Thursday, November 16. 2017
I discovered a couple of more or less minor security issues in Firefox lately. None of them is particularly scary, but they affect interesting corner cases or unusual behavior. I'm posting this mainly hoping that other people will find it inspiring to think about unusual security issues and maybe also come up with more realistic attack scenarios for these bugs.
I'd like to point out that Mozilla hasn't fixed most of those issues, despite all of them being reported several months ago.
Bypassing XSA warning via FTP
XSA or Cross-Site Authentication is an interesting and not very well known attack. It's been discovered by Joachim Breitner in 2005.
Some web pages, mostly forums, allow users to include third party images. This can be abused by an attacker to steal other user's credentials. An attacker first posts something with an image from a server he controls. He then switches on HTTP authentication for that image. All visitors of the page will now see a login dialog on that page. They may be tempted to type in their login credentials into the HTTP authentication dialog, which seems to come from the page they trust.
The original XSA attack is, as said, quite old. As a countermeasure Firefox implements a warning in HTTP authentication dialogs that were created by a subresource like an image. However it only does that for HTTP, not for FTP.
So an attacker can run an FTP server and include an image from there. By then requiring an FTP login and logging all login attempts to the server he can gather credentials. The password dialog will show the host name of the attacker's FTP server, but he could choose one that looks close enough to the targeted web page to not raise suspicion.
I haven't found any popular site that allows embedding images from non-HTTP-protocols. The most popular page that allows embedding external images at all is Stack Overflow, but it only allows HTTPS. Generally embedding third party images is less common these days, most pages keep local copies if they embed external images.
This bug is yet unfixed.
Obviously one could fix it by showing the same warning for FTP that is shown for HTTP authentication. But I'd rather recommend to completely block authentication dialogs on third party content. This is also what Chrome is doing. Mozilla has been discussing this for several years with no result.
Firefox also has an open bug about disallowing FTP on subresources. This would obviously also fix this scenario.
Window-modal popup via FTP
So it is a goal of modern browsers to not allow web pages to create window-modal alerts that block the interaction with the whole browser. However I figured out FTP gives us a bypass of this restriction.
If Firefox receives some random garbage over an FTP connection that it cannot interpret as FTP commands it will open an alert window showing that garbage.
First we open up our fake "FTP-Server" that will simply send a message to all clients. We can just use netcat for this:
while true; do echo "Hello" | nc -l -p 21; done
There are two problems here. One is that server controlled content is showed to the user without any interpretation. This alert window seems to be intended as some kind of error message. However it doesn't make a lot of sense like that. If at all it should probably be prefixed by some message like "the server sent an invalid command". But ultimately if the browser receives random garbage instead of protocol messages it's probably not wise to display that at all. The second problem is that FTP error messages probably should be tab-modal as well.
This bug is also yet unfixed.
FTP considered dangerous
FTP is an old protocol with many problems. Some consider the fact that browsers still support it a problem. I tend to agree, ideally FTP should simply be removed from modern browsers.
FTP in browsers is insecure by design. While TLS-enabled FTP exists browsers have never supported it. The FTP code is probably not well audited, as it's rarely used. And the fact that another protocol exists that can be used similarly to HTTP has the potential of surprises. For example I found it quite surprising to learn that it's possible to have unencrypted and unauthenticated FTP connections to hosts that enabled HSTS. (The lack of cookie support on FTP seems to avoid causing security issues, but it's still unexpected and feels dangerous.)
Self-XSS in bookmark manager export
One could come up with implausible social engineering scenarios (web page asks user to create a bookmark and insert some specific string into the tags field), but that seems very far fetched. A remotely plausible scenario would be a situation where a browser can be used by multiple people who are allowed to create bookmarks and the bookmarks are regularly exported and uploaded to a web page. However that also seems quite far fetched.
This was fixed in the latest Firefox release as CVE-2017-7840 and considered as low severity.
Crashing Firefox on Linux via notification API
The notification API allows browsers to send notification alerts that the operating system will show in small notification windows. A notification can contain a small message and an icon.
When playing this one of the very first things that came to my mind was to check what happens if one simply sends a very large icon. A user has to approve that a web page is allowed to use the notification API, however if he does the result is an immediate crash of the browser. This only "works" on Linux. The proof of concept is quite simple, we just embed a large black PNG via a data URI:
I haven't fully tracked down what's causing this, but it seems that Firefox tries to send a message to the system's notification daemon with libnotify and if that's too large for the message size limit of dbus it will not properly handle the resulting error.
What I found quite frustrating is that when I reported it I learned that this was a duplicate of a bug that has already been reported more than a year ago. I feel having such a simple browser crash bug open for such a long time is not appropriate. It is still unfixed.
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