Feeds

Oracle updates Java to stop SSL-chewing BEAST

Framework declared safe for Firefox

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

Firefox developers said Tuesday that they have no plans to keep the browser from working with the Java software framework now that Oracle has released a patch that prevents it from being used to decrypt sensitive web traffic.

In a blog post published in late September and updated on Tuesday, Mozilla recommends that Firefox users update their Java plug-in to lower their chances of falling victim to attacks that silently decrypt data protected by the SSL, or secure sockets layer, protocol used by millions of websites. Firefox developers had said previously that they were seriously considering disabling the Java plug-in as a way of preventing the exploit.

Short for Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS, BEAST was first demonstrated late last month at a security conference in Argentina, where researchers Juliano Rizzo and Thai Duong used the attack to recover an encrypted authentication cookie used to access a PayPal user account in less than two minutes. Oracle has more about the Java update here.

Their attack exploits a vulnerability in version 3.1 of SSL and version 1.0 of the SSL successor known as TLS, or Transport Layer Security. To make their code work, they needed a means to breach what's known as the same-origin policy, a mechanism built into browsers that prevents websites set by one domain from accessing or modifying data set by another site. Rizzo and Duong ultimately employed a Java applet that exploited a same-origin policy flaw in Oracle's software framework.

The possibility of real-world attacks that silently recovered authentication cookies, social security numbers, and other sensitive data encrypted by SSL was troubling enough to Firefox developers that they considered blocking Java plug-ins in the open-source browser. The move could have caused a variety of serious problems for users, because it would have prevented their browsers from working with virtual private networks, intranet tools, and web-conferencing applications such as Cisco Systems' WebEx.

“We will not be blocking vulnerable versions of Java at this time, though we will continue to monitor for incidents of this vulnerability being exploited in the wild,” Mozilla said in Tuesday's update.

But Java isn't the only way to bypass the same-origin policy, so it doesn't foreclose the possibility that Rizzo and Duong's exploit won't be carried out using other means.

“There will be other methods for doing this, so it doesn't fix the BEAST attack itself,” Nate Lawson, a cryptographer and principal of Root Labs, told The Register. “You need a TLS/SSL fix for that.”

Firefox developers, often working with developers of Google's Chrome browser, have experimented with other ways to stop BEAST attacks. Beta versions of Chrome, for instance, split messages into fragments to reduce an attacker's ability over the plaintext about to be encrypted.

As Lawson pointed out, a more effective fix would be for all websites and browsers to update to TLS 1.1 or SSL 3.2 or higher. Making the transition has proved extremely problematic because huge numbers of websites and browsers will fail to work as expected unless everyone upgrades all at once. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
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
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.