Hey everyone,

I have posted a full technical writeup and wrap-up for this bug. Check it
out here:



On Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 3:21 AM, Ryan Duff <r...@nduff.com> wrote:

> Hey everyone,
> I spent a decent portion of my day looking into the claim by the Tor-Fork
> developer that you could get cross-platform RCE on Tor Browser if you're
> able to both MitM a connection and forge a single TLS certificate for
> addons.mozilla.org. This is well within the capability of any decently
> resourced nation-state. Definitely read @movrcx's write-up first to see his
> claim. It's here: https://hackernoon.com/tor-browser-exposed-anti-privacy-
> implantation-at-mass-scale-bd68e9eb1e95#.vh1a04yxy
> Instead of making you read a whole lot to find out the issue, I'll give
> you the bottom line up front (BLUF): Firefox uses its own static key
> pinning method for it's own Mozilla certs instead of using HPKP. The
> enforcement of the static method appears to be much weaker than the HPKP
> method and is flawed to the point that it is bypassable in this attack
> scenario. The bug appears to be fixed as of the September 4th nightly build
> of Firefox but is obviously still unpatched in both the current production
> versions of Firefox and Tor Browser. I'm posting about this publically now
> instead of waiting because @movrcx's post still shows how to take advantage
> of these flaws even if it doesn't describe (and he didn't know at the time)
> exactly how and why it bypassed certificate pinning.
> Regarding my motivation for looking at this; I'm neither a Tor-Fork OR Tor
> supporter. However, I've been a big fan of cross-platform RCE for a very
> long time. We go way back. I also had concerns that anything legitimate
> @movrcx may have found wouldn't be taken seriously because of the inherent
> drama involved in going against Tor in such a public way. To his credit,
> when I reached out to him after reading his blog post on it, he was
> excellent to work with and didn't get defensive at all as I poked holes in
> his claims. The result was us both learning a lot about how Firefox handles
> certificate pinning and discovering that his attack works for reasons that
> weren't obvious to either of us as we started research today. I also need
> to caveat this by saying I only have a few hours of work into all of this
> and while I know there is definitely a bug and I have a geat hypothesis on
> where Mozilla's problem is rooted, I'm not positive about it. More lab work
> and validation (no pun intended) is definitely needed. That's why I'm
> posting here instead of staking more big claims in a blog. Any input from
> anyone who understands Firefox certificate validation internals in detail
> would be very appreciated. While I did my research, I obviously don't know
> what I don't know. As you'll see, there is quite a bit of nuance here. I'm
> going to go through the things @movrcx did and then explain my research
> into why they worked even though they really shouldn't have.
> I want to give a quick overview of @movrcx's claims, address some of the
> criticisms he has received on social media of them, and hopefully get you
> believing that there is at least SOMETHING wrong happening here.
> Here is a simple overview of @movrcx's attack (again, read this first:
> https://hackernoon.com/tor-browser-exposed-anti-privacy-
> implantation-at-mass-scale-bd68e9eb1e95#.vh1a04yxy ); Firefox and Tor
> Browser update their extensions automatically by checking
> addons.mozilla.org about every hour. Tor specifically has HTTPS
> Everywhere and NoScript pre-installed. They both use the normal Firefox way
> of updating themselves. To attack this, you just follow these steps.
> 1) Write a malicious extension to be your payload and then have it signed
> by Mozilla using their fully automated process.
> 2) Generate a forged certificate for addons.mozilla.org that validates up
> through any CA built in to the Firefox certificate store (not an easy task
> but definitely doable by a nation state and should be considered in Tor's
> threat model).
> 3) Man-in-the-Middle traffic to addons.mozilla.org trying to update
> NoScript or HTTPS Everywhere.
> 4) Serve your malicious extension instead of the requested update to the
> target.
> 5) Win with no user interaction.
> The naysayers to this claim all mostly revolved around one point (which I
> will disprove here). That point is "Mozilla pins the cert for
> addons.mozilla.org and that pinning should prevent this attack. The only
> reason it worked for @movrcx is because Firefox will bypass pinning when a
> certificate validates through a user-added CA cert". This is wrong because,
> unlike Firefox, Tor Browser strictly enforces certificate pinning. No
> matter what cert @movrcx added, it still should have failed. Yet, he was
> able to get it to work. That is what got me interested in this and drove me
> to dig in.
> There is actually quite a bit to unpack here and I'll start with how
> Firefox handles certificate pinning enforcement levels. When a certificate
> is pinned, a SHA-256 hash of the public cert is hardcoded into the browser
> and depending on which cert is pinned (CA, Intermediate, End-Client Cert)
> the site's TLS certificate must validate through or match the pinned cert.
