Breaking the browser

April 2013 Cyber Security

Critical vulnerabilities in Google Chrome that could leave millions of Web users exposed to risk were demonstrated on March 6th by the winners of this year’s Pwn2Own competition, global IT security firm MWR InfoSecurity. The contest was held at the CanSecWest Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Researchers from MWR Labs, the company’s research arm, joined IT security consultants from all over the world in the annual Pwn2Own competition, which focuses on Web browser vulnerabilities.

MWR InfoSecurity focused on Google Chrome, and won the category by fully compromising the browser. MWR’s researchers exploited two undisclosed vulnerabilities that were combined to break through the browser’s protection mechanisms, resulting in a full compromise that required no user interaction and allowed complete access to the operating system.

The vulnerabilities MWR identified in Chrome are the type that could be used by sophisticated and advanced attackers as a first step to compromise large corporate networks.

“Browser security standards have improved over the last few years, however it is still possible to find and exploit a number of vulnerabilities that could compromise some of the most popular Web browsers. MWR’s researchers have been preparing for this demonstration for the last four months,” said Ian Shaw, MD of MWR InfoSecurity.

He added: “Google Chrome is one of the most widely used Web browsers and was perceived to be the hardest target in the competition. The reason Chrome was chosen as the target for the demonstration is to encourage understanding as a security breach of this nature could expose millions of users to serious risk.”

The exploited version of Chrome was running on the latest, fully patched version of Windows 7 and was installed in its default configuration, as this is how a majority of users have configured it.

Shaw said: “Similar vulnerabilities are used in APT attacks to compromise companies’ networks for economic espionage or to simply disrupt their businesses. Attacks of this class are happening more frequently and need to be better understood.”

The details of the vulnerabilities remain undisclosed and are being shared with the vendors to allow them to work on a patch for these specific issues.

MWR Labs is the research arm of MWR InfoSecurity, which has offices in the UK and South Africa. MWR continually investigate security weaknesses in technologies and systems to allow its clients to understand and react to the latest threats. The firm has previously won the Mobile Pwn2Own competition held at the EuSecWest Conference in Amsterdam in September 2012 by finding critical vulnerabilities in a popular Android device.

For more information contact MWR South Africa, +27 (0)10 100 3159, [email protected],

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