is the rapid evolution of technology. Attackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, using new techniques and tools to launch more effective and widespread attacks. This requires individuals to stay vigilant and protect themselves and their online activities from clickjacking attacks.

Finally, the rise of mobile devices and the popularity of mobile apps also contribute to the growing threat of clickjacking. As more and more people use their smartphones and tablets for browsing the web and using social media, the attack surface for clickjacking attacks is growing, making it more critical than ever for individuals to be aware of the dangers and take steps to protect themselves.

The Different Faces of Clickjacking Attacks

It's essential to be aware of the different faces of clickjacking attacks to better protect yourself against them. By understanding the different tactics and methods used by attackers, you can take steps to secure your devices and information and stay safe online.

UI Redressing

UI Redressing is a specific type of clickjacking attack that involves manipulating the appearance of a web page or application. In a UI Redressing attack, the attacker uses code to overlay a malicious button or link on top of a legitimate web page, making it appear as if the user is clicking on something else entirely.

This attack is hazardous because the user may not realize that they are being tricked into performing an unintended action. For example, they may think they are simply clicking on a play button for a video, but in reality, they are downloading malware or granting the attacker access to sensitive information.

UI Redressing attacks can be challenging to detect because they often use transparent layers or other tactics to conceal the malicious code. Additionally, they can look like any web page or application, making them even more deceptive.

Likejacking

Likejacking is a type of clickjacking attack that specifically targets social media platforms. The attacker creates a malicious button or link that appears to be a "Like" button for a popular page, video, or post. When the user clicks on the button, it not only likes the page but also shares the malicious link with its friends and followers.

Likejacking takes advantage of people's trust in social media and their desire to interact with popular content. The attacker can trick people into spreading the attack to their social network by making the malicious link appear to be a legitimate like button.

Likejacking can have serious consequences, as it can compromise the security of the affected user's account and spread the attack to other users. This can result in a large-scale compromise of sensitive information, identity theft, and other malicious activities.

Button Clicking

Button clicking is a type of clickjacking attack that involves tricking the user into clicking on a button or link that performs an unintended action. This can be done by using malicious code to overlay an invisible layer on top of a legitimate website or web page, making it appear as if the user is clicking on something else entirely.

For example, the attacker may create a fake button that appears to be a "Download" button for a popular software program. When the user clicks on the button, they may unknowingly download malware or grant the attacker access to sensitive information.

Button-clicking attacks can be particularly effective because they exploit users' trust in websites and web applications. By disguising a malicious button as something legitimate, the attacker can manipulate the user into performing actions they would not have otherwise taken.

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Shielding Your Digital Life from Clickjacking

Once you know the different clickjacking attacks that your page is susceptible to, you can find a myriad of ways to protect your digital presence from the attacks. Here are some security features you can use:

X-Frame-Options header

The X-Frame-Options header is a security feature that helps prevent clickjacking attacks. It is a response header sent by a web server to a web browser, specifying whether or not a web page can be embedded within an HTML frame or iframe.

The X-Frame-Options header can be set to one of three values: "DENY," "SAMEORIGIN," or "ALLOW-FROM." If the header is set to "DENY," the web page cannot be embedded within an iframe. If it is set to "SAMEORIGIN," the page can only be embedded within an iframe if the parent page is on the same domain. If it is set to "ALLOW-FROM," the header specifies a specific domain that is allowed to embed the page.

The X-Frame-Options header is essential for preventing clickjacking attacks because it prevents attackers from embedding malicious pages within iframes and tricking users into clicking on links or buttons that perform unintended actions. By controlling which pages can be embedded within iframes, the X-Frame-Options header helps to ensure that users are not tricked into interacting with malicious pages.

To use the X-Frame-Options header, you must add the header to your web server's response for each web page you want to protect. Most web servers, such as Apache and Nginx, provide easy-to-use configurations to set the X-Frame-Options header. Additionally, some web application frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails and Django, provide built-in support for the X-Frame-Options header, making it easy to add this critical security feature to your web applications.

Frame Busting Code

Frame-busting is a technique that prevents web pages from being embedded within an iframe or frame. It is often used with the X-Frame-Options header to provide additional protection against clickjacking attacks.

Frame-busting code is a piece of JavaScript that is added to a web page. The code checks to see if the page is being loaded within an iframe; if it is, it automatically breaks out of the iframe and loads the page in the top-level window. This prevents the page from being embedded within an iframe and makes it difficult for attackers to use it in a clickjacking attack.

Here's an example of a simple frame-busting code:

if (self === top) {

  // do nothing

} else {

  top.location = self.location;

}

This code checks to see if the self-object (which refers to the current window) is equal to the top object (which refers to the top-level window). If the two are equal, the code does nothing. If the two are unequal, the code sets the top-level window's location to the current window's location, effectively breaking out of the iframe and loading the page in the top-level window.

