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Re: Two MSIE 6.0/7.0 NULL pointer crashes
From: Pavel Kankovsky <peak () argo troja mff cuni cz>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2010 21:22:44 +0100 (CET)
On Sun, 24 Jan 2010, Dan Kaminsky wrote:
It took me more than one month to write this response? Ouch!
When you discover the program is designed too badly to be
maintained, the best strategy is to rewrite it.
No question. And how long do you think that takes?
It depends. Probably in the order of several years for a big application.
On the other hand, existing code is not always so bad one has to throw it
out all and rewrite everything from the scratch in one giant step.
Remember when Netscape decided to throw away the Navigator 4.5
codebase, in favor of Mozilla/Seamonkey? Remember how they had to do
that *again* with Mozilla/Gecko?
Mozilla (even the old Mozilla Application Suite known as Seamonkey today)
has always been based on Gecko (aka "new layout", "NGLayout").
The development of Gecko started in 1997 as an internal Netscape project.
Old Netscape Communicator source (most of it) was released in March 1998.
The decision not to use it was made in October 1998. Gecko source was
released in December 1998. Mozilla 0.6 was released in December 2000,
0.9 in May 2001 and 1.0 in June 2002. This makes approximately 5 years.
Firefox started as a "mozilla/browser" branch approximately in April 2002
(the idea is probably dating back to mid 2001). The first public version
known as Phoenix 0.1 was released in September 2002, 0.9 was released in
June 2004, 1.0 in November 2004. 2.5 years.
To put thing into a broader perspective: MSIE 5.0 was released in March
1999, 6.0 in August 2001, 7.0 in October 2006, and 8.0 in March 2009.
This makes 2.5 years from 5.0 to 6.0, 5 years to 7.0 and 2.5 years to 8.0.
The development of Google Chrome is reported to have started in spring
2006 and 1.0 was released in December 2008. 2.5 years again (but they
reused WebKit and other 3rd party components).
"Hyperturing computing power" Not really sure what that means,
The ability to solve problems of Turing degree  greater than zero.
"Superturing" is probably a more common term although various terms
starting with "hyper-" are used as well .
(Alternatively, it can relate to a certain kind of AIs in Orion's Arm
universe  but that meaning is not relevant here. <g>)
For the most part it is a purely theoretical notion but there is at least
one kind of oracle that is more or less physically feasible: a hardware
random number generator--such an oracle might look pointless but quite a
lot of cryptography relies on the ability to generate numbers that
cannot be guessed by an adversary.
Anyway, real computer are not true Turing machines and they are not turing
complete. The point of my comment, translated into a more realistic
setting, is as follows: one must assume the attacker can wield much more
computing power than the defender.
But I do not think this case is much different from the previous one:
most, if not all, of those bugs are elementary integrity violations
(not prevented because the boundary between trusted and untrusted data
is not clear enough) and race conditions (multithreading with locks is
an idea on the same level as strcpy).
Nah, it's actually a lot worse. You have to start thinking in terms of
state explosion -- having turing complete access to even some of the
state of a remote system creates all sorts of new states that, even if
*reachable* otherwise, would never be *predictably reachable*.
I dare to say it can make the analysis more complicated if the
ill-defined difficulty of exploitation is taken into consideration.
In many cases the ability to execute a predefined sequence of operations
is everything you need to reach an arbitrary state of the system (from a
known initial state). You do not need anything as strong as a Turing
machine, even a finite state machine is too powerful, a single finite
sequence of operations (or perhaps a finite set of them) is sufficient.
I mean, use-after-free becomes ludicrously easier when you can grab a
handle and cause a free.
I admit use-after-free does not fit well into the two categories I
mentioned. But it is still a straightforward violation of a simple
property (do not deallocate memory as long as any references to it exist)
and it is quite easy to avoid it (e.g. use a garbage collector).
Sure. But we're not talking about what should be done before you
write. We're talking about what happens when you screw up.
I do not think it is reasonable to separate these two questions.
After all people are supposed to learn from their mistakes and avoid them
in the future.
(An interesting finding regarding the renegotiation issue: [...]
Eh. This was a subtle one, [...]
I do not want to downplay the ingenuity of Marsh Ray and Steve Dispensa
(and Martin Rex) but...
Any attempt to formalize integrity properties SSL/TLS is supposed to
guarantee would inevitably lead to something along the lines of "all data
sent/received by a server within the context of a certain session must
have been received/sent by the same client". And I find it rather
unplausible the problem with renegotiations would avoid detection if
those properties were checked thoroughly.
c) The system needs to work entirely the same after.
Not entirely. You want to get rid of the vulnerability.
I wouldn't consider being vulnerable "working" :) But point taken.
The system needs to meet its functional requirements entirely the same
Sometimes the vulnerability itself is a functional requirement (or
considered to be one of them). Has anyone mentioned ActiveX?
Pavel Kankovsky aka Peak / Jeremiah 9:21 \
"For death is come up into our MS Windows(tm)..." \ 21st century edition /
Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
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- Re: Two MSIE 6.0/7.0 NULL pointer crashes Pavel Kankovsky (Feb 28)