Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

5/1/2013
02:51 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Fake Firefox Spyware Riles Mozilla

Surveillance software pretends to be Firefox to escape detection, report claims. Mozilla lawyers take action.

Anonymous: 10 Things We Have Learned In 2013
Anonymous: 10 Things We Have Learned In 2013
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Samples of FinSpy, part of the FinFisher surveillance software suite sold by Gamma International UK Ltd to government organizations, have been found disguised as Mozilla's Firefox browser, according to a report published Tuesday.

The report, written by academic research group Citizen Lab, documents the spread of offensive computer network intrusion capabilites -- hacking tools -- marketed by Western companies.

The report notes that a Malay-language Microsoft Word document purporting to discuss Malaysia's impending 2013 election installs FinSpy spyware that masquerades as Mozilla's Firefox browser on the computers of those who open the file. It further states that this behavior has been documented previously in files targeting Bahraini activists.

[ What are Microsoft's new Internet-enabled glasses really like? Read Google Glass: First Impressions. ]

In a blog post on Tuesday, Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy for Mozilla, said Mozilla has sent a cease and desist letter to Gamma International to demand an end to this unlawful behavior.

"We cannot abide a software company using our name to disguise online surveillance tools that can be -- and in several cases actually have been -- used by Gamma's customers to violate citizens' human rights and online privacy," said Fowler.

Fowler stresses that the spyware doesn't alter Firefox. Rather, it represents itself as Firefox in order to evade detection. If a Windows user chooses to view the properties, for instance, he or she can expect to see "Firefox.exe" in the Details tab, along with Firefox version numbers, copyright and trademark identifiers. An examination of the spyware's manifest file conveys similar misinformation.

According to Citizen Lab, FinFisher Command & Control servers are now present in 36 countries: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

The organization notes in its report that the presence of such servers in a country does not necessarily mean that the software is being operated by the country's government in an official capacity. "The use of generic hosting providers such as Softcom and GPLHost is likely an attempt to camouflage the true operator of the spyware," the report says.

Citizen Lab's report goes on to question use of the term "lawful intercept," which is used to describe and justify the information gathering function of surveillance software intended for legal authorities. "There is nothing inherently lawful about the capabilities of these tools, however," the report concludes. "They are simply trojans sold to states, not individuals."

Indeed, the misappropriation of Firefox's identity appears to be a case of unlawful intercept.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
AustinIT
50%
50%
AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 7:49:16 PM
re: Fake Firefox Spyware Riles Mozilla
I can't Tweet. Now, I can't Browse. What's next?
Why Vulnerable Code Is Shipped Knowingly
Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer, Veracode,  11/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-6017
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
Valve's Game Networking Sockets prior to version v1.2.0 improperly handles long unreliable segments in function SNP_ReceiveUnreliableSegment() when configured to support plain-text messages, leading to a Heap-Based Buffer Overflow and resulting in a memory corruption and possibly even a remote code ...
CVE-2020-6021
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
Check Point Endpoint Security Client for Windows before version E84.20 allows write access to the directory from which the installation repair takes place. Since the MS Installer allows regular users to run the repair, an attacker can initiate the installation repair and place a specially crafted DL...
CVE-2020-6111
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
An exploitable denial-of-service vulnerability exists in the IPv4 functionality of Allen-Bradley MicroLogix 1100 Programmable Logic Controller Systems Series B FRN 16.000, Series B FRN 15.002, Series B FRN 15.000, Series B FRN 14.000, Series B FRN 13.000, Series B FRN 12.000, Series B FRN 11.000 and...
CVE-2020-5680
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
Improper input validation vulnerability in EC-CUBE versions from 3.0.5 to 3.0.18 allows a remote attacker to cause a denial-of-service (DoS) condition via unspecified vector.
CVE-2020-5638
PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
Cross-site scripting vulnerability in desknet's NEO (desknet's NEO Small License V5.5 R1.5 and earlier, and desknet's NEO Enterprise License V5.5 R1.5 and earlier) allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary script via unspecified vectors.