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By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-10-21 Print this article Print

The security angle? Apart from the obvious fact that the browsers can be DOSd with such a page, Zalewski speculates that some of the crashes will translate to exploitable overflows. This is possible, but not necessarily the case. Further research may show this, and the programmers who now go to fix the parsing bugs will need to keep their eyes out for overflows that may have been overlooked for the same reasons the crashes were overlooked.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

And like I said at the top, the lack of hardening to bad input is disappointing with respect to the failed products, most of which are open source. The actual file and tag parsers have to be among the oldest parts of the programs, and yet it seems they didnt get quite as much attention as they should have. The lesson is that we shouldnt assume somethings debugged just because everyone in the whole world has access to the source code. And sometimes the fact that its some paid persons job to debug means a better job will be done.

Of course, it would be precipitous in the extreme to jump to the conclusion that this means Internet Explorer is more secure than those other browsers, and Zalewski specifically did not make this claim. But we all owe him thanks for a simple, innovative tool that will help to make all of our browsers better.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for security news, views and analysis.
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More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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