Skip to comments.Firefox plans fix for decade-old browsing history leak
Posted on 04/06/2010 1:25:41 PM PDT by ShadowAce
Firefox developers say they're close to plugging an information leakage hole that has plagued every major browser for more than a decade.
The cascading style sheets history attack makes it easy for web masters to compile vast lists of links visitors have previously viewed. It exploits technology in virtually every browser that causes visited links to be displayed in purple rather than blue. Mozilla has classified the weakness as a bug since at least 2002.
But fixing it has proved to be a vexing problem, largely because programmers didn't know how to close the hole without breaking key web functionality. Many proposed fixes threatened to bring browsers to a crawl or prevent users from knowing whether they had previously visited a website, trade-offs Mozilla, Microsoft and other browser makers have largely considered unacceptable.
Now, Mozilla security team member Sid Stamm says the hole will soon be closed in the open-source browser in a way that won't sacrifice usability. It incorporates technical changes designed to prevent the three most common attacks based on layout, timing and computed style of links.
"A few websites may look a little different, but visited links will still show up differently colored," he wrote here. "A few sites that use more than color to differentiate visited links may look slightly broken at first while they adjust to these changes, but we think it's the right trade-off to be sure we protect our users' privacy." (Additional technical details are here.)
Web application security expert Robert "RSnake" Hansen wasn't nearly as optimistic. In a blog post he said Mozilla's approach only makes it harder to exploit the weakness, rather than eliminating it.
"So let's not pat ourselves on the back too much here - it seems with every hole fixed there's two more that pop up and even when identified they take way too long to fix," he wrote. "I don't mean to harp on the Mozilla guys too much - at least they have a fix in the works. But that doesn't change the fact that we appear to be playing a very losing game of whack a mole."
And that means the changes by Mozilla are a step in the right direction, even if they don't completely eliminate the problem. Stamm has called on other browser makes to follow suit, which would also be a step in the right direction. The Register has placed queries with Google, Microsoft and Opera Software about their plans and will update this article with any responses. ®
I used to use noscript but I had to shut it for most sites just to view any content so what's the point?
firefox does not work on my 2 win 7 pcs.
it crashes often.
I was having the same problem on Vista. FF is now up to FF 3.6.3. Some of the problems went away. Realplayer had to upgrade, too.
parsy, who just installed the no script thing but has no idea what google gears is, or silverlight, in spite of reading about them.
I’m less concerned about a history leak than the damn memory leak that has been persistent from version 0.7 to the current 3.5-3.6 versions.
I have tried a few of the memory clearing add-ons, but none of them actually work. The only method to clear the large wad of memory Firefox consumes and refuses to release is to shut Firefox down and restart it.
Some early versions of MS Word exhibited similar memory consumption, which it would not release until Word was closed. Microsoft eventually found a solution and plugged the leak. Too bad Firefox can’t seem to find a solution.
I have two laptops with 7 and run strictly FF. Never crashes.
i had firefox on vista and xp with no problems.
when i purchased and installed firefox,
I am assuming you meant when you installed 7?
Did you install 7 as an upgrade to XP or was it a clean install?
The problem is almost certainly not FF.
Try Chrome instead.
Speed Dial is very cool.
I’ve pretty much given up on FireFox.
Sites that don’t render well in Opera are few and far between. On the rare occasion that issue shows up, I use IE.
The best thing about Chrome is that it now has Extensions, or applets that work with it, as Firefox does.
I am not sure about Opera, but I do use miniOpera on my cell phone for internet browsing.
If you get a chance, check out Opera and its “widgets.” Lots of fun add-ons.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Chrome. Its that whole “Google” thing that bothers me.
Why am I not surprised that you would suggest Chrome. Google=obongo butt buddies.