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Security researchers warn of new 'clickjacking' browser bugs

Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, others vulnerable to new class of attacks

September 26, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Security researchers warned today that a new class of vulnerabilities dubbed "clickjacking" puts users of every major browser at risk from attack.

Details of the multiple flaws -- six different types, by one count -- are sketchy, because the researchers, who presented some of their findings at a security conference earlier this week, have purposefully kept their information confidential as at least one vendor works on a fix.

Although the clickjacking problem has been associated with browsers -- users of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Google Chrome and others are all vulnerable to the attack -- the problem is actually much deeper, said Robert Hansen, founder and chief executive of SecTheory LLC, and one of the two researchers who discussed the bug in a semi-closed session at OWASP AppSec 2008 on Wednesday.

In an interview on Friday, he called clickjacking similar to cross-site request forgery, a known type of vulnerability and attack that sometimes goes by CSRF or "sidejacking." But clickjacking is different enough that the current anti-CSRF security provisions built into browsers, sites and Web applications are worthless.

"At a high level, almost everyone is affected by it," Hansen said. "The problem is that a lot of people who spent a lot of time defending [against cross-site request forgery] didn't see this coming. This works completely differently, and has much wider-reaching issues. [Attackers] can get users to click a button [in clickjacking] where they may not be able to get them to click a button in JavaScript."

Hansen's research partner, Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer at WhiteHat Security Inc., explained how attackers could exploit clickjacking vulnerabilities.

"Think of any button on any Web site, internal or external, that you can get to appear between the browser walls," Grossman said in an e-mail on Friday. "Wire transfers on banks, Digg buttons, CPC advertising banners, Netflix queue, etc. The list is virtually endless and these are relatively harmless examples. Next, consider that an attack can invisibly hover these buttons below the users' mouse, so that when they click on something they visually see, they actually are clicking on something the attacker wants them to."

Hansen seconded Grossman's example with one of his own. "Say you have a home wireless router that you had authenticated prior to going to a [legitimate] Web site. [The attacker] could place a tag under your mouse that frames in a single button an order to the router to, for example, delete all firewall rules. That would give them an advantage in an attack."

Hackers would not need to compromise a legitimate site in order to conduct a clickjacking attack underneath it, Hansen added.



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