Tarnished: Google Responds to Serious Chrome Vulnerability

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockEarlier this week the Center for Internet Security (CIS) disclosed a vulnerability in Google Chrome that could enable arbitrary code execution. Google released a Stable Channel Update to address the security flaw, but until it rolls out to all Chrome users, up to 2 billion people could be at risk.

CIS said attackers could set up "specially crafted web pages" to exploit an issue with the Blink rendering engine on which Chrome relies. This could let attackers "execute arbitrary code in the context of the browser, obtain sensitive information, bypass security restrictions and perform unauthorized actions, or cause denial-of-service conditions" depending on the permissions Chrome users have granted the browser over their system.

Google released the Stable Channel Update to Chrome on August 26; CIS disclosed the CVE-2019-5869 vulnerability on August 27. Google said that it was informed of the security flaw by researchers from the Chengdu Security Response Center of Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd on June 26. Assuming that is the case, that means Google addressed the issue 61 days after hearing about it, which is within the industry standard 90-day grace period.

The company said in its release notes that this update to Chrome--which brings it to version 76.0.3809.132--will roll out "over the coming days/weeks." This kind of staggered rollout isn't uncommon, especially when companies are managing as many users as Google is with Chrome, but the vulnerability's public disclosure means sooner is better than later. Hopefully people also install the update promptly as well so they can defend against these attacks.

What You Should Do

CIS recommended that Chrome users:

  • Apply the stable channel update provided by Google to vulnerable systems immediately after appropriate testing.
  • Run all software as a non-privileged user (one without administrative privileges) to diminish the effects of a successful attack.
  • Remind users not to visit un-trusted websites or follow links provided by unknown or un-trusted sources.
  • Inform and educate users regarding the threats posed by hypertext links contained in emails or attachments especially from un-trusted sources.
  • Apply the Principle of Least Privilege to all systems and services.

Those recommendations are made pretty much every time a new vulnerability is disclosed. Chrome users on Windows, macOS and Linux should heed them as soon as the update to Chrome 76.0.3809.132 is available to them. The browser's mobile users aren't affected by this vulnerability.

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