The Base Java Security Model: The Original Applet Sandbox in Java

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The Base Java Security Model: The Original Applet Sandbox
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Section 1 -- Potential Threats
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Java applets are far more powerful than the usual HTML code served up on the Web. When not restricted by applet-security measures, Java is a complete and powerful programming language capable of sending information over the network; reading, altering, or deleting files; using system resources; and so on. This is powerful stuff, and in the hands of a malicious programmer (or even just a sloppy or incompetent programmer), Java code could do some damage to a user's system. People surfing the Web should not be burdened with such worries (although developers and system administrators unfortunately must be). So from a user's perspective, Java should put these worries to rest by providing an automatic security solution. Java should restrict itself such that the full power and potential of the Java language is not misused. After all, who wants to run a Java applet that erases your hard disk And who wants to develop or distribute an applet that accidentally erases someone else's hard disk The design problem lies in the fact that programs running on a personal computer usually have unlimited access to all of the machine's resources. (That's what we mean when we say that ActiveX controls are omnipotent.) Most PC applications are total system tyrants while they run. But if the Java applets you retrieve from the Web have been written by someone else, you should not trust them to perform with integrity. Unless you grant Java code special privileges, Java downloaded from the Net is automatically considered untrusted code. In order to ensure that untrusted code does nothing mischievous, it is important to limit what that untrusted code can do. Of course, completely limiting access to a system defeats the purpose of having executable content in the first place. After all, who wants to run a program that is not allowed to do anything And who wants to develop or distribute such a program Somehow these two extremes need to be balanced. Java applets need enough power to do some things and sufficient restrictions so that they can't do others. The solution is controlling access to system resources carefully. This is what the Java security model aims to do. Before we talk about the internals of the Java security model, it is important to discuss the potential problems raised by mobile code. There are four basic categories of potential attacks Java applets could
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Attacks that modify the system Attacks that invade a user's privacy Attacks that deny legitimate use of the machine by hogging resources Attacks that antagonize a user
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Table 2.1 lists the four classes in order of severity. There will be a brief discussion of each in turn. Keep in mind that this list of attacks is meant only to give a flavor of the kinds of things possible; it is by no means a complete list. Also note that the four attack classes overlap. As we shall see, hostile applets often fall into more than one category. EXPLANATION AND CONSEQUENCES
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ATTACK CLASS
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JAVA DEFENSE
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The most severe class of attacks. Applets that implement such attacks System Modification are attack applets. Consequences of these attacks: severe. If you value your privacy, this attack class may be particularly odious. They are implemented by malicious applets. Include mail forging. Consequences of these attacks: moderate. Also serious but not severely so, these attacks can bring a machine to a standstill. Also implemented by malicious applets. May require reboot. Consequences of these attacks: moderate. Merely annoying, this attack class is the most commonly encountered. Implemented by malicious applets. May require restart of browser. Consequences of these attacks: light to moderate.
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