Firefox 10: Security Professionals Will Raise The Alarm

Firefox 10

Reports claim that Mozilla is planning to implement silent background updates in the upcoming version of Firefox 10. The feature could be very bad news on the security front.

While many IT security systems will have to be reconfigured to allow background updates to Firefox – which is not a good thing in the first place – there is danger that hackers could subvert the update system to allow them backdoor access to the users’ computer.

Auto-updating can be a welcome feature for many computer users, but the feature does need to let the user know what is happening. Having your software quietly update in the background – presumably on a modular code basis – is not something that all IT security professionals will welcome.

If, as I think appears quite likely, hackers start reverse engineering the Firefox background updating system – and remember we are talking about open source software here – then it is only a matter of time before they subvert this auto-updating mechanism to inject malware.

At the MalCon security conference taking place in Mumbai later this week, well-known code cracker Peter Kleissner – who developed the Stoned bootkit back in 2008 – is scheduled to reveal the first Windows 8 bootkit.

This Stoned Lite bootkit will reportedly allow code loaded from the Master Boot Record on the PC’s hard disk to remain in place all the way through the Windows 8 boot-up and loading purpose.

It is coding technology like this which could allow the Firefox background updating system to be subverted, as we are talking about ultra low-level code that actually sits under the Windows 8 operating system itself.

It doesn’t take a programming genius to figure out that – against the backdrop of a Windows 8 bootkit – it shouldn’t be difficult to subvert a background updater for a piece of open source software like Firefox 10.

Having a Windows 8 bootkit that exists is bad enough, but at least IT security professionals can set up their system controls to only allow access to the update processes when a suitable admin account logs in. This is the principle of admin accounts – which need to be protected using privileged account management technology – that ensures an extra layer of security on corporate systems.

But with the prospect of having to allow for Firefox 10 updating itself silently and in the background, I suspect that many IT security professionals will raise the alarm. And for the very good reason that this is a recipe for a hacker security incursion in the background.

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Philip Lieberman, the founder and president of Lieberman Software, has more than 30 years of experience in the software industry. In addition to his proficiency as a software engineer, Philip is an astute entrepreneur able to perceive shortcomings in existing products on the market, and fill those gaps with innovative solutions. He developed the first products for the privileged identity management space, and continues to introduce new solutions to resolve the security threat of privileged account credentials. Philip has published numerous books and articles on computer science, has taught at UCLA, and has authored many computer science courses for Learning Tree International. Philip has a B.A. from San Francisco State University.