Monthly Archives: December 2009

As found on the web (December 14th)

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youtube (feed #48)
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youtube (feed #48)
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blog (feed #46)
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Frank bedankt iedereen voor de verjaardagswensen, ik kan er weer een jaartje tegen :).
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Google Webmaster Tools Irony

A couple of days ago Google launched Site Performance as a labs project in Google Webmaster Tools. Being obsessed with speed is great and there indeed are valid remarks for this blog, but what to think of the advice below:

google site performance ironyThat’s right, I really should gzip-compress those javascript-resources! Google, please give me access to your servers so I can fix this immediately!

Muziek om bij te verjaren: Eska

eskaEska! Eska Mtungwazi!!

Zo heet de Engels-Zimbabwaanse die me afgelopen zondagnacht (het was al maandag, eigenlijk) in Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide om 01h28 uit bed blies. Het nummer kende ik vaagweg, een betrekkelijk klef midtempo disco-hitje uit ’82 van een groep die iedereen al lang vergeten is (en geschreven door Jesse Rae, een rare Schot).

Maar deze versie van “Inside Out”, live …

Eska Inside Out Live
Watch this video on YouTube.

Een paar nummers later kondigde Gilles nogal onduidelijk af, Googlen was dus niet echt eenvoudig. Maar nu kan ik U dus vertellen dat Eska Mtungwazi in Zimbabwe werd geboren en in Londen opgroeide, dat ze met onder andere Zero7, Matthew Herbert en The Cinematic Orchestra samenwerkte en dat ze nu ook een eigen album aan het opnemen/ afmixen is.

“Daar gaan we nog van horen, van die Eska” denkt ge nu en ik hoop verdomme dat ge gelijk hebt!

Browser enforced web application security; IE8 safest?

microsoft internet explorer 8 logoWith a notoriously bad reputation for security (or the lack thereof) in Internet Explorer, Microsoft claims to have invested a lot in IE8 security in general and specifically in browser enforced website security. Indeed, according to the product site, IE8:

[…] helps protect you from today’s threats, including malware and phishing, as well as emerging threats that can compromise your computer without your knowledge. Other browsers either don’t offer you this level of protection or require you to download and configure third-party add-ons to get it, but with Internet Explorer 8 you get it right out of the box, and turned on by default.

And in August Microsoft proudly pointed to results of a (MS commissioned) study by NSSLabs, which stated that IE8 blocked 81% of malware download attempts vs. 27% for FF3 (and even less for other browsers) and 83% of phishing attacks vs. 80% for FF3 (and 54% for Opera 10 and less for Chrome and Safari).

So there you have it, IE8 is the safest browser around, no? Well, that would be jumping to conclusions; IE8 still has it’s fair share of browser security issues (but don’t they all) and the dreaded security-hole called ActiveX is still supported as well. Let’s just focus at how IE8 tries to protect you from malicious websites and compare that functionality with what the competition has to offer.

Smartscreen Filter

Smartscreen filter is the name for the Microsoft technology that uses an “in-the-cloud reputation database” which is contacted by the browser to assess the trustworthiness of a URL. Using that information, access to dangerous sites and downloads of malware can be blocked. The system is very similar to Google Safe Browsing that is implemented in Firefox, Chrome and Safari, but Smartscreen seems to be better in stopping malware from being downloaded. On the other hand the 2nd NSSlabs-study deemed both as effective when it comes to blocking access to phishing sites. Based on these (MS sponsored) results one could conclude that IE8 might have an advantage over the competition, but I for one would be very interested in an updated version of these tests with cooperation from the other browser-makers.

XSS-filter

IE8’s XSS-filter offers protection against type1 cross-site scripting attacks. Although it offers no protection against (less common) type0 and type2 xss-attacks, the mere fact that IE8 does offer out of the box XSS-protection is a big thing. Except … except apperantly there’s a serious bug in IE8’s XSS-filter, that can be abused to do cross-site scripting. Microsoft has not yet confirmed or fixed the bug,  leading some sites (e.g. Google) to disable the XSS-filter by adding “X-XSS-Protection: 0” to the http response header. Now isn’t that ironic?