While frame-busting code is an effective technique for preventing clickjacking attacks, it's essential to be careful when using it. Some older browsers and security software may have issues with frame-busting code, so it's essential to test your code thoroughly to ensure that it works as expected. Additionally, some attackers may try to bypass frame-busting code by using more advanced techniques, so it's important to use multiple layers of protection, such as the X-Frame-Options header, to ensure that your web pages are secure against clickjacking attacks.

Content Security Policy

Content Security Policy (CSP) is a security feature that helps protect against cross-site scripting (XSS) and other code injection attacks. It is a security header sent by a web server to a web browser and specifies the types of content allowed to be loaded and executed on a web page.

With CSP, web developers can specify the sources of content that are allowed to be loaded on a page, such as scripts, images, and stylesheets. This helps to prevent attackers from injecting malicious code into a web page, as the browser will only execute scripts and other content that are explicitly allowed by the CSP.

Here's an example of a simple CSP header:

Content-Security-Policy: default-src 'self'

This header specifies that the default source for all content types is the exact origin of the web page. This means that scripts, images, and other content can only be loaded from the same domain as the web page, helping to prevent cross-site scripting and other code injection attacks.

CSP is an effective tool for preventing code injection attacks, but it can be complex to implement and requires careful planning. Web developers must carefully evaluate the sources of content allowed on their web pages and the types of content that are allowed to ensure that the CSP is both effective and practical. Additionally, some older browsers may not support CSP, so it's essential to test your CSP header to ensure that it works as expected on all browsers.

Clickjacking in the Real World: Shocking Case Studies

Of course, there are many clickjacking attacks that the internet has come across over the years. For example, in 2013, a group of security researchers uncovered a clickjacking attack that targeted Facebook users. The attackers embedded a Facebook "like" button within an invisible iframe and overlaid it with a seemingly harmless button or link. When users click the button or link, they unknowingly click the hidden "like" button, liking a malicious page or product.

The researchers discovered that the attackers used this technique to spread spam, promote fake products, and collect information about Facebook users and their interests. By generating "likes" through the attack, the attackers boosted the visibility of their malicious pages and made them more likely to be seen by other Facebook users.

Facebook quickly patched the vulnerability and protected its users from the attack. This case warns of the dangers of clickjacking and the need for multiple layers of protection, such as the X-Frame-Options header and frame-busting code, to prevent these attacks.

Other than that, in 2015, researchers uncovered a clickjacking attack that affected users of popular video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Attackers embedded YouTube and Vimeo videos within an invisible iframe and overlaid it with a play button that looked like it was part of the video. Users unknowingly click a hidden "like" or "subscribe" button when they click the play button, thereby liking or subscribing to a malicious channel or page.

The attackers used this technique to promote their own videos and channels and gather information about users and their viewing habits. The attackers also took advantage of users' trust in well-known video-sharing sites, making it more likely for them to fall for the attack.

The video-sharing sites were able to quickly patch the vulnerability and protect their users from the attack. However, this case highlights the importance of being cautious when clicking on links or buttons online and the need for multiple layers of protection to prevent clickjacking attacks.

Furthermore, in 2020, researchers uncovered a clickjacking campaign targeting users of the video conferencing platform Zoom. Attackers used a technique called "zoom-bombing" to hijack Zoom meetings and display explicit or distracting content on the screens of all participants. Zoom quickly released a patch to address the vulnerability and prevent further attacks. Still, the incident serves as a reminder of the evolving threat of clickjacking and the importance of staying vigilant and protecting yourself against these attacks.

Protecting Yourself from Clickjacking: Essential Tips and Best Practices

Protection from clickjacking is essential in the modern world as attacks become more and more sophisticated. So here are some best practices to help protect your digital presence from clickjacking attempts.

Keep Software And Browser Up To Date

Attackers can exploit software and browser vulnerabilities to launch clickjacking attacks, so keeping all software and browsers up to date with the latest security patches is essential. By regularly updating your software, you can ensure that any known vulnerabilities are fixed and that your devices are protected from attacks.

Use Anti-Virus And Anti-Malware Software

Anti-virus and anti-malware software can help protect against clickjacking attacks by detecting and removing malicious software and links. These tools can also help to prevent the spread of malware, which can be used as a delivery mechanism for clickjacking attacks.

Be Wary Of Suspicious Links

Clickjacking attacks often rely on tricking users into clicking malicious links, so it is essential to be cautious when clicking on links from unknown or untrusted sources. Before clicking on a link, hover over it to see the URL and make sure it looks legitimate. Be especially wary of links in emails and on social media, as these are familiar sources of phishing and clickjacking attacks.

To Sum It Up

Clickjacking is a severe threat to internet users, as it can lead to the theft of sensitive information, the spreading false information, and more. As internet and social media use continues to grow, it's essential to be aware of this attack and take steps to protect yourself. By staying up to date with the latest software and browser versions, using anti-virus and anti-malware software, and being wary of suspicious links, you can safeguard yourself from clickjacking and keep your online activities protected. Remember, by educating yourself, and following best practices, you can stay one step ahead of the attackers and ensure that your online experience remains safe and secure.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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