Playing Without Paying: Detecting Vulnerable Payment Verification in Native Binaries of Unity Mobile Games

Authors: 

Chaoshun Zuo and Zhiqiang Lin, The Ohio State University

Abstract: 

Modern mobile games often contain in-app purchasing (IAP) for players to purchase digital items such as virtual currency, equipment, or extra moves. In theory, IAP should have been implemented securely; but in practice, we have found that many game developers have failed to do so, particularly by misplacing the trust of payment verification, e.g., by either locally verifying the payment transactions or without using any verification at all, leading to playing without paying vulnerabilities. This paper presents PAYMENTSCOPE, a static binary analysis tool to automatically identify vulnerable IAP implementations in mobile games. Through modeling of its IAP protocols with the SDK provided APIs using a payment-aware data flow analysis, PAYMENTSCOPE directly pinpoints untrusted payment verification vulnerabilities in game native binaries. We have implemented PAYMENTSCOPE on top of binary analysis framework Ghidra, and tested with 39,121 Unity (the most popular game engine) mobile games, with which PAYMENTSCOPE has identified 8,954 (22.89%) vulnerable games. Among them, 8,233 games do not verify the validity of payment transactions and 721 games simply verify the transactions locally. We have disclosed the identified vulnerabilities to developers of vulnerable games, and many of them have acknowledged our findings.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

BibTeX
@inproceedings {279950,
author = {Chaoshun Zuo and Zhiqiang Lin},
title = {Playing Without Paying: Detecting Vulnerable Payment Verification in Native Binaries of Unity Mobile Games},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-31-1},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {3093--3110},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/zuo},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,
}