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Opera repairs cross-platform security vulnerability in its browser

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January 29, 2011

Opera says it has repaired its browser to remove a cross-platform security vulnerability that created a potential mechanism for attackers and hackers to inject malicious code into vulnerable Windows systems.

The critical security flaw stemmed from bugs in handling large form inputs, as explained in an advisory by a Norwegian software developer. Version 11.01 of the browser also addresses two less serious security holes.

The first involves a click-jacking vulnerability and the second involves a privacy flaw that creates a way for webmasters of malicious sites to spy on a surfer's private files. More discussion on the flaws can be found in a security bulletin published by Secunia.

The Opera update for Windows, Unix as well as Mac computers was released on Wednesday and it also includes a number of lesser performance tweaks as well.

In other security patching news this week, Video LAN project developers have released a new version of VLC Media Player that fixes security holes involving the handling of Real Media and CDG media files.

Specific exploitation methods would involve tricking a user into opening a maliciously constructed file. More details on the update to the popular open source media player application can be found in another advisory publiched by Secunia.

In other news, it is reported that servers belonging to the Fedora Project were attacked recently by an unknown group of hackers who successfully gained access apparently through a team member's account with weak password security.

After the attack, the compromise of the site fedorapeople.org meant that the attacker had the ability, however briefly, to push some changes to Fedora's SCM system. However, there's still no evidence that any such updates were made or that Fedora's systems were subject to any vulnerabilities or exploits.

Nevertheless, the fact that Fedora servers were breached means that the people behind the Fedora Project need to beef up the security around their servers to prevent such attacks from occurring again in the immediate future.

“While the user in question had the ability to commit to Fedora SCM, the Infrastructure Team does not believe that the compromised account was used to do this, or cause any builds or updates in the Fedora build system,” Fedora Project Leader Jared Smith wrote. But some in the Linux community disagree on that.

“The Infrastructure Team believes that Fedora users are in no way threatened by this security breach and we have found no evidence that the compromise extended beyond this single account,” added Smith.

The security breach was discovered on Saturday when an unnamed Fedora contributor received an email informing him that details for his Fedora account had been changed. Investigators quickly determined the account credentials were compromised externally and restricted access to the account.

They also took filesystem snapshots of all systems the account had access to and audited logs immediately following the security breach.

It isn't the first time an open-source project has been attacked. In December, hackers breached the main server hosting ProFTPD and remained undetected for three days, causing anyone who downloaded the popular open-source file transfer application during that time to be infected with a backdoor that granted unauthorized access to their systems.

Also in December, the main source-code repository for the Free Software Foundation was shut down following an attack that compromised some of the website's account passwords. And in April 2010, hackers penetrated the heavily fortified servers for Apache.org, the second attack against the open-source project in 8 months.

Fedora's Smith said investigators planned to delve deeper into the security breach and would report any new findings.

Last week, according to a new Symantec study, on average, more than 66 percent of large North American organizations still have not implemented two-factor password authentication policies for the partners and contractors that access their corporate networks.

The report, which polled 306 large enterprises was conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of Symantec. The respondents included companies from both Canada and the United States, with all of the companies employing at least a thousand people or more, and 30 percent of the organizations comprising more than 5,000 people.

In addition to the lack of strong password authentication for business partners, distributors and contract workers, Symantec found that about 87.2 per cent of companies expected their users to remember two or more passwords to access corporate resources.

"More than 64.7 percent of companies had at least six different password policies in place," said Atri Chatterjee, vice-president of user authentication at Symantec. He added that up to half of all IT help desk calls deal with password reset issues.

With more enterprise employees using their own devices to log into the corporate network, Symantec said the importance of access security has reached par with other areas such as firewall and network security. Most companies are dealing with this critical issue, Chatterjee said, by creating large and cumbersome password policies, which isn't always the best solution, he added.

Symantec said the move to two-factor authentication technologies, which forces employees to use a password in conjunction with a software or hardware token, is the most effective way to provide strong access control.

But while two-factor authentication is being used at the majority of large enterprises throughout North America, Chatterjee added that the technology is only used on a very limited basis.

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Source: Opera.

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