Feeds

Microsoft's WebGL claims bashed by own employee

'Scare report' pooh poohed

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

It didn't take long for researchers to pooh pooh last week's advisory that claimed that hard-to-fix design flaws in the emerging WebGL 3D standard seriously imperiled end users who relied on it.

Surprisingly, the most outspoken critic of the analyses, published Thursday by UK-based Context Information Security and Microsoft's Security Research Center was Avi Bar-Zeev, himself a fellow employee of Microsoft. In a post titled Why Microsoft and Internet Explorer need WebGL (and vice-versa), he said the MSRC writeup “parrots a security scare report from a few weeks back” and questioned its connection to official Microsoft policy.

“Is WebGL actually harming your computer in any way?” Bar-Zeev asked in the post, which was published on Friday to his private blog. "I doubt that's a serious or credible claim. And, frankly, if Microsoft has taken a formal position against WebGL, no one I know got the memo.”

He went on to agree that WebGL “clearly needs a bit more assistance on the security angle,” but said the risks were no greater than those posed by any new technology added to browsers, such as ActiveX controls, which for years were among the most exploited Internet Explorer browser component until Microsoft figured out a way to lock them down.

“The way forward is to address the security issues head on, get IE the most robust implementation of WebGL on the market, and lead the industry to a new level of user experience, including NUI and rich 3D graphics, hand in hand,” he added.

Among the ways harden the technology for accelerating web-based 3D graphics is by endowing WebGL with code analysis, collaborative filtering and “hardware or OS watchdog timers,” which would shut down hostile or buggy images before they could inflict harm on the underlying computer.

A day later, Mozilla VP of Engineering Mike Shaver issued his own rebuttal that agreed that the risks posed by WebGL are no different than those posed by any new technology.

“Adding new capabilities can expose parts of the application stack to potentially-hostile content for the first time,” he wrote. “Graphics drivers are an example of that, as are font engines, video codecs, OS text-display facilities (!) and image libraries.”

Bar-Zeev and Shaver were responding to claims made by Context researchers that WebGL opens users up to new attacks by exposing memory and other functions contained in graphics cards to web developers. Coincidentally or otherwise, the MSRC critique, titled "WebGL Considered Harmful," was published the same day. It went on to conclude that Microsoft products that implemented WebGL would have a tough time passing the company's rigorous Security Development Lifecycle.

Firefox has a variety of built in countermeasures designed to lessen the effects of exploits that target WebGL, Shaver said. They include a “whitelist” of approved graphics drivers that's updated daily and an extension that mitigates attempts by malicious websites to crash end user computers.

Shaver also said that WebGL could benefit from many of the same security safeguards added to 3D technology for Microsoft's Silverlight application framework. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
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
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
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.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.