Steam Browser Protocol Vulnerability

Steam Browser Protocol Vulnerability can allow hackers to hijack PC

Steam is an online platform developed by the Valve Corporation used for online distribution of games and multimedia which also supports communication to all types of distributors irrespective of the size of their enterprise. It can also be used to distribute non-gaming software as well which was introduced earlier this month. It was initially designed for Windows, but later on was developed with compatibility for Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and PlayStation 3 as well. Users of steam have access to full installation and customization features, chat functionality and an application programming interface, Steamworks, which provides developers with the opportunity of adding features specific to Steam to their software. As of now, more than 50 million user accounts are active on Steam and more than 1500 games are accessible at present and it holds a major share of the game distribution arena.

Steam Browser Protocol Vulnerability can allow hackers to hijack PC

Steam Browser Protocol Vulnerability can allow hackers to hijack PC

Upon installation, Steam uses its own URL handler for a better experience and the steam:// URL protocol is used to install or uninstall games, run them, connect to servers, and for backing up files and activation of purchases through commands. These commands can be used by hackers of cyber attackers to exploit vulnerabilities in the Steam games and Steam clients to deceiving them into opening maliciously altered steam:// URLs. This is even more serious as most browsers or applications can pass these URLs directly to clients without any notification and those browsers which do ask for user consents do not disclose complete information about the hazards that accompany the execution of these URLS. Most of the browsers do not display full details of the URLs and ask for permissions except Internet Explorer 9, Opera and Google Chrome which are able to display complete or partial URLs and heed warnings about possible damage resulting from their execution while Firefox does not display any warning despite asking for permission. Experts have shown that Mozilla browsers viz. SeaMonkey and Firefox are the perfect vectors for performing silent Stream Browser Protocol calls and Opera and Chrome have the ability to add spaces in order to hide the malicious part of the URL. Moreover, JavaScript codes can also be used in order to redirect users to the harmful URLs. In addition, browsers asking for user permission also come with options to change this routine and automatically execute URLs.

Many demonstrations have been made regarding the use of steam:// URLs to exploit vulnerabilities in Steam games and clients. For instance, the “retailinstall” command can be used to execute a malicious code using a deformed splash image file. Also .bat files are also used to help attackers gain control by automatically executing commands in Valve’s Source game engine using the steam://  URLs which executes the files in startup directory . Moreover, other gaming engines such as Unreal are also popular targets of attackers who use them to help load malicious files using rogue steam URLs. However, a user can protect their PC by disabling execution of steam:// URLs manually or by using a browser that is incapable of executing URLs on its own. However, since non-gaming software has also been made available on Steam, a user must be cautious as the risk becomes higher now.


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