Mozilla wants US to disclose to it first any vulnerability found in Tor by government hackers

Mozilla says it wants to check if the vulnerable code is found in Firefox code

Mozilla has asked a court that it should be provided information on a vulnerability in the Tor browser ahead of it being provided to a defendant in a lawsuit, as the browser is based in part on Firefox browser code.

“At this point, no one (including us) outside the government knows what vulnerability was exploited and whether it resides in any of our code base,” wrote Denelle Dixon-Thayer, chief legal and business officer at Mozilla, in a blog post Wednesday.

Mozilla is asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in the interest of Firefox users to ensure that the government must disclose the vulnerability to it before it is revealed to any other party, as any disclosure without advance notice to Mozilla will increase the likelihood that the exploit will become public before Mozilla can fix any associated vulnerability in Firefox.

The Tor browser comprises a version of Firefox with some minor modifications that add privacy features, and the Tor proxy software that makes the browser's Internet connections more anonymous, according to the filing.

The FBI had in 2015 used what it described as a “network investigative technique” to monitor users visiting a child pornography site, hidden on the so-called Tor anonymity network, which it had seized but kept live to identify its visitors.

The court has asked the government to produce information related to a security vulnerability that it exploited in the Tor browser. The defense wants information on the exploit to find out if the government exceeded its warrant conditions.

In its filing on Wednesday, Mozilla warned that “absent great care, the security of millions of individuals using Mozilla’s Firefox Internet browser could be put at risk by a premature disclosure of this vulnerability,” according to the filing.

The government has so far refused to tell Mozilla whether the vulnerability at issue in the case involves a Mozilla product. But Mozilla said in the filing that it has reason to believe that the exploit used by the government “is an active vulnerability in its Firefox code base that could be used to compromise users and systems running the browser.”

The government has also refused to tell Mozilla if the exploit went through the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (“VEP”), which is a government process for deciding whether to share or not information on security vulnerabilities, according to Mozilla.

If Mozilla is not allowed to intervene in the case to protect its interests, the court should certainly allow Mozilla to appear as a friend of the court or amicus curiae, according to the filing.

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

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Shining a light on creativity

MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.

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?