For example, a browser fetches an image from remote server and renders it for display when it encounters an <img> tag with src attribute in an HTML document. Browsers handle these resources based on their MIME type, and a browser’s behavior can be guided by the X-Content-Type-Options HTTP header returned by the web server.
In this post, we are going to look at security risks for an application that does not make use of this header. Specifically, we will look at the conditions under which exploitable vulnerabilities arise.
MIME Sniffing Introduction
MIME stands for “Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions.” MIME was originally defined to support non-ASCII text and non-text binaries in email. However, the content types defined in MIME standard are used in HTTP protocol to define the type of content in a request or response.
A browser usually identifies a resource’s MIME type by observing the Content-Type response header in an HTTP response.
“MIME sniffing” can be broadly defined as the practice adopted by browsers to determine the effective MIME type of a web resource by examining the content of the response instead of relying on the Content-Type header. MIME sniffing is performed only under specific conditions. Please note that MIME sniffing algorithms vary by browser. A MIME sniffing standard has been defined on the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) website.
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