Feeds

Mozilla unveils cure for Web 2.0 world run amok

Putting XSS worms on notice

Security for virtualized datacentres

The Mozilla Foundation has unveiled an early version of its Firefox browser that it says could virtually eliminate one of the most common attack forms now menacing the web.

It implements an inchoate technology the foundation calls CSP, short for the Content Security Policy specification. It allows web developers to embed a series of HTML headers into their sites that by default block some of the most abused features from being offered. Newer versions of Firefox, and other browsers if they adopt the standard, would then enforce those policies across the site's entire domain.

The primary aim of CSP is to immunize websites from attacks based on XSS, or cross-site scripting. The exploits frequently target javascript, Adobe Flash and other user-supplied content that allows attackers to inject malicious content and code into trusted websites. Administrators then have the option of whitelisting only the types of content they need to make their sites work as designed.

"A lot of the big sites who are dealing with user content and who are seeing some of these problems with cross-site scripting, we've heard excitement from them," said Johnathan Nightingale, whose official title at Mozilla is human shield. "It's hard to filter out all the potentially bad things that a malicious user can include."

The CSP preview builds are designed to give web developers a sneak peek at the specification and chime in with suggestions for making it better. Mozilla hopes it will become an open standard and is already shepherding it through the World Wide Web Consortium.

Over the past few years, XSS attacks have emerged as one of the most common ways to exploit web surfers and Web 2.0 sites alike. A recent rash of Twitter worms relied on XSS vulnerabilities in the microblogging site. Such self-replicating attacks date back to at least 2005, when the so-called Samy Worm knocked MySpace out of commission by adding more than 1 million users to the creator's friends list.

CSP has the ability to do more than stamp out XSS. By erecting a wall in front of a company's intranet and other protected resources, CSP could insulate organizations from so-called DNS rebinding attacks. Those techniques use HTML sleight of hand to trick web browsers behind an organization's firewall into attacking routers and other vital targets.

Of course, all of this is still no more than a gleam in the eyes of Mozilla developers. For it to catch on, large websites will have to invest heavily in it, and given Mozilla's still-modest market share, that will almost certainly require other browser suppliers (read: Microsoft) to get on board.

That's an awful lot of ifs. Still, CSP is worth watching - and if you're a web developer, even playing around with. If it works as intended, it could prove to be one of the more promising solutions for a Web 2.0 world that's built first and is only later, if ever, patched. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.