Mozilla, Netscape hole allows remote text viewing

A security hole in the Netscape Navigator and Mozilla Web browsers could allow an attacker to view documents on a user's PC, according to a security advisory released Tuesday by Israeli security group GreyMagic Software.

Netscape acknowledged the vulnerability Wednesday and said its engineers are working to fix the problem, according to Andrew Weinstein, spokesperson for AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW), the parent company of Netscape.

"We expect to have a resolution in the near future," he said.

The vulnerability affects the XMLHttpRequest component of both Navigator and Mozilla, which is used primarily to retrieve XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents from Web servers, GreyMagic said. An attacker could exploit the vulnerability by sending the Web browsers to a Web site that included hostile code, which would then allow the attacker to view documents on a user's hard drive, the group said.

Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser was also vulnerable to a less serious version of the same attack, which Microsoft patched in February.

The Navigator and Mozilla vulnerability affects versions 6.1 and higher of Navigator and version 0.9.7 to 0.9.9 of Mozilla.

The scope of the vulnerability will likely be limited by the number of users who run either Netscape or Mozilla. Netscape holds about 7 percent of the worldwide market for Web browsers, according to research firm WebSideStory Inc. Mozilla, an open-source Web browser whose first final version has yet to be released, commands a smaller market share.

Mozilla was created after Netscape made its source code available to developers in 1998. AOLTW uses much of the same code that powers Mozilla in Navigator.

GreyMagic's advisory also came peppered with harsh words for Netscape, which GreyMagic says reneged on a pledge to give US$1,000 per serious bug discovered by researchers. GreyMagic said that Netscape had ignored e-mail sent by the group detailing this vulnerability and that in the future, GreyMagic would release any bugs it finds in Netscape without contacting the company and would recommend against the use of its browser.

For its part, Weinstein said that Netscape did acknowledge GreyMagic's e-mail, but that the group submitted its report on last Wednesday and only waited until Monday to release the report publically.

"Our bug bounty program remains robust and we encourage anyone who discovers (a bug) to bring it to our attention," he said.

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Sam Costello

PC World
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