Apple okay with Safari 'carpet bombing' vuln for now

'Eh. Don't expect much from us'


Next time you get nagged to install Apple's Safari browser keep this in mind: The company's security team has dismissed research that shows a simple way miscreants can use the browser to litter an end user's machine with malicious files.

According to researcher Nitesh Dhanjani, Safari doesn't bother to ask for user permission before downloading resources from websites. When encountering malicious iframes and other scripts, the browser obediently does what the website tells it to do, including downloading a file as many times as html scripts order.

When informed of this "carpet bombing" vulnerability (as researcher Billy (BK) Rios has dubbed it), Apple agreed that it might be good if Safari actually checked with the user before downloading potentially vicious files, but signaled that kind of addition wasn't much of a priority.

"Please note that we are not treating this as a security issue, but a further measure to raise the bar against unwanted downloads," someone from Apple's security team told Dhanjani. "We want to set your expectations that this could take quite a while, if it ever gets incorporated."

This is unfortunate because the vulnerability allows miscreants to dump hundreds of malicious files into a user's default download location (in Windows it's the desktop and in OS X it's the download folder). As Nate McFeters at the Zero Day Blog sees it, it wouldn't be hard for a rogue site to load up a desktop with dozens of booby-trapped "My Computer" icons that look like the real Windows icon and wait for a confused user to accidentally click on them.

Apple has recently taken lumps because it uses its security update mechanism as a way to push Safari on users who have never installed the browser. This shameless pimping offends the sensibilities of many who believe security update notices should be reserved only for buggy software that presents a clear and present danger - that is for buggy software that's already installed.

We asked Apple to comment, but as of time of publication, they didn't respond. So, we've lit a candle in their honor.

Dhanjani said he discovered a separate, high-risk vulnerability that can be used to remotely steal local files from the user's hard drive, and the company has acknowledged the bug and promised to fix it.

Dhanjani's research comes on the heels of a separate report from Aviv Raff that points out a vulnerability in IE 7 and IE 8 that could allow an attacker to remotely execute malicious code on an end user's machine. The fault lies within the "Print Table as Links" feature, which expands the options users have for printing web-related text.

A Microsoft spokesman says company researchers are looking in to the report, but that on the surface exploitation would require "significant" user interaction. Specifically, the victim would have to select non-default printing options and then print a malicious page. Indeed, Secunia rates the vulnerability "less critical," its second-lowest rating on a five-notch scale. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading
  • Utility biz Delta-Montrose Electric Association loses billing capability and two decades of records after cyber attack

    All together now - R, A, N, S, O...

    A US utility company based in Colorado was hit by a ransomware attack in November that wiped out two decades' worth of records and knocked out billing systems that won't be restored until next week at the earliest.

    The attack was detailed by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) in a post on its website explaining that current customers won't be penalised for being unable to pay their bills because of the incident.

    "We are a victim of a malicious cyber security attack. In the middle of an investigation, that is as far as I’m willing to go," DMEA chief exec Alyssa Clemsen Roberts told a public board meeting, as reported by a local paper.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021