VUPEN Whitehats Claim To Have Broken Chrome Sandbox

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The big news recently is that someone has finally managed to pop the formidable Chrome browser, as we know from following Pwn2Own – it’s been safe for 3 years in a row.

It has a sandbox, ASLR and DEP and that’s a pretty heavy combination to keep users safe from malicious software coming in via the web browser. VUPEN (a French infosec consultancy) claims to have broken ALL of these defenses allowing them to execute code using the browser on the latest version of Chrome.

Do bear in mind however as of now this is just a claim, there’s a video of the exploit in action – but that doesn’t prove anything either.

Researchers say they’ve developed attack code that pierces key defenses built into Google’s Chrome browser, allowing them to reliably execute malware on end user machines.

The attack contains two separate exploits so it can bypass the security counter measures, which include address space layout randomization (or ASLR), data execution prevention (or DEP), and a “sandbox” designed to isolate browser functions from core operating-system operations. So far, there have been relatively few reported exploits that can penetrate the sandbox, and that’s one of the reasons the browser has managed to emerge unscathed during the annual Pwn2Own hacker competition for three years in a row.

“While Chrome has one of the most secure sandboxes and has always survived the Pwn2Own contest during the last three years, we have now uncovered a reliable way to execute arbitrary code on any installation of Chrome despite its sandbox, ASLR and DEP,” researchers from France-based Vupen Security wrote in a blog post published on Monday.

The interesting part, and the thing that is causing a lot of debate (as per usual) is the disclosure policy by VUPEN. These guys are not going to tell Google, they say they will tell their clients for attack and defense purposes – but honestly? What good would a working exploit like this be in terms of defense? Unless you can perhaps add it into your IPS/IDS.

The only power/value I can see it having is in attack circumstances and from their attitude it seems like they will sell/rent this exploit out to the highest bidders. Scruples aside I have to say the bounty offered by Google definitely wouldn’t cut it in this case.


The Vupen researchers said they plan to share technical details of the exploit only with government customers “for defensive and offensive security.” Neither Google nor the public will be privy to the specifics.

“We’re unable to verify VUPEN’s claims at this time as we have not received any details from them,” a Google spokesman said. “Should any modifications become necessary, users will be automatically updated to the latest version of Chrome.”

Google to date has awarded more than $150,000 under its bug bounty program, which pays as much as $3133.7 for reports of serious security bugs.

As is typical with attacks that bypass security sandboxes, the Vupen proof-of-concept actually contains two separate exploits, said Chaouki Bekrar, the company’s CEO.

It’s an interesting attack vector if it does really work and if as is claimed – it’s reliable and repeatable. I’d like to see it verified somehow though, but unless Google gets their hands on the code – that’s extremely unlikely.

And well if it is real these two exploits combined into a deadly package would certainly be worth a LOT on the black market. Either way, it’s certainly providing a lot of PR coverage for VUPEN.

Source: The Register

Posted in: Exploits/Vulnerabilities, Hacking News

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8 Responses to VUPEN Whitehats Claim To Have Broken Chrome Sandbox

  1. DEVIL'S BLOG ON SECURITY May 11, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    There’s no doubt black hat community will soon get hands on it.

  2. Dazza May 11, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Whitehats CLAIM to have broken google chrome.
    Anyone can CLAIM to do anything, where is the proof?

  3. Pro Hacking May 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    They claim they descovered an exploit…. without a proof and if thats true would selling it the highest bidder not be a crime.. My advise is for them to just release this stuff to google, and thats if what they say is true.

  4. @@@vs$$$ May 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    So they broken the sandbox, but they won’t make the information public, how exactly are they “white-hats”?

  5. Hacking Tricks May 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    that is what i still don’t understand….

  6. Bogwitch May 12, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    It’s not the public disclosure that concerns me, it’s the non-disclosure to Google, instead providing it to Government clients. Not telling Google allows the black-hat hackers more time to discover and exploit this vulnerability. Are they going to be selective as to which Government clients they will sell the information to?
    It strikes me that VUPEN are attempting to establish their credentials in order to gain Government contracts and to raise their profile within government, I assume the French Government in particular.
    I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them and the whole thing stinks of FUD and snake-oil.
    As Darknet says, “it’s certainly providing a lot of PR coverage for VUPEN”

  7. Darknet May 12, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    The hat colour you all seek is ‘Ass’.

  8. Hacking May 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    @Darknet…lol, there are still true white hat around. this is just bad eggs spoiling the good ones