Clickjacking defense

Microsoft also included clickjacking defense in IE8, by letting website owners define whether or not their pages are allowed to be included in (i)frames. This can be done by simply adding “x-frame-options” to the http response header with values “deny” to deny a page from being shown in any frame and “sameorigin” to limit framing to pages from the same domain. x-frame-options however does not protect against clickjacking with flash or other embeds.

But where’s the competition?

So what’s available in Firefox, Chrome and Safari apart from the Google Safe Browsing implementation? Nothing much up until now, I’m afraid …

At Mozilla smart guys are working on “Content security policy“. CSP is a declarative server-driven anti-XSS framework, with policies being pushed through HTTP headers. Although the policy may require non-trivial website changes because inline scripts will be disallowed by default, it certainly has potential (to the extend Microsoft is said to be interested). But CSP is not there yet, now is it?

Over at Google, engineers are including (type1) XSS-protection and support for the Strict Transport Security spec (forcing a browser to load a site only over HTTPS by issuing an http response header) in the dev-channel builds of Chrome 4. As some may have noticed while looking for Google Talk’s chatback badge last week, x-frame-options (as anti-clickjacking measure) has already been implemented in Safari4 and Chrome3 as well. So especially Google is trying to make some serious progress, but Chrome 4 can hardly be considered granny-ready, can it?

That leaves us Firefox with the NoScript extension, but I’ll come back to that combination in a minute.

IE8 the safest browser?

OK, this might hurt, but let’s give credit where credit is due; IE8 indeed seems to offer the best out of the box protection against malicious websites. It is the only browser to come with good phishing- and malware-blocking (Smartscreen) combined with (limited and currently broken) protection against some types of XSS and clickjacking-attacks. So thank you Redmond for setting the example!

The only alternative: Firefox + NoScript

Firefox does not offer the out of the box protection IE8 does, but when combined with the NoScript extension, it really is the only readily available alternative (Lynx not withstanding). NoScript offers superior protection against XSS, clickjacking and a host of other threats.

Even if you’re only vaguely security-conscious, installing Firefox and NoScript should really be your first choice. Depending on the level of protection you want, you can use the default but disruptive whitelist configuration (which blocks all javascript and flash) or switch to the less secure “Allow scripts globally” mode. But whatever configuration you choose, anti-XSS and clickjacking protection are always enabled.

It really is beyond me why NoScript’s Clearclick and anti-xss aren’t in Firefox by default, especially since they seem complementary to CSP, as they’re barely disruptive for a novice user and (last but not least) as Mozilla could easily one-up Microsoft this way? Anyone?

As found on the web (December 7th)

googlereader (feed #38)
blog (feed #46)
youtube (feed #48)
googlereader (feed #38)
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blog (feed #46)
googlereader (feed #38)
googlereader (feed #38)
googlereader (feed #38)
youtube (feed #48)
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Frank ziet dat prikblokangst niet erfelijk is; dochterken is vrolijk geconcentreerd aan het prikken :-).

Google inadvertently kills Talk badges with x-frame-options

Disaster has struck e-civilization; Google Talk chatback badges (as seen in the right column on this very blog) are broken! The small iframe remains grey in Firefox, but with some scrolling the following message can be seen:

This content cannot be displayed in a frame

To protect your security, the publisher of this content does
not allow it to be displayed in a frame.

Click here to open this content in a new window

Googling that error-message brings up a blogpost that explains what is going on: the http response-header of the page in the iframe includes “x-frame-options: sameorigin“. And that directive tells most modern browsers not to display the page in the iframe (because it is not embedded in a page of the same origin), to protecting you from possible clickjacking.

x-frame-options was introduced by Microsoft in IE8’s and seems to be implemented in Safari 4 and Chrome 3 as well. Firefox on the other hand hasn’t included this feature (yet?), but I got the error message thanks to the great Firefox NoScript security-extension which -somewhat reluctantly- provides “bullet parity” with IE8’s security features this way (you can stop NoScript from doing this by setting “noscript.frameOptions.enabled” to “false” in about:config).

But back to the root of this problem: Google is breaking their own Talk chatback badge by adding “x-frame-options: sameorigin” to the response headers. Weird huh?