Feeds

Microsoft: IE mouse tracking vuln no big deal. Sort of...

Will fix it anyway. Probably...

High performance access to file storage

Microsoft has dismissed allegations that Internet Explorer can allow attackers to track the position of the user's mouse cursor, arguing that the original report was self-serving and that the observed behavior does not represent a credible threat.

"From what we know now, the underlying issue has more to do with competition between analytics companies than consumer safety or privacy," Dean Hachamovitch, corporate VP of Microsoft's Internet Explorer group, said in a blog post.

On Wednesday, web analytics company Spider.io disclosed a method by which hackers can use just a few lines of JavaScript code to monitor and record the position of the user's cursor whenever IE is running, even when the browser window is inactive or minimized.

The company said the alleged vulnerability is present in IE versions 6 through 10, and that although it had disclosed the threat privately to the Microsoft Security Research Center, Redmond had said it had "no immediate plans" to issue a patch.

"The vulnerability is already being exploited by at least two display ad analytics companies across billions of page impressions per month," Spider.io said.

But on Thursday, Hachamovitch argued that Spider.io was only concerned about what these web analytics companies were allegedly doing because Spider.io is itself a web analytics company, and that its complaints, purportedly on behalf of users, were really motivated by commercial concerns.

"The only reported active use of this behavior involves competitors to Spider.io providing analytics," Hachamovitch wrote.

In its initial report, Spider.io claimed that by recording the movement of a user's mouse cursor on the screen, attackers could potentially monitor what users type into onscreen keyboards and virtual keypads, allowing them to record passwords and other sensitive data.

Unlikely, Hachamovitch said.

"Getting all the pieces to line up in order to take advantage of this behavior – serving an ad to a site that asks for a logon, the user using an on screen (or virtual) keyboard, knowing how that onscreen keyboard works – is hard to imagine," he wrote. "From our conversations with security researchers across the industry, we see very little risk to consumers at this time."

In a separate blog post on Friday, Spider.io said, "We do not feel at all comfortable participating in this public debate." But they went ahead anyway.

"According to existing privacy standards, it is not ok for a browser to leak your mouse co-ordinates outside of the particular browser window," company reps wrote. "Should Microsoft fix this bug? This is a matter for the public to decide – in particular, it's a matter for the privacy experts."

Curiously enough, however, the second paragraph of Hachamovitch's blog post begins with a rather germane sentence: "We are actively working to adjust this behavior in IE." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
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
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
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
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
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.