Feeds

Security maven: QuickTime flaw threatens PCs, Macs

Year-old bug pulls a fast on Firefox

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A researcher has demonstrated how a security bug in Apple's QuickTime media player that was disclosed a year ago can cause Firefox to install backdoors and other malware on a fully patched computer. He said both Windows and Mac systems are vulnerable.

The researcher, Petko D. Petkov, on Wednesday posted proof-of-concept code that shows how the exploit can be used to run privileged code on an unwitting user's machine.

The XML code calls up a QuickTime-supported file such as foo.mp3, which doesn't exist on the victim's machine. The code then instructs QuickTime to load a second file. The thing is, QuickTime isn't particularly picky about the type of URLs it passes on to Firefox, so attackers are free to include addresses with Firefox's "chrome" parameter, which is used to run privileged code on a user's machine.

"On its own, the QuickTime issue is less critical," Petkov said in an email. "Firefox is not vulnerable either. But when put together, they create a very dangerous combination."

He went on to say he is "101 percent confident" that the vulnerability can allow an attacker to "easily download any rootkit, spyware, adware, etc. and dump it on the client machine in a few seconds." While his exploit was tested only on Windows, he adds, "I see no reason why it shouldn't work on Mac." For the attack to work, users must be logged in as an administrator.

Petkov first reported the QuickTime issue last September, a warning he says was "completely ignored."

Apple representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.

Window Snyder, "chief security something or other" at Mozilla, said through a spokesman: "We have spoken to Apple and they are working on the issue."

As is often the case with vulnerabilities affecting Firefox, users can protect themselves against this exploit by using the NoScript extension. According to this post at hackademix.net, the addon will prevent Petkov's exploit from working even if a user has whitelisted gnucitizen.org, where the code is being hosted. The addition of a certain top-level chrome protection some three months ago makes this possible.

The vulnerability is reminiscent of a vulnerability that first came to light in July. When it was exploited, the Internet Explorer browser would cause Firefox to execute malicious code. The episode touched off debate about exactly who was responsible for the weakness. While Mozilla has plugged the hole, it has also called on Microsoft to patch IE so it vets code for security before passing it along to other applications. So far Microsoft has not done so.

Petkov's proof of concept also demonstrates how seemingly minor security bugs can be magnified into major issues when combined with other unrelated bugs. If Apple security wonks figured this year-old QuickTime issue was too trivial to bother repairing, they may want to think again. ®

Please direct news tips, story ideas, inside scuttlebutt and other security-related intelligence to this reporter by using this link. Confidentiality assured.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.