Perimeter
Guest Blog // Selected Security Content Provided By Sophos
What's This?
7/31/2013
02:25 PM
Maxim Weinstein
Maxim Weinstein
Security Insights
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Has Chrome Struck Security Gold?

Some criminals have all but given up on attacking Chrome users. Have exploit authors met their match in Mountain View, or is there more to the story?

Using the Chrome browser may protect you from Web exploits, according to a recent blog post by Brian Krebs:

One very interesting pattern I observed in poking at [the Styx] exploit pack -- and others recently -- is the decreasing prevalence or complete absence of reported infections from Google Chrome users, and to a lesser extent users of recent versions of Mozilla Firefox.

Is it possible that the geeks in Mountain View have found the secret formula to building a more secure browser, or are there other forces at play? Most likely it's a confluence of factors, some engineered by Google, and others not.

In his blog post, Krebs provides one explanation for his observation: Adobe Reader is a common target of exploits, but recent versions of Chrome (and Firefox) include an alternate, built-in PDF parser. That means Reader never loads for most users of these browsers, rendering attempts to attack the ubiquitous application harmless.

Another piece of the puzzle is the silent automatic updater that has been built into Chrome since it launched. This ensures that few Chrome users run outdated browser versions, which harbor known vulnerabilities. Firefox introduced a similar update mechanism last year.

The browser market may provide some clues, as well. It is my observation that technically sophisticated users are disproportionately likely to use Chrome. (I haven't found any data to back this up; if you know of any, please share in the comments.) Techie users are also more likely to have their systems patched and to have Java disabled, both of which decrease their likelihood of becoming victims of drive-by downloads.

Speaking of the browser market, Chrome has far smaller market share than Internet Explorer, meaning criminals likely put less effort into attacking it. Consistently, we've seen the most popular platforms and applications (e.g., Windows, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Java) get targeted most heavily by malware and exploit kit authors.

Of course, let's give credit where credit is due. Chrome does have some solid security engineering and features that effectively protect users from Web threats. In-browser warnings leverage Google's Safe Browsing API to warn users of known exploit and phishing sites. (Firefox and Safari also use the Safe Browsing API.) Each tab in Chrome runs in a separate process that is sandboxed to reduce the risk that an exploit from one site will affect other sites or the host operating system. And, like recent versions of Firefox, Chrome prompts users before running known high-risk plug-ins.

Together, these factors make a compelling case for Chrome as a browser of choice for security-conscious users and organizations, with Firefox not far behind. Of course, the threat landscape naturally shifts over time. There is no guarantee that Chrome and Firefox will lead the pack a year or two from now. And with real-time search integrated into the address bar and a liberal policy toward third party cookies, Chrome's level of privacy protection has come under fire.

Still, the conditions are aligned for the browser from Mountain View to gain extra attention from security practitioners in the coming months.

Maxim Weinstein, CISSP, is a technologist and educator with a passion for information security. He works in product marketing at Sophos, where he specializes in server protection solutions. He is also a board member and former executive director of StopBadware. Maxim lives ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
PaulM
50%
50%
PaulM,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/28/2013 | 1:20:56 PM
re: Has Chrome Struck Security Gold?
I don't believe that any traditional browser, as they are constructed now, will be secure. Traditional browsers are essentially windows to all the bad stuff on the Internet, opened and closed by people who are not security experts, while the bad guys focus on this day after day. I'm glad to see that Chrome is moving in the right direction, but look at this approach as being futile.
Ashu001
50%
50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2013 | 8:33:06 PM
re: Has Chrome Struck Security Gold?
Yeah sure!

Google ensures that the data inside can be collected and stored only for their Own Business needs-It hardly matters who really owns the data in the first place.

LOL!
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2013 | 6:46:32 PM
re: Has Chrome Struck Security Gold?
Just one more reason to love my Chromebook.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-1421
Published: 2014-04-22
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Craig Knudsen WebCalendar before 1.2.5, 1.2.6, and other versions before 1.2.7 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the Category Name field to category.php.

CVE-2013-2105
Published: 2014-04-22
The Show In Browser (show_in_browser) gem 0.0.3 for Ruby allows local users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a symlink attack on /tmp/browser.html.

CVE-2013-2187
Published: 2014-04-22
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Apache Archiva 1.2 through 1.2.2 and 1.3 before 1.3.8 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified parameters, related to the home page.

CVE-2013-4116
Published: 2014-04-22
lib/npm.js in Node Packaged Modules (npm) before 1.3.3 allows local users to overwrite arbitrary files via a symlink attack on temporary files with predictable names that are created when unpacking archives.

CVE-2013-4472
Published: 2014-04-22
The openTempFile function in goo/gfile.cc in Xpdf and Poppler 0.24.3 and earlier, when running on a system other than Unix, allows local users to overwrite arbitrary files via a symlink attack on temporary files with predictable names.

Best of the Web