IE8's clickjacking fix not much help, experts say

Security experts say that Microsoft's IE8 clickjacking protection will not do enough to fix the problem.

New Microsoft technology designed to protect Internet Explorer users from a powerful new Web-based attack will not fix the problem, security experts said Tuesday.

Microsoft released the technology as part of an early "release candidate" test version of its next-generation Internet Explorer 8 browser, saying that the company had developed "consumer-ready" protection for an attack known as clickjacking. In clickjacking, attackers use special Web programming to trick victims into clicking Web buttons without realizing it. The attack is hard to pull off, but at its worst, clickjacking can do some very nasty things, such as execute stock trades on financial Web sites, change router or firewall configurations, or even force someone to download unwanted software.

The problem is so vast that security experts worry that Microsoft's approach, which works only when Web site developers add special tags to their pages that prevent their own Web buttons from being misused, may end up giving IE users a false sense of security.

"It's not a solution to clickjacking by any stretch of the imagination. It's a vaguely mitigating factor for the very few people who use IE8," said Robert Hansen, CEO of the SecTheory consultancy, and one of the people who first reported the issue to Microsoft. "But it's interesting that they're taking it seriously."

While some Web sites will certainly use Microsoft's technology to prevent their IE visitors from being hit with clickjacking, there are simply too many other areas where HTML code is unlikely to be updated and hackers could launch attacks -- targeting router administrative interfaces or corporate applications, or going after Web sites that have not gotten around to implementing Microsoft's fix. "This is a solution which, even if everyone decides that this is the right way to do things, it still will take years and years of education," Hansen said.

Worse, some users might mistakenly think they are protected from the attack just because they are using IE, according to Giorgio Maone, the developer of the Firefox NoScript plugin, which is generally considered the best protection from many Web-based attacks, including clickjacking. "The bad news for IE enthusiasts is that they've got no magic 'out of the box' protection," he wrote on his blog Tuesday. "True, it doesn't require any 'browser add-on' ... but it comes with an even more strict requirement: all the sites to be protected must already have adopted a new proprietary hack, i.e. something no end-user can verify, let alone enforce."

NoScript lets users selectively block the use of scripting languages within the Firefox browser. Because clickjacking requires scripting, the attack doesn't work when NoScript is enabled.

For months, Maone's plug-in has been the best-known technology for thwarting clickjacking. With the IE 8 test code, however, Microsoft finally has its own alternative.

To help the situation, Maone is developing a compatibility feature so that NoScript users will be able to take advantage of the same Web code used by IE, and he is now lobbying to have this feature included in an upcoming version of Firefox.

Hansen and Maone also criticized Microsoft for holding off on technical details of the technology. "Even though they implemented that, they haven't given guidance on how to actually use it," Hansen said.

In an e-mailed statement, Microsoft said that it planned to put up a blog post on the anti-clickjacking feature sometime this week and that it had worked with all major browser vendors "to get feedback and input on our implementation of the clickjacking tag before shipping Internet Explorer 8 RC1."

That post might be helpful. As things stand now, it looks like "the feature doesn't allow the user to protect themselves," said Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer with White Hat Security.

Hansen said that Microsoft developers first proposed their IE8 clickjacking fix several months ago when he first described the problem to them. "I dismissed it as not a long-term, viable solution to clickjacking," he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet Explorerclickjackingweb browsers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Taking cybersecurity to the highest level and order now for a special discount on the world’s most awarded and trusted cybersecurity. Be aware without a care!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?