> However, Firefox actually has 4 enforcement settings that are applied under
> the preference security.cert_pinning.enforcement_level in about:config.
> These are the enforcement levels:
> 0. Pinning disabled
> 1. Allow User MITM (pinning not enforced if the trust anchor is a user
> inserted CA, default)
> 2. Strict. Pinning is always enforced.
> 3. Enforce test mode.
> The root of the naysayers revolved around the fact that Firefox's default
> is enforcement level 1. This means that when a user adds their own CA
> ("like @movrcx did" but not really, as you’ll see) and the site's
> certificate validates through that CA, Firefox will bypass certificate
> pinning. They do this so companies can have their TLS stripping security
> appliances with their root certs that need to be installed on client
> machines. By bypassing pinning for those user added certs, the users will
> still be able to access their GMail or other sites that would normally fail
> because of pinning. So, game over, right? The attack should fail in
> practice according to the twitters and the twitters are never wrong…
> Well... Tor actually changed the default enforcement to level 2. You can
> see the ticket here: https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/16206
> Because of this, NO CA cert other than the one associated with the pinned
> certificate should work. Even if you add your own CA cert to the Firefox
> store, strict enforcement should mean that a connection to a site with a
> pinned cert attempting to validate through that custom CA should fail. So,
> double game over, right?! Nope. Somehow, @movrcx was able to get his
> extension to load by validating it through his custom cert. despite strict
> pinning enforcement. How is this possible? We must go deeper...
> When @movrcx initially added his CA cert (which was the Burp CA cert so he
> could perform the required MitM) to the certificate store, it DID fail to
> validate. So, everything worked as expected and it's game over (x3)....
> right!? Not quite. Lets looks at the debug output from the failure:Deep
> down the certificate pinning rabbit hole of "Tor Browser Exposed"
> 1473825046500addons.update-checkerWARNRequest failed:
> versioncheck-bg.addons.mozilla.org/update/Version…{
> 73a6fe31-595d-460b-a920-fcc0f8843232}&version=2.9.0.
> 14&maxAppVersion=*&status=userEnabled&appID={ec8030f7-
> c20a-464f-9b0e-13a3a9e97384}&appVersion=45.3.0&appOS=Linux&
> appABI=x86_64-gcc3&locale=en-US&currentAppVersion=45.3.0&
> updateType=112&compatMode=normal - [Exception... "Certificate issuer is
> not built-in."  nsresult: "0x80004004 (NS_ERROR_ABORT)"  location: "JS
> frame :: resource://gre/modules/CertUtils.jsm :: checkCert :: line 171"
> data: no]
> See that exception? It doesn't say "failed to validate pinned certificate"
> or something like that. Instead, it says, "Certificate issuer is not
> built-in". Could it be that if it validates through a cert that is built-in
> to the browser, it would work? Lets find out. @movrx added the Burp
> certificate to certdata.txt ( https://hg.mozilla.org/
> mozilla-central/raw-file/tip/security/nss/lib/ckfw/builtins/certdata.txt
> ), compiled the TorBrowser with that in, retried his MitM, and it worked!
> Now, there are actually TWO security failures here. The first one we
> discussed; strict enforcement of pinning should have made this fail
> regardless of the new certificate. But there is a second failure; adding a
> certificate this way should not have made it recognized as “built in”.
> Firefox uses libNSS for verification of built-in certificates. That’s done
> by calling a software module called CKBI (which somehow is supposed to
> stand for "built-in root certificates"). That module is implemented in
> libNSS as libnssckbi.so. There is a special entitlement that libNSS looks
> for that can only be stored in the read-only libnssckbi.so. Mozilla updates
> this certificate list and sends it out with each new version of libNSS
> (which ships with Firefox). A brief rundown of this policy can be found
> here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/NSS:Root_certs
> You actually can add your own CA manually and get this entitlement, but it
> requires compiling a utility that is not normally included with Mozilla's
> libNSS into your own custom copy of libNSS (instructions on how to do that
> are here: http://wiki.cacert.org/NSSLib ). You then must compile your
> custom libNSS into your custom Firefox build. But, as I stated above, that
> is not what @movrcx did.
> Let's recap where we are at this point (I told you this rabbit hole was
> deep)... We have a situation were strict pinning enforcement is enabled and
> seems to work by not letting the extension update connection validate when
> a CA cert is added to the Firefox store through its interface. However,
> it's not failing due to pinning enforcement, but rather on the fact that
> the certificate it's trying to use doesn't have the BuiltIn entitlement.
