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Software developers at Google, Apple, Adobe, and elsewhere are grappling with the security risks posed by an emerging graphics technology, which in its current form could expose millions of web users' sensitive data to attackers.
The technology, known as CSS shaders is designed to render a variety of distortion effects, such as wobbles, curling, and folding. It works by providing programming interfaces web developers can call to invoke powerful functions from an end user's graphics card. But it could also be exploited by malicious website operators to steal web-browsing history, Facebook identities, and other private information from unsuspecting users, Adam Barth, a security researcher on Google's Chrome browser warned recently.
"Because web sites are allowed to display content that they are not allowed to read, an attacker can use a Forshaw-style CSS shader [to] read confidential information via the timing channel," Barth wrote in a December 3 post to his private blog. "For example, a web site could use CSS shaders to extract your identity from an embedded Facebook Like button. More subtly, a web site could extract your browsing history bypassing David Baron's defense against history sniffing.