Any opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of my employer (I'm self-employed).

Oct 22, 2011

Update Java — or just remove it

Oracle recently released an update to its Java software, fixing more than 20 critical security issues in the software. Krebs has a good post on the update, briefly discussing the vulnerabilities and the fact that Java vulnerabilities are exploited for real.

I have to say that in recent years I've installed Java more due to habit than because of an actual need for the software. So when I got the update bubble in the corner of my screen, I figured "of course". I knew they, among other things,  fixed the same-origin-policy bypass used in the BEAST attack (You'll find a straight forward explanation of the Java vulnerability here, and links to resources on BEAST here). So I started the update process, and this was one of the first screens I was presented.

Oct 9, 2011

A Google 2-step verification vulnerability

Early this year Google started rolling out their new two-factor authentication procedure, which they refer to as 2-step verification. On their corporate blog they provided a few hints on why they were rolling out a new authentication procedure — mentioning risks associated with password reuse and phishing attacks. 2-step verification is now widely deployed, by June it was available in 150 countries, and in 40 different languages.

Of course, I took interest in how the two-step verification was designed and I discovered a couple of design issues. In addition I discovered a security flaw that qualified for Google's vulnerability reward program, so I engaged in a responsible disclosure process with Google. Now they've fixed the bug, my reward has been donated to charity, and I've received my 19 bytes of fame, so I guess it's time to blog about this. I'll focus on the security bug here, and blog about the design issues later. I need to do some investigation to see whether Google fixed any of them or not, as they reported that they were re-evaluating some of their design decisions.

If you're unfamiliar with how the two-step verification works, see Google's video below (borrowed from Getting started with 2-step verification).

Now, straight to the point.

Oct 8, 2011

Making the web even safer: From auto-upgrade to silent updates

Mozilla now aims to add silent updates to Firefox — much like Chrome and Opera already does — as summarized in this Computerworld article. This marks an important milestone, and is an important follow up to Mozilla's decision back in June to auto-upgrade the then soon-to-be unsupported Firefox 3.5. Back then, I blogged about the importance of the bold decision to NOT leave users behind on an unsupported version.

Later in June when Firefox 5 was released, Firefox 4 users where prompted to update to the new version. I was so excited, I had to blog about that too.

Now Mozilla has decided to introduce silent updates to Firefox. From Mitchell Baker's blog we can learn that:
Before Mozilla instituted the rapid release process, we would sometimes have new capabilities ready for nearly a year before we could deliver them to people.  Web developers would have to wait that year to be able to make their applications better.
And why is that a problem?
A browser is the delivery vehicle for the Internet. And the Internet moves very, very quickly.

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