> When we compile the same cert in directly, it is then recognized as BuiltIn
> even though it doesn't have the specific entitlement libNSS should be
> looking for. That's two checks it should have failed but were bypassed.
> So... WTF right? Why is this happening?! Deeper we go...
> My answer presented itself after a discussion with Erinn Atwater
> (@errorinn) who is a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of
> Waterloo in Ontario. I saw that she was asking pointed questions on twitter
> that were in the same line as my research, so I shot her a DM. She had
> actually put a bunch of students on this task last night because she had
> the same concerns I did about this not being taken seriously. It turns out
> that Mozilla actually doesn't use normal HPKP for certs related to their
> operations (like addons.mozilla.org). Instead, they use a form of static
> key pinning. These validation weaknesses are limited to these statically
> pinned certs and HPKP seems to be fully functional (ie: not broken) in
> Firefox. That's great for every other site but obviously bad for Mozilla
> and the certs they have statically pinned.
> I don't have enough data to state this with 100% certainty, but it appears
> that with statically pinned certs, the only requirement for validation is
> that the certificate validates through a "built in" CA. However, since it's
> not using libNSS to do the validation, it looks like "built in" for
> statically pinned cert validation just means that the CA was there at
> compile time. That is why the certificate didn't validate when it was added
> through the Firefox interface but did when it was compiled in. In turn,
> that means that any “addons.mozilla.org” certificate that validates
> through any CA that is shipped with Firefox should bypass pinning
> restrictions and work. That also means that @movrcx's attack should work as
> advertised.
> You can actually test this without all of the compiling custom browsers!
> Try going to pinning-test.badssl.com in Firefox. It SHOULD give a TLS
> error... but it doesn't for most versions of Firefox. Mozilla added a
> static pinned cert for this test and you can find it here:
> https://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/source/security/manager/ssl/
> StaticHPKPins.h#283 . The pinned cert has a static pin set to "AAAAAA="
> which doesn't match any known CA. That means it should fail validation.
> Yet, since the test site has a valid cert from Google, it validates through
> a CA that is built in to the browser and works. That is the core bug that
> makes this attack work.
> The good news is that Erinn's team was able to determine that this bug is
> fixed in the September 4th Firefox nightly build. Unfortunately, it's not
> clear what bug the fix was associated with or what change in the code
> facilitated it. The changelog for that build can be found here:
> http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=3022271 . None of the
> public bugs seem to line up though. However, there are 2 restricted bugs at
> the top of the list. It's possible that this issue might be one or both of
> those. If you want to test the builds yourself, the issue occurs in:
> https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/nightly/2016/09/2016-
> 09-03-00-40-09-mozilla-aurora/ and does not occur in:
> https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/nightly/2016/09/2016-
> 09-04-00-40-02-mozilla-aurora/ . I'm not sure when this will be pushed to
> the production versions of Tor and Firefox but at least a fix seems to be
> in the pipeline.
> So, that's it for the bug. As you have seen, the attack as described by
> @movrcx should work as advertised, but it's not at all immediately obvious
> why it works. If you know how pinning is supposed to work, you would
> probably claim with gusto that it doesn't work, as many on twitter were
> very quick to do. Yet, it does work.
> While Tor will catch the fix from the Mozilla patch, I believe they should
> actually change how they handle extensions overall. It seems ridiculous to
> me that they actually use Mozilla’s auto-update process for extensions. If
> NoScript or HTTPS Everywhere added a new vulnerability with an update, all
> Tor users would get it within an hour of using the browser. Also, with the
> paranoia their organization seems to have, I would think Mozilla being
> compelled to push a malicious extension to specific Tor users would be a
> real concern of theirs. To me, the logical solution would be to compile
> NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere themselves, sign those extensions with their
> own key, hardcode their public key into the TorBrowser, and then do their
> own cryptographic validation of extensions locally. Extension updates would
> go out with TorBrowser updates exactly how the TorBrowser Firefox updates
> are delivered.
> If you made it this far, you are a trooper. I hope it was informative. If
> you have any questions or input, please share. It’s always possible I
> missed something major and all of this was a big mistake. ;-) If so, please
> tell me! Thanks again to @movrcx for being cool and working through all of
> this with me. Also, thanks to @errorinn for sharing her and her team’s
> research with me. It was key in closing the last information gap I had.
> Thanks again for reading!
> -Ryan Duff
> https://twitter.com/flyryan
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