CrossFire: An Analysis of Firefox Extension-Reuse Vulnerabilities

  • Ahmet Buyukkayhan, Kaan Onarlioglu, William Robertson, Engin Kirda
  • Proceedings of the ISOC Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS)
  • PDF

Extension architectures of popular web browsers have been carefully studied by the research community; however, the security impact of interactions between different extensions installed on a given system has received comparatively little attention. In this paper, we consider the impact of the lack of isolation between traditional Firefox browser extensions, and identify a novel extension-reuse vulnerability that allows adversaries to launch stealthy attacks against users. This attack leverages capability leaks from legitimate extensions to avoid the inclusion of security-sensitive API calls within the malicious extension itself, rendering extensions that use this technique difficult to detect through the manual vetting process that underpins the security of the Firefox extension ecosystem.

We then present CrossFire, a lightweight static analyzer to detect instances of extension-reuse vulnerabilities. CrossFire uses a multi-stage static analysis to efficiently identify potential capability leaks in vulnerable, benign extensions. If a suspected vulnerability is identified, CrossFire then produces a proof-of-concept exploit instance – or, alternatively, an exploit template that can be adapted to rapidly craft a working attack that validates the vulnerability.

To ascertain the prevalence of extension-reuse vulnerabilities, we performed a detailed analysis of the top 10 Firefox extensions, and ran further experiments on a random sample drawn from the top 2,000. The results indicate that popular extensions, downloaded by millions of users, contain numerous exploitable extension-reuse vulnerabilities. A case study also provides anecdotal evidence that malicious extensions exploiting extension-reuse vulnerabilities are indeed effective at cloaking themselves from extension vetters.