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Finjan
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In the interest of full disclosure, we should note that both authors are members of Finjan's Technical Advisory Board. Our membership on Finjan's TAB does not constitute an endorsement of the company or its products. Originally based in Israel and now headquartered in California, Finjan Software, Ltd. was among the first third-party companies to address mobile code security issues (www.finjan.com). Finjan got off to a rough start when some of its early marketing involved the use of scare tactics and what might be called the "Chicken Little" approach to educating the public (and potential clients) about security risks. Its approach to marketing has since matured significantly. Finjan offers a couple of products created for both Win32 and Unix platforms. The first, SurfinShield, is meant to be a browser-level application firewall. The idea is to add some capabilities to the browser to help with mobile code management. SurfinShield comes in several flavors. The second product, SurfinGate, is a firewall product that attempts to identify and categorize mobile code as it arrives at the firewall. SurfinGate carries out some form of content inspection that attempts to peer into the inner workings of Java applets (statically). SurfinCheck is a less-powerful version of SurfinGate. Finjan has had an interesting time in the mobile code security space and has been the target of some particularly scathing criticism. Mark LaDue is especially outspoken about his concerns (see www.rstcorp.com/hostile-applets/rube.html and www.rstcorp.com/hostile-applets/drowning.html). Fortunately, Finjan has taken these criticisms to heart and seems to be working diligently to provide better security products to its customers.
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Digitivity (Citrix)
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Digitivity, the commercial arm of APM, Ltd. in Cambridge, England, was recently acquired by Citrix. The Digitivity approach to mobile code management is particularly sound from a technical perspective. The idea is to identify and route all mobile code to a central server, where it is then executed. This works because all GUI traffic is sent (by specialized protocol) to be displayed on the client browser that originally requested the code. There are two main reasons to centralize the execution of code like this: 1) to expose only the server, what Digitivity calls the CAGE, to possible attack; and 2) to better manage the behavior of mobile code by knowing the exact configuration of the mobile code platform. As we know, different Java VMs behave differently even when they are running the same byte code. If you know for certain which VM a piece of code will run on, it is easier to develop and manage custom enterprise solutions. There is an inescapable irony to the Digitivity CAGE model. The very idea that spawned mobile code systems like Java is the idea of taking advantage of distributed systems by running code on client
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machines instead of running code on something like a centralized Web server. The CAGE model centralizes Java code and works counter to the original Java concept. Still, there are sometimes appealing reasons to centralize the execution of code, whether it is potentially dangerous or not. It is not clear how the CAGE approach will adapt to the new Java 2 security model. The main strength of the CAGE approach is that the mobile code runs on a special machine that simply is not allowed to access user files or initiate network connections under any circumstances. As soon as partially privileged applets enter the picture, this simple approach goes out the window and the CAGE machine faces many of the same problems as existing VMs.
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Security7
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Security7 is an Israeli company with offices in the United States. U.S. sales for Security7 are based in Woburn, Massachusetts. The Security7 approach to mobile code security is to inspect HTTP traffic coming in on all ports. Its SafeGate product requires Windows NT and is most effectively implemented on a standalone box that acts as a proxy server for all HTTP traffic. The idea is to enhance the existing firewall approach with the HTTP filtering system, which is built in to the OS as a device driver. The SafeGate product includes the usual mobile code management capabilities and logging. It appears that Security7 has been active in spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) among potential customers through an organization called WithinReach. This strategy is reminiscent of the early days of the antivirus industry in which some unscrupulous vendors were rumored to have created and released actual viruses. These days, a code of ethics has been developed within the antivirus community that does not permit the FUD strategy. Unscrupulous antivirus vendors are quickly stamped out by more scrupulous vendors. It is pretty obvious that Security7 and WithinReach are closely affiliated (in fact, Security7 has openly admitted this). Assaf Arkin, a Security7 customer support manager, is also the administrative and technical contact listed in the DNS records of WithinReach. Other evidence includes the fact that one of the hostile applets hosted by WithinReach was signed with a digital certificate registered to Richard Kosinski, Security7's vice president of marketing. The signature has since been changed. InfoWorld broke a story about the relationship between Security7 and WithinReach in late August 1998. Until recently, the WithinReach site hosted a number of hostile applets, including a port of the Cult of the Dead Cow's famous Back Orifice loader to Java. None of the applets on the site exploits any security holes in Java; instead, the applets require permission to be granted by the user in order to do anything harmful. That is, the applets are signed and request special permission to step outside of the sandbox. The applets thus serve to emphasize the role that a human can play in mobile code security. In this sense, the WithinReach applets may provide an interesting service. Nevertheless, we do not believe that it is ethical for third-party security vendors to create security problems for their products to address. Fortunately,
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