By Ryan Naraine
December 17, 2007
If you use IE to access Gmail on public terminals, you may be leaving a
lot of sensitive information exposed in the browser's cache.
If you use Internet Explorer to access Google's Gmail on public
terminals, you may be leaving a lot of sensitive information exposed in
the browser's cache, according to a warning from Web application
security specialist Cenzic.
Cenzic issued an alert for what it argues are vulnerabilities in Gmail
and IE that could "severely impact e-mail systems and user privacy."
However, Microsoft has downplayed the risk, insisting this is "not a
Cenzic spokesman Mandeep Khera said his company's researchers figured
out a way to use CSRF (cross-site request forgery) in combination with
the improper use of caching directives to hijack Gmail credentials from
the IE cache.
The issue is specific to Gmail on IE and Cenzic believes both Microsoft
and Google should apply fixes to secure customers, especially those
using computer kiosks in a library or Internet caf.
After a "thorough investigation," Microsoft has dismissed the threat as
overblown. "In the scenario in question an attacker would need
authenticated access to the system in order to modify files located in
the cache. With that level of access, an attacker could install
malicious programs that would have more impact than the scenarios
described," a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement sent to eWEEK.
Cenzic's Khera acknowledged that the hacker must have physical access to
the system to launch an attack but insists it presents a real cross-site
scripting risk to end users who use public terminals.
"I understand Microsoft's position but that doesn't mean it's not a
vulnerability. It's still a serious issue that needs to be patched,"
Khera said in an interview.
In the absence of a patch, Khera recommends that users disable caching
of pages at the browser level, which will prevent any page from being
cached for later viewing. This workaround may adversely affect the
browsing experience, he warned.
Technical details of the issue has been sent to the US-CERT (U.S.
Computer Emergency Response Team).
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