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Techniques & Tools For Secure Web Browser


Many modern application platforms support an extensible architecture that allows the application core to be extended with functionality developed by third-parties. This bootstraps a developer community that works together to enhance and customize the basic functionality of those platforms. To ease development of such extensions, these platforms expose an API that third-parties can use to implement their functionality.


These APIs usually endow extension developers with privileges to access various system resources. However, to isolate the platform from any new security threats caused by these untrusted extensions, the API must ideally restrict extensions’ authority.

Thus, an important challenge is to simplify extension programming for the third-party developers while ensuring that these extensions do not compromise the security of the application core.

This dissertation seeks to address the above issues in the context of Web browser extensions. It presents algorithms and tools to facilitate secure Web browser extension development.

In particular, it makes the following two contributions. First, it studies and characterizes the security of a modern Web browser extension architecture, the Mozilla Jetpack framework — proposes solutions to improve the security of the architecture and extensions developed on top of it.

It presents Beacon, which leverages JavaScript-level information flow technique to detect unsafe programming practices in browser extensions.

Upon analyzing 68000 lines of JavaScript code from modern extension framework and real world extensions, Beacon found 36 instances of potentially unsafe programming practices. Second, it addresses the problem of porting unsafe legacy extensions to modern, privilege- separated extension architectures.


File Type: PDF
File Size: 769 KB
Total Pages: 112

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