Google exposes security bugs in rival browsers

A Google security researcher has found a number of major exploits which affect most web browsers except its own.

The employee, Michal Zalewski, wrote about the new cross_fuzz tool which helps identify a string of bugs in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and all WebKit browsers. Missing from the list is Google’s own web browser, Chrome.

Technically WebKit applies to a number of browsers, including Safari and Chrome, but with Chrome being one of the main web browsers, backed by a major company, it looks suspicious that its name would be hidden under the WebKit title, something many Chrome users may not be aware of.

What makes this more interesting is the fact that Zalewski works as an Information Security Engineer for Google, regularly posting on the company’s security blog.

Google engineers have frequently found exploits in Microsoft products, usually posting about them very publicly much to the ire of Microsoft. One incident in June 2010 saw the two companies at loggerheads after a Google engineer revealed a serious bug in Windows XP, which led to attacks on thousands of computers.

While Zalewksi does not specifically mention any of the exploits, the cross_fuzz tool allows them to be reproduced. This acts as a good security test but it may also allow hackers to take advantage of the bugs. In fact, Zalewski said that it is his belief that at least one of the discovered vulnerabilities is “known to third parties.”

Microsoft was notified about the exploits, including a potential zero-day bug, in July 2010 but it only responded to a second contact in December 2010, when it asked Zalewski not to release the tool after it had identified a number of exploitable crashes.

Zalewski refused, since there was no reason supplied as to why Microsoft had ignored the problem for the past six months.

Far less major bugs were found in WebKit browsers, Firefox and Opera, all of whom were also notified in July 2010. Opera apparently fixed most of these in Opera 11, but memory-corruption problems and crashes still exist in the others.