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Tuesday, 16 April 2013 10:20

Microsoft mulls ditching browser

Written by Nick Farrell



Secure web-apps the way forward

Software giant Microsoft is thinking of replacing the browser with secure web-based apps.

According to PC Advisor the prototype of a client-side architecture that would replace the Web browser with a much more secure virtualized environment has been developed by Microsoft. Dubbed Embassies, the technology would have applications run in low-level, native-code containers that would use Internet addresses for all external communications with applications.

In a paper presented this month at the USENIX Symposium on Networked System Design and Implementation Microsoft researchers said Microsoft is trying to solve is the insecurity of today's browsers, brought on by their complexity. In the 1990s, when browsers were introduced, the software was mostly responsible for formatting Web pages that were text, links and simple graphics.

Modern browsers have many more application programming interfaces (APIs) that are used for far more complicated tasks, such as video, animation and 3D graphics. This high level of complexity has brought a never-ending string of vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

Embassies is Microsoft's attempt to present a simpler alternative than the browser which can be a lot more secure. The architecture has a simple execution environment that would use only 30 functions in interacting with the client's execution interface (CEI). Displaying content would essentially be a screencast from the container to the user's screen.

Developers would be responsible for packaging their own libraries with their applications. If malicious code gets in, the container would prevent it from infecting the computer. Of course the downside of this is that developers of web applications are often terrible at security and for the system to work, these guys have to be on the ball.

Nick Farrell

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