Feeds

Insecure plug-ins pose danger to Firefox users

Add-ons add security threat

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

A security weakness in the update mechanism for third-party add-ons to the Firefox browser could give an attacker the ability to exploit unsecured downloads and install malicious code on the victim's computer, a security researcher warned on Wednesday.

The vulnerability affects any third-party add-ons that use an unsecured download site as part of the update process, according to Indiana University graduate student Christopher Soghoian, who released an advisory on the issue Wednesday.

While using the standard secure communications protocol available in major browsers, known as secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption, could prevent the attacks, many major companies - such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, LinkedIn, and AOL - failed to do so, Soghoian said.

"Many companies have world-class in-house security teams, so their worst sin is not consulting their own experts, who would have undoubtedly shot down any attempt to update code over an insecure and untrustworthy connection," Soghoian said in an email interview with SecurityFocus.

Soghoian, who attracted the attention of the US Department of Homeland Security last year when he created an online boarding-pass generator, posted an advisory and video of the attack to his website on Wednesday, a month and a half after notifying Mozilla and Google of the issue.

Vulnerability researchers have increasingly targeted Firefox as the open-source browser's popularity has grown. The group improved the browser's security with its latest version, Firefox 2.0, released last October. Both Microsoft and Mozilla have argued that their own browser protects internet users better.

In April, Soghoian decided to use a network sniffer to capture the data that Firefox sent out over the network as it was starting up. He quickly noticed that several extensions sent requests to check for new updates using plain Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) packets, without any sort of security.

"The insecure update requests stuck out like a sore thumb, and within a couple of hours, I had a working demo which proved that it was possible to hijack the extension upgrade process," Soghoian said.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.