Researcher: IE8 clickjacking protection will have no impact

More info from Microsoft doesn't change opinion of researcher who reported problem.

Microsoft provided more information Wednesday about how Internet Explorer's new anti-clickjacking feature works, but one of the researchers who first reported the problem last year said it will have "zero impact" on protecting users.

Clickjacking is the term given last September to a new class of browser-based attacks that trick users into clicking on site buttons or Web forms. Such attacks essentially hide malicious actions under the cover of a legitimate site, and theoretically can be used to empty online bank accounts, secretly turn on Web cameras or even change a computer's security settings to make it vulnerable to additional attack.

In a post to the IE blog late yesterday, Microsoft program manager Eric Lawrence provided the first technical details of the new feature, which debuted in Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1 (IE8 RC1), the preview launched Monday. According to Lawrence, the defense relies on Web application and site developers sending the browser an HTTP response header, dubbed "X-Frame-Options" to restrict how the page may be framed.

That's all well and good, said Robert Hansen, CEO of SecTheory LLC, and one of the two researchers who first warned of clickjacking, but it's not going to do much, if any, good in even the long run.

"It has to be done by the Web sites themselves," he said. "That's not exactly the greatest way to protect users."

As an illustration, he brought up "HTTPOnly," a flag that's been available to site and application developers for years. Designed and promoted by Microsoft, HTTPOnly protects Web "cookies" from malicious scripts.

"A great security feature, but it took years and years to be deployed by even one other browser, Firefox," said Hansen. "And still we have maybe .001% deployment of HTTPOnly, and then only on the biggest sites."

He sees the same dismal uptake in the future for Microsoft's opt-in on clickjacking. "There's value in it, to be sure, and it definitely provides some protection. Eventually, the number of people protected with grow, and then it will have some amount of impact. But now? It will have zero impact."

Although he declined to say how much he knew of IE8 RC1's anti-clickjacking feature before this week, Hansen did acknowledge that the technique was one that came up in his first conversations with a Microsoft's security expert he rousted out of bed last year. "One of the things he mentioned was this idea," said Hansen. "But I told him there were lots of sites that can't have this in the header and still work, so I dismissed the idea immediately."

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 clickjackinginternet explorer 8

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?