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Mozilla flaws more joke than jeopardy

Firefox attack a 'stand up comedy routine'

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Members of the audience assumed that the two presenters were having a bit of fun, rather than actually criticising the Mozilla browser's code.

"I wasn't pay much attention to what they said they had, because the whole thing was coming across as a comedy show," said Mark Loveless, security architect for Vernier Networks, who saw the presentation. "They had a whole bunch of things in there that was intended to be a joke, trying to get laughs. I didn't have any problems with the talk, I thought it was hilarious, and I didn't take is seriously."

The presentation came a week after security firm Symantec, the owner of SecurityFocus, released its bi-annual Internet Security Threat Report, which found - among other trends - that Mozilla's browsers had the most vulnerabilities. While 47 flaws were found in the open source browser, only 38 were disclosed by Microsoft for its Internet Explorer browser during the same period.

However, the data also showed the Mozilla fixed its vulnerabilities much more quickly. The metric used by Symnatec, termed "window of exposure", measures the time a company takes to patch a flaw in its software, starting from the moment a public exploit is released for the vulnerability. Microsoft took nine days on average - the slowest time - to patch its browser, while Mozilla fixed the flaws in its browser in a single day on average - the fastest time.

The Mozilla Foundation would not comment on the ToorCon presentation except to assure users that they are looking into the flaw report.

"So far we've been able to reproduce a denial of service issue based on the information they gave during their talk. In some cases this causes a crash based on an out of memory error," Window Snyder, chief security officer for the Mozilla Foundation, said in an earlier blog post. "Based on the information we have at this time we have not been able to confirm whether an attacker can achieve code execution. We’'re still investigating and we'll keep you updated."

The warnings of flaws in Mozilla's Firefox do not change the security equations, security researcher Thor Larholm stated in a post on the SecuriTeam blogs. Vulnerabilities happen and Mozilla responds to security issues quickly, he said.

Vernier's Loveless echoed the sentiment.

"I'm no more worried about Mozilla security today than I was before the con," Loveless said. "Odds are, there are 30 flaws in the browser, but whether they have them or someone else has them, you know...the bugs are out there regardless."

And Loveless said he intends to keep on using Firefox just the way he always has - with Javascript turned off.

This article originally appeared in Security Focus.

Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus

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