Detecting and Measuring Security Risks of Hosting-Based Dangling Domains


Public hosting services provide convenience for domain owners to build web applications with better scalability and security. However, if a domain name points to released service endpoints (e.g., nameservers allocated by a provider), adversaries can take over the domain by applying the same endpoints. Such a security threat is called “hosting-based domain takeover”. In recent years, a large number of domain takeover incidents have occurred; even well-known websites like the subdomains of have been impacted. However, until now, there has been no effective detection system to identify these vulnerable domains on a large scale. In this paper, we fill this research gap by presenting a novel framework, HostingChecker, for detecting domain takeovers. Compared with previous work, HostingChecker expands the detection scope and improves the detection efficiency by: (i) systematically identifying vulnerable hosting services using a semi-automated method; and (ii) effectively detecting vulnerable domains through passive reconstruction of domain dependency chains. The framework enables us to detect the subdomains of Tranco sites on a daily basis. We evaluate the effectiveness of HostingChecker and eventually detect 10,351 subdomains from Tranco Top-1M apex domains vulnerable to domain takeover, which are over 8× more than previous findings. Furthermore, we conduct an in-depth security analysis on the affected vendors, like Amazon and Alibaba, and gain a suite of new insights, including flawed implementation of domain ownership validation. Following responsible disclosure processes, we have reported issues to the security response centers of affected vendors, and some (e.g., Baidu and Tencent) have adopted our mitigation.

In Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Special Interest Group on Measurement and Evaluation. Orlando, Florida, June 19-23, 2023. (Acceptance rate: 55/342=16.1%, Acceptance rate in summer: 17/93=18.3%, Acceptance rate in fall: 26/119=21.9%, Acceptance rate in winter: 12/130=9.2%).
* Presented in OARC 40.
* Presented in APAC DNS Forum 2023 by Mr Alban KWAN


  • Presented in OARC 40
  • Presented in APAC DNS Forum 2023 by Mr Alban KWAN (Topic: Why care about Dangling Domain Hijacking, and how to Prevent the Threat?)

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