So I got a message asking me to expand on my previous post on browser exploitation. The user wanted to know about how security software such as NoScript and Sandboxie would deal with a browser exploit. I’m going to just go through each one on their own and explain what an attacker would be dealing with in each case.
The scenario is that you’re running Firefox with NoScript and Firefox with Sandboxie (separately, for simplicity) and you’ve visited a malicious website where the attacker controls the entire page of content. The attackers goal is to exploit the browser and monetize the system.
NoScript works in a few ways. For the purposes of this post I’ll be focusing on the scripting whitelist aspect of it, as things like HSTS/XSS won’t make a difference in our scenario.
This limitation is significant. I can’t even start my attack unless it’s a very specific (and less common) type. So NoScript is incredibly effective here.
On a whitelisted site the user is partially protected, specifically against XSS/CSRF attacks, but if I control the entire site and it is whitelisted I have enough power to exploit the browser as if it weren’t there.
Sandboxie is a program designed to create a copy-on-write sandbox for programs. It emulates system services and attempts to isolate the browser as best it can. As an attacker Sandboxie doesn’t come into play until I’ve actually taken over the browser.
So, I get you to click a website, I break into your browser (see other post on browser exploitation), and now I’m in a somewhat confined environment. Anything on the system is readable by default, giving me a massive amount of valuable information about the system, like what programs are installed, security policies, personal documents, passwords, databases, etc. Post exploitation becomes much easier when read access is granted so gratuitously, making later steps much easier.
Is an attacker I can probably already make serious money off of this user. I have their browser info, potentially passwords or hashes, I can get personal documents, I can keylog, I can read work documents, etc. But what if I want to get persistence? What if I want this to be part of my new botnet? I have to get out of the sandbox.
Now I have to get out of the sandbox if I want enough rights to hook this machine up to my botnet. How do I go about doing this? Well, thanks to the read access I’ve been given I have a ton of info on the system. This makes local exploitation much easier. I can exploit the kernel in the sandbox (reducing kernel attack surface on Windows is ridiculously difficult read: not a logical approach) and break right out, once I’m kernel level I simply unhook Sandboxie and I own the computer, I can do whatever I want.
Depending on the sandbox configuration things can be much much easier or potentially more difficult (I see more weak policies than strong policies in my experience).
And there you have it. Two security programs that a few people have been asking me to discuss for some time. I’m avoiding talking about the programs themselves and their own attack surface, but if you read my posts you’ll be able to extrapolate.
I would say that NoScript adds a very significant layer of security, and should be on every Firefox users browser. Sandboxie is a good choice if you’re willing to set up powerful policies and start denying read access – a default install is OK though.