Recent phishing-related security problems for Internet Explorer have prompted more than a few Windows users to sample alternative browers, including Firefox, the new open source browser from the Mozilla Project, as well as Opera.
But it turns out Internet Explorer isn’t the only browser vulnerable to spoofing. On July 30 a published exploit demonstrated how to convincingly spoof a secure web site (in this case PayPal) in Firefox and Mozilla by using XML to alter the browser interface (Note: The spoof doesn’t work in IE).
"The problem is that Mozilla and Mozilla Firefox don't restrict websites from including arbitrary, remote XUL (XML User Interface Language) files," Secunia writes in its analysis. "This can be exploited to 'hijack' most of the user interface (including tool bars, SSL certificate dialogs, address bar and more), thereby controlling almost anything the user sees." Notes from the Bugzilla web site indicate that the Mozilla development team was aware of the XUL problem as early as Dec. 1999 but kept the security hole confidential, apparently until the exploit was published.
On July 26, a separate Firefox spoofing issue was found, which allows a malicious website to use another site's SSL certificate to present a secure spoofed page with a "locked" icon. The exploit manipulates the cache, a directory where the browser stores web pages it has viewed. Both spoofing issues are known to affect Firefox 0.9.2, but reportedly have been fixed in the latest version, 0.9.3 (although some users say the spoofing flaw persists). The brower's official 1.0 release is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 14.
Thus far, services tracking browser usage report only incremental gains for Firefox, Mozilla and Opera, with some suggesting IE has lost about 1 percent of its 90 percent-plus market share. But Firefox in particular seems to be catching on in some quarters, as was evidenced at the recent BlogOn2004 conference for weblog aficionados. During a Microsoft presentation about its Channel 9 blog outreach, a presenter asked "Show of hands...How many of you use Internet Explorer?" Not a single hand went up.