When Holes Happen in Java

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When Holes Happen
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The chronology presented here has an interesting meta-level property. Both in August 1996 and in August 1997 several months followed in which no major security holes were discovered. Interestingly, the period of six months in late 1996 was of long enough duration that some Java evangelists began to claim that all Java holes had been discovered and that Java was completely secure. They were wrong. First of all, anyone who claims any program or programming language is completely secure should be viewed with suspicion. There is no such thing as 100-percent security; the best we can do is minimize risk. This goes for Java as well as any other computer system. Fortunately, Java mitigates many risks that competing systems of mobile code like ActiveX and JavaScript do not (see 1, "Mobile Code