Cybersecurity researchers have disclosed a security flaw in the Opera web browser for Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS that could be exploited to execute any file on the underlying operating system.
The remote code execution vulnerability has been codenamed MyFlaw by the Guardio Labs research team owing to the fact that it takes advantage of a feature called My Flow that makes it possible to sync messages and files between mobile and desktop devices.
“This is achieved through a controlled browser extension, effectively bypassing the browser’s sandbox and the entire browser process,” the company said in a statement shared with The Hacker News.
The issue impacts both the Opera browser and Opera GX. Following responsible disclosure on November 17, 2023, it was addressed as part of updates shipped on November 22, 2023.
My Flow features a chat-like interface to exchange notes and files, the latter of which can be opened via a web interface, meaning a file can be executed outside of the browser’s security boundaries.
It is pre-installed in the browser and facilitated by means of a built-in (or internal) browser extension called “Opera Touch Background,” which is responsible for communicating with its mobile counterpart.
This also means that the extension comes with its own manifest file specifying all the required permissions and its behavior, including a property known as externally_connectable that declares which other web pages and extensions can connect to it.
In the case of Opera, the domains that can talk to the extension should match the patterns “*.flow.opera.com” and “.flow.op-test.net” – both controlled by the browser vendor itself.
“This exposes the messaging API to any page that matches the URL patterns you specify,” Google notes in its documentation. “The URL pattern must contain at least a second-level domain.”
“This is exactly what an attacker needs – an unsafe, forgotten, vulnerable to code injection asset, and most importantly, has access to (very) high permission native browser API.”
The findings highlight the increasing complexity of browser-based attacks and the different vectors that can be exploited by threat actors to their advantage.
“Despite operating in sandboxed environments, extensions can be powerful tools for hackers, enabling them to steal information and breach browser security boundaries,” the company told The Hacker News.
“This underscores the need for internal design changes at Opera and improvements in Chromium’s infrastructure. For instance, disabling third-party extension permissions on dedicated production domains, similar to Chrome’s web store, is recommended but has not yet been implemented by Opera.”
When reached for comment, Opera said it moved quickly to close the security hole and implement a fix on the server side and that it’s taking steps to prevent such issues from happening again.
“Our current structure uses an HTML standard, and is the safest option that does not break key functionality,” the company said. “After Guardio alerted us to this vulnerability, we removed the cause of these issues and we are making sure that similar problems will not appear in the future.”
“We would like to thank Guardio Labs for their work on uncovering and immediately alerting us to this vulnerability. This collaboration demonstrates how we work together with security experts and researchers around the world to complement our own efforts at maintaining and improving the security of our products and ensuring our users have a safe online experience.”