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Firefox attack a 'stand up comedy routine'

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Two presenters razzed developers of the open source Mozilla browser this weekend at the ToorCon hacking convention in San Diego with claims that the browser's Javascript implementation is flawed, but the lecture appears to have been more stand-up comedy routine than substantiative research.

The two researchers - college student and Six Apart developer Mischa Spiegelmock and hacker Andrew "Wbeelsoi" who also uses the handle "Weev" - appeared to demonstrate a remotely exploitable flaw in the Javascript implementation of the Mozilla Firefox browser during their Saturday presentation.

However, the duo have not been able to actually get the vulnerability to result in control of a computer, Spiegelmock said in a statement posted to the Mozilla developer blog.

The presentation was intended mainly as a joke, Spiegelmock said in the statement, in which he apologised.

"The main purpose of our talk was to be humourous," the 19-year-old researcher said in the statement. "As part of our talk we mentioned that there was a previously known Firefox vulnerability that could result in a stack overflow ending up in remote code execution. However, the code we presented did not in fact do this, and I personally have not gotten it to result in code execution, nor do I know of anyone who has."

The presentation had gained some credence because an increasingly number of flaws have been found in the Javascript implementations of several browsers, including Firefox, with researchers warning that flaws in the technology could allow web worms the ability to gather information about a victim's network and to gain some access to a user's computer.

The humourous attack on Mozilla also came as software giant Microsoft scrambled to deal with its own zero-day attacks on its Internet Explorer browser and Windows operating system.

Spiegelmock's and Wbeelsoi's claims were widely mirrored by numerous blogs and news aggregators after a News.com article covered the presentation. The duo called Mozilla's implementation of Javascript a "complete mess" and "impossible to patch", according to the article. The hackers reportedly claimed to have 30 more Firefox vulnerabilities that he intended to keep to themselves to set up "communication networks for black hats".

Spiegelmock and his employer, blog developer and service provider Six Apart, backed off those statements on Monday.

"I do not have 30 undisclosed Firefox vulnerabilities, nor did I ever make this claim," Spiegelmock said in the statement posted to Mozilla's blog late Monday night. "I have no undisclosed Firefox vulnerabilities. The person who was speaking with me made this claim, and I honestly have no idea if he has them or not."

According to a source familiar with the matter, Spiegelmock does not have any other information about vulnerabilities outside of the denial-of-service vulnerability included in the presentation. Moreover, the college student has disclosed all details about the flaws to the Mozilla Foundation. Neither Spiegelmock nor Wbeelsoi responded to emailed interview requests.

Six Apart downplayed the style of the presentation as a prank.

"Mischa is a young man - he meant the presentation in jest," said Jane Anderson, spokeswoman for Six Apart.

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