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Firefox spoofing bug raises phishing fears

Basic authentication sucks

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Flaws in the way the latest version of Mozilla Firefox presents authentication dialog boxes leave the door open for cybercrooks to trick users into handing over login credentials, a leading security researcher warns.

The spoofing weakness - discovered by Israeli security researcher Aviv Raff - involves a failure by the open source browser to sanitise single quotation marks and spaces in the "realm" value of an authentication header.

"This makes it possible for an attacker to create a specially crafted Realm value which will look as if the authentication dialog came from a trusted site," Raff explained.

Exploitation of the bug might involve embedding a rigged image on a MySpace page that would pose as a log-on dialog to Amazon.com, for example, while actually sending data to systems controlled by hackers. Alternatively, a hacker might attempt to trick users into visiting a maliciously constructed web page featuring a link to a trusted website. If a victim clicks on the link, the trusted web page will be opened in a new window. Meanwhile, in the background, a script will be executed to redirect the newly opened window to the attacker's web server, returning the specially crafted basic authentication response.

Firefox 2.0.0.11 is vulnerable to the issue, according to Raff. Previous versions of the popular open source browser may also be flawed.

Raff has posted an advisory explaining the vulnerability and its possible misuse in phishing attacks. The advisory links to a video illustrating the exploit, also created by Raff, that shows the misuse of the flaw to spoof Google Checkout. A low-resolution version of the video (as below) has been posted onto YouTube.

Mozilla researchers are investigating the issue. Pending the availability of a fix Raff, who's previously discovered vulnerabilities in Google's Toolbar and Apple's Safari web browser, advises users of the open source browser to avoid providing username and password information to sites displaying the dialog. ®

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