By Gregg Keizer
A pair of unpatched vulnerabilities in Mozilla's Firefox Web browser -- rated as "extremely critical" by one security firm -- could allow an attacker to take control of a PC simply by getting a user to visit a malicious Web site, Mozilla said Sunday.
The vulnerabilities were discovered by a pair of security researchers, who had notified Mozilla earlier in the month, but were keeping mum until a patch was written. However, details of the vulnerabilities were leaked by someone close to one of the researchers.
According to Danish security vendor Secunia, which tagged the bugs with a highest "extremely critical" warning -- the first time it's used that to describe a Firefox flaw -- a hacker can trick the browser into thinking a download is coming from one of the by-default sites permitted to install software automatically: addons.mozilla.org or update.mozilla.org.
"Changes to the Mozilla Update web service have been made to mitigate the risk of an exploit," the Foundation announced on its security site Sunday. Specifically, Mozilla re-pointed the two update sites to a new URL, and instructed users not to add that new site to their list of Allowed Sites. The change, however, only defends against the current proof-of-concept that's circulating, not the vulnerabilities themselves.
A security update -- which will be dubbed Firefox 1.0.4 -- will be issued as soon as possible. "Mozilla is aggressively working to provide a more comprehensive solution to these potential vulnerabilities and will provide that solution in a forthcoming security update," the organization's security alert continued.
While the leaked information included proof-of-concept code that demonstrated how a malicious site could run code of the attacker's choice and install it on machines using Firefox, Mozilla discounted the risk. "There are currently no known active exploits of these vulnerabilities," it said Sunday. The release of Firefox 1.0.4 would be the fourth security update to the browser since the beginning of the year. Others appeared in late February, late March, and mid-April. In that time, Microsoft has released two patches for its Internet Explorer browser.