The cookie consent screens are really annoying. They attempt to trick you into accepting all cookies, dismissing them without agreeing is made intentionally difficult. A while back I wrote on Twitter than I’m almost at the point of writing a private browser extension to automate the job. And somebody recommended Ninja Cookie extension to me, which from the description seemed perfect for the job.
As of Ninja Cookie 0.7.0, the Universal XSS vulnerability has been resolved. The other issues remain however, these are exploitable by anybody with access to the Ninja Cookie download server (ninja-cookie.gitlab.io). This seems to be the reason why Mozilla Add-ons currently only offers the rather dated Ninja Cookie 0.2.7 for download, newer versions have been disabled. Chrome Web Store still offers the problematic extension version however. I didn’t check whether extension versions offered for Edge, Safari and Opera browsers are affected.
I looked into the Print Friendly & PDF browser extension while helping someone figure out an issue they were having. The issue turned out unrelated to the extension, but I already noticed something that looked very odd. A quick investigation later I could confirm a massive vulnerability affecting all of its users (close to 1 million of them). Any website could easily gain complete control of the extension.
This particular issue has been resolved in Print Friendly & PDF 2.7.39 for Chrome. The underlying issues have not been addressed however, and the extension is still riddled with insecure coding practices. Hence my recommendation is still to uninstall it. Also, the Firefox variant of the extension (version 1.3) is still affected. I did not look at the Microsoft Edge variant but it hasn’t been updated recently and might also be vulnerable.
Note: To make the confusion complete, there is a browser extension called Print Friendly & PDF 2.1.0 on the Firefox Add-ons website. This one has no functionality beyond redirecting the user to printfriendly.com and isn’t affected. The problematic Firefox extension is being distributed from the vendor’s website directly.
Mind you, I’m not saying that Amazon is currently doing any of this.
Yes, when I wrote that article I didn’t actually know how Amazon was using the power they’ve given themselves. The mere potential here, what they could do with a minimal and undetectable change on one of their servers, that was scary enough for me. I can see that other people might prefer something more tangible however.
So this article now analyzes what data Amazon actually collects. Not the kind of data that necessarily flows to Amazon servers to make the product work. No, we’ll look at a component dedicated exclusively to “analytics,” collecting data without providing any functionality to the user.
The logic explained here applies to Amazon Assistant browser extension for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. It is also used by Amazon Assistant for Android, to a slightly limited extent however: Amazon Assistant can only access information from the Google Chrome browser here, and it has less information available to it. Since this logic resides on an Amazon web server, I can only show what is happening for me right now. It could change any time in either direction, for all Amazon Assistant users or only a selected few.
Both issues are resolved in DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials 2021.2.3 and above. At the time of writing, this version is only available for Google Chrome however. Two releases have been skipped for Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge for some reason, so that the latest version available here only fixes the first issue (insecure internal communication). Update (2021-03-16): An extension version with the fix is now available for both Firefox and Edge.
These vulnerabilities are very typical, I’ve seen similar mistakes in other extensions many times. This isn’t merely extension developers being clueless. The extension platform introduced by Google Chrome simply doesn’t provide secure and convenient alternatives. So most extension developers are bound to get it wrong on the first try. Update (2021-03-16): Linked to respective Chromium issues.
I recently noticed that Amazon is promoting their Amazon Assistant extension quite aggressively. With success: while not all browsers vendors provide usable extension statistics, it would appear that this extension has beyond 10 million users across Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Edge. Reason enough to look into what this extension is doing and how.
Here I must say that the privacy expectations for shopping assistants aren’t very high to start with. Still, I was astonished to discover that Amazon built the perfect machinery to let them track any Amazon Assistant user or all of them: what they view and for how long, what they search on the web, what accounts they are logged into and more. Amazon could also mess with the web experience at will and for example hijack competitors’ web shops.
Mind you, I’m not saying that Amazon is currently doing any of this. While I’m not done analyzing the code, so far everything suggests that Amazon Assistant is only transferring domain names of the web pages you visit rather than full addresses. And all website manipulations seem in line with the extension’s purpose.Update (2021-03-25): There is a follow-up article with details on what Amazon actually does. But since all extension privileges are delegated to Amazon web services, it’s impossible to make sure that it always works like this. If for some Amazon Assistant users the “hoover up all data” mode is switched on, nobody will notice.
In the previous article I documented my approach for reverse engineering an Android game. But getting my hands on the code is only one part of security research. Once a potential issue is identified, I need to verify that it is actually exploitable. So there is no way around messing with an actual live app. Ideally that has to happen in a controlled environment with emulated hardware. As before, this is mostly me writing things down for my future self, but it might come useful for other people as well.
Do you have a privacy protection extension installed in your browser? There are so many around, and every security vendor is promoting their own. Typically, these will provide a feature called “anti-fingerprinting” or “fingerprint protection” which is supposed to make you less identifiable on the web. What you won’t notice: this feature is almost universally flawed, potentially allowing even better fingerprinting.
I’ve seen a number of extensions misimplement this functionality, yet I rarely bother to write a report. The effort to fully explain the problem is considerable. On the other hand, it is obvious that for most vendors privacy protection is merely a check that they can put on their feature list. Quality does not matter because no user will be able to tell whether their solution actually worked. With minimal resources available, my issue report is unlikely to cause a meaningful action.
That’s why I decided to explain the issues in a blog post, a typical extension will have at least three out of four. Next time I run across a browser extension suffering from all the same flaws I can send them a link to this post. And maybe some vendors will resolve the issues then. Or, even better, not even make these mistakes in the first place.
If you, like me, are running your own mail server, you might have looked at OpenSMTPD. There are very compelling reasons for that, most important being the configuration simplicity. The following is a working base configuration handling both mail delivery on port 25 as well as mail submissions on port 587:
You might want to add virtual user lists, aliases, SRS support, but it really doesn’t get much more complicated than this. The best practices are all there: no authentication over unencrypted connections, no relaying of mails by unauthorized parties, all of that being very obvious in the configuration. Compare that to Postfix configuration with its multitude of complicated configuration files where I was very much afraid of making a configuration mistake and inadvertently turning my mail server into an open relay.
There is no DKIM support out of the box however, you have to add filters for that. The documentation suggests using opensmtpd-filter-dkimsign that most platforms don’t have prebuilt packages for. So you have to get the source code from some Dutch web server, presumably run by the OpenBSD developer Martijn van Duren. And what you get is a very simplistic DKIM signer, not even capable of supporting multiple domains.
The documentation suggests opensmtpd-filter-rspamd as an alternative which can indeed both sign and verify DKIM signatures. It relies on rspamd however, an anti-spam solution introducing a fair deal of complexity and clearly overdimensioned in my case.
So I went for writing custom filters. With dkimpy implementing all the necessary functionality in Python, how hard could it be?
Honey is a popular browser extension built by the PayPal subsidiary Honey Science LLC. It promises nothing less than preventing you from wasting money on your online purchases. Whenever possible, it will automatically apply promo codes to your shopping cart, thus saving your money without you lifting a finger. And it even runs a reward program that will give you some money back! Sounds great, what’s the catch?
With such offers, the price you pay is usually your privacy. With Honey, it’s also security. The browser extension is highly reliant on instructions it receives from its server. I found at least four ways for this server to run arbitrary code on any website you visit. So the extension can mutate into spyware or malware at any time, for all users or only for a subset of them – without leaving any traces of the attack like a malicious extension release.