Google-chrome – Google Chrome forcing download of “f.txt” file

google-chrome

After updating to Chrome 40.0.2214.111, variably when I visit certain Google related sites (like http://youtube.com and get presented with an ad before the video), the browser downloads a file named f.txt.

I do not have any adblock plugins installed.

f.txt contains a few lines of JavaScript…starting with:

if (!window.mraid) {document.write('\x3cdiv class="GoogleActiveViewClass" ' +'id="DfaVisibilityIdentifier_3851468350"\x3e');}document.write('\x3ca target\x3d\x22_blank\x22 href\x3d\x22https://adclick.g.doubleclick.net/pcs/click?xai\x3dAKAOjsvDhmmoi2r124JkMyiBGALWfUlTX-zFA1gEdFeZDgdS3JKiEDPl3iIYGtj9Tv2yTJtASqD6S-yqbuNQH5u6fXm4rThyCZ0plv9SXM-UPKJgH4KSS08c97Eim4i45ewgN9OoG3E_ 

In looking up the issue on Google, others have experienced the same, but I have not found any resolution or understanding of why this is happening. I assume it is a content-disposition related bug with some of the JS files loaded on the page, and will clear up in a future patch.

Wondering if anybody else had experienced / insight.

Best Answer

This issue appears to be causing ongoing consternation, so I will attempt to give a clearer answer than the previously posted answers, which only contain partial hints as to what's happening.

  • Some time around the summer of 2014, IT Security Engineer Michele Spagnuolo (apparently employed at Google Zurich) developed a proof-of-concept exploit and supporting tool called Rosetta Flash that demonstrated a way for hackers to run malicious Flash SWF files from a remote domain in a manner which tricks browsers into thinking it came from the same domain the user was currently browsing. This allows bypassing of the "same-origin policy" and can permit hackers a variety of exploits. You can read the details here: https://miki.it/blog/2014/7/8/abusing-jsonp-with-rosetta-flash/
    • Known affected browsers: Chrome, IE
    • Possibly unaffected browsers: Firefox
  • Adobe has released at least 5 different fixes over the past year while trying to comprehensively fix this vulnerability, but various major websites also introduced their own fixes earlier on in order to prevent mass vulnerability to their userbases. Among the sites to do so: Google, Youtube, Facebook, Github, and others. One component of the ad-hoc mitigation implemented by these website owners was to force the HTTP Header Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=f.txt on the returns from JSONP endpoints. This has the annoyance of causing the browser to automatically download a file called f.txt that you didn't request—but it is far better than your browser automatically running a possibly malicious Flash file.
  • In conclusion, the websites you were visiting when this file spontaneously downloaded are not bad or malicious, but some domain serving content on their pages (usually ads) had content with this exploit inside it. Note that this issue will be random and intermittent in nature because even visiting the same pages consecutively will often produce different ad content. For example, the advertisement domain ad.doubleclick.net probably serves out hundreds of thousands of different ads and only a small percentage likely contain malicious content. This is why various users online are confused thinking they fixed the issue or somehow affected it by uninstalling this program or running that scan, when in fact it is all unrelated. The f.txt download just means you were protected from a recent potential attack with this exploit and you should have no reason to believe you were compromised in any way.
  • The only way I'm aware that you could stop this f.txt file from being downloaded again in the future would be to block the most common domains that appear to be serving this exploit. I've put a short list below of some of the ones implicated in various posts. If you wanted to block these domains from touching your computer, you could add them to your firewall or alternatively you could use the HOSTS file technique described in the second section of this link: http://www.chromefans.org/chrome-tutorial/how-to-block-a-website-in-google-chrome.htm
  • Short list of domains you could block (by no means a comprehensive list). Most of these are highly associated with adware and malware:
    • ad.doubleclick.net
    • adclick.g.doubleclick.net
    • secure-us.imrworldwide.com
    • d.turn.com
    • ad.turn.com
    • secure.insightexpressai.com
    • core.insightexpressai.com