Microsoft: We're working to 'adjust' IE's mouse tracking
U.K. analytics firm returns fire Friday, alleges Microsoft downplays the security, privacy threat
Computerworld - A U.K. analytics firm that warned earlier this week of an information leak in Internet Explorer (IE) today rebuked Microsoft for downplaying the bug.
Microsoft, however, has announced it is working on a fix, although the nature of the anticipated patch was unclear.
Criminals could use the technique, Spider.io alleged, to monitor mouse movements used to log into sensitive websites with "virtual keyboards," on-screen keyboards similar to those on smartphones. Some websites, notably a few banking sites, rely on virtual keyboards as a way to stymie the far-more-common malware that captures keystrokes from a physical keyboard.
Yesterday, Microsoft downplayed the threat, noting -- as Spider.io had also charged -- that only a pair of advertising analytics companies have taken advantage of the bug. Those firms, said Spider.io, monitor cursor movement to track whether an ad is visible to the user, or whether it is hidden because the web page is larger than the viewing area of the browser.
Spider.io relies on its own technology to determine what proportion of the ad is visible. The technique, which Spider.io CEO Douglas de Jager labeled "browser optimization" in an October interview, watches how a browser allocates resources to render an ad.
The U.K. firm posted a message on Bugtraq, one of the most popular security mailing lists, on Tuesday, then followed that with a blog post Wednesday, recounting how it reported the bug to Microsoft on Oct. 1, but was later told by Microsoft that the Redmond, Wash. developer had no plans to fix the flaw.
Microsoft's top executive for IE, Dean Hachamovitch, took to a company blog Thursday to counter Spider.io's claims.
Hachamovitch downplayed the threat to Windows users, and said that Spider.io's report was motivated more by spite than by concerns over security. "From what we know now, the underlying issue has more to do with competition between analytics companies than consumer safety or privacy," said Hachamovitch. "The only reported active use of this behavior involves competitors to Spider.io providing analytics."
However, Hachamovitch did promise that Microsoft was on the case. "We are actively working to adjust this behavior in IE," he said.
The "adjustment," he said, would bring IE into line with other browsers' behavior. "Analytics firms can expect to do viewpoint detection in IE similarly to how they do this in other browsers."
- Top 10 Reasons to Strengthen Information Security with Desktop Virtualization Regain control and reduce risk without sacrificing business productivity and growth
- Preventing Sophisticated Attacks: Anti-Evasion & Advanced Evasion Techniques McAfee Next Generation Firewall applies sophisticated analysis techniques specifically to detect advanced evasion techniques (AET).
- The Security Industry's Dirty Little Secret The debate over advanced evasion techniques (AETs) This report summarizes the findings of a McAfee commissioned research group to determine the level of understanding IT security professionals have about AETs...
- Demand More, Get the Most from the Move to a Next-Generation Firewall Beyond the basics in a next generation firewall, to protect your investment you should demand other valuable features: intrusion prevention, contextual rules, advanced...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!