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It’s Time for Enterprises to Support a “Backup” Browser

By Rich

In today’s news we see yet another zero-day Internet Explorer exploit being used in the wild.

And once again, soon after becoming public, an exploit was added to Metasploit. Well, sort of. While the in-the-wild attack only works against Windows XP, the Metasploit version works against Windows 7 and Vista. (Note that IE 10 isn’t affected).

You can read the article linked above for the details, but this gets to something I have been recommending privately for a while: support 2 browsers, even if one is only for emergencies.

First of all, ideally you’ll be on a modern operating system. I’m not one to blame the victim, but allowing XP is a real problem – which I know many of you fight every day. Second, this advice doesn’t help with all browser-based attacks, especially Java. But you can configure it in a way that helps.

  • Choose a secondary browser that is allowed for web browsing. Chrome is most secure right now, but make sure you set its privacy defaults to not bleed info out to Google.
  • Ideally block Java in the browser. Maybe even Flash, depending on how you feel about the Chrome sandbox.
  • If something like this IE flaw hits, notify users to use the secondary browser for outside websites (odds are you need IE for internal web apps programmed by idiots or 19th-century transplants, and so cannot ban it completely).
  • If you can, set a network policy that (temporarily) blocks IE from accessing external sites (again, you can make exemptions for partners). Unfortunately I don’t believe many tools support this.

I know this advice isn’t perfect. And there are tools like Invincea and (soon) Bromium that can likely stop this stuff cold in the browser – as well as a few network tools, although history shows signature-based defenses aren’t all that effective here. But if you can pull it off you aren’t stuck waiting for a patch or another workaround. Especially if you go with the “block Java / isolate or block Flash” option. This approach allows you to still only support one browser for your applications, and use a secondary one when needed without users having to violate policy to install it themselves.

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Comments

Nice one, I wonder if blocking a browser will successfully stop an attack that is targeting a particular browser. Is there any of IE components used by other application?

By Muhanad Shahat


I know it’s likely to be hard to enforce - and they’re a pain to use - but anyone using Firefox needs to have AdBlock and NoScript installed by default.

By Richard Steven Hack


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