This post originally appeared at but is copied here due to linkrot.


Apple created App-Site Associations, which requires websites to host a file .well-known/apple-app-site-association. This file contains a bunch of information on web app routes like robots.txt from the good-old days.

The New robots.txt

Long gone are the days where robots.txt was a useful source of information disclosure about web applications. Outside of some beginner-level CTFs, it’s unlikely you’ll find any useful routes at /robots.txt that won’t be easily found with Burp’s crawler or a tool like DirBuster.

Enter Apple’s App-Site Association. This iOS-specific standard allows companies to link their iOS applications to their domain in order to support functionality like:

  • When users click mobile links in iOS Safari, the company’s mobile app can intercept the link click rather than navigating to the mobile site1.

  • Sharing user credentials between multiple iOS applications developed by the same company.

  • Using Handoff2 to seamlessly transfer activity between multiple iOS devices owned by the same user.

But how can an App-Site Association help us test web applications? The answer is that iOS requires a two-way trust between an iOS application and a domain in order to set up this type of association. Both the iOS application and domain have to opt in to enable the trusted relationship.

For the iOS application, developers set the desired associated domains in the application’s configuration at compile time. At runtime, the user’s device reaches out to the configured domain, which must respond with a JSON blob containing permitted app identifiers and URLs to open in the corresponding app. This JSON blob must be hosted at the hardcoded route /.well-known/apple-app-site-association.

As a result, pretty much any site with a corresponding iOS application hosts this publicly-accessible file listing, which lists site URLs that should be opened in the mobile app. For example, Apple’s own domain hosts an app association at

  "activitycontinuation": {
    "apps": [
  "applinks": {
    "apps": [],
    "details": [
        "appID": "",
        "paths": [
          "NOT /shop/buy-iphone/*",
          "NOT /us/shop/buy-iphone/*",

This file specifies the app (“Jolly”, the Apple Store application), along with dozens of URLs which should or shouldn’t be opened - in a very similar way to the old robots.txt. Especially on black box tests or for bug bounty work, this file can help testers to find hidden routes or build a word list for further testing. On many sites, the file also contains app identifiers and URL lists for internal and enterprise apps, further expanding the amount of information which is disclosed.


For penetration testers: Doing black box web testing or bug bounty work? Forget robots.txt, and start checking .well-known/apple-app-site-association.

For web and mobile developers: If you’re using Apple’s App-Site Association, be aware that all the information you publish there is public. Check this file on your sites, and make sure you aren’t leaking anything you don’t want the world to know, such as internal URLs and development or enterprise applications.