Feeds

New graphics engine imperils users of Firefox and Chrome

Disable WebGL now, researchers warn

High performance access to file storage

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team is advising users of the Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome browsers to disable a recently added graphics engine that can be exploited to steal data or crash end user computers.

The web standard known as WebGL opens the browsers to serious attacks, including the theft of images or denial-of-service attacks, independent research consultancy Context Information Security recently warned. The technology made its debut in version 9 of Chrome and was added to the recently released Firefox 4. WebGL is also present in builds of Opera and Apple's Safari.

“Based on this limited research Context does not believe WebGL is really ready for mass usage,” Context researcher James Forshaw wrote. “Therefore Context recommends that users and corporate IT managers consider disabling WebGL in their browsers.

The technology is designed to render web-based 3D graphics by allowing the browser to have greater access to a computer's graphics hardware. Until now, the security of graphics gear hasn't been much of a concern, but the wide availability of WebGL should change that. Malicious web masters could exploit inherent weaknesses in the standard to cause computers to display the infamous blue screen of death or steal potentially sensitive data.

A Google spokesman didn't address the claims in the Context report head on, but did offer the following:

Many parts of the WebGL stack, including the GPU process, run in separate processes and are sandboxed in Chrome to help prevent various kinds of attacks. To help ward off lower level attacks, we work with hardware, OS, and driver vendors to proactively disable unsafe system configurations and help them improve the robustness of their stack.

I'd also point out that Chrome doesn't run on some system configurations if lower level stack issues are identified. This is a key intermediate step to help protect Chrome users.

The spokesman didn't say if these measures are enough to prevent the Webgl vulnerabilities described by Context from being exploited in Chrome.

A spokesman for the Khronos Group, which maintains the WebGL standard, similarly didn't address the Context report directly in an email to The Register. Instead, he referred to an official statement that said the graphics engine comes with an extension "specifically designed to prevent denial of service and out-of-range memory access attacks from WebGL content."

The extension, known as GL_ARB_robustness, "has already been deployed by some GPU vendors and Khronos expects it to be deployed rapidly by others," the statement continued. "Browsers can check for the presence of this extension before enabling WebGL content. This is likely to become the deployment mode for WebGL in the near future."

The statement didn't name the GPU manufacturers or say what percentage of shipping GPUs make use of the measure.

On Tuesday, members of the US-CERT echoed the advice that WebGL be disabled. So far, neither Context nor CERT has given instructions for turning off the standard in various browsers.

In Firefox 4, type “about:config” (minus the quotes) into the address bar and set webgl.disabled to true. In Chrome, get to the command line of your operating system and add the --disable-webgl flag to the Chrome command. On a Windows machine, the command line would be "chrome.exe --disable-webgl". ®

This article was updated to include comment from The Khronos Group. It was later updated to correct the types of attacks Context said WebGL is susceptible to. The report doesn't include the possibility of code-execution attacks, as incorrectly reported earlier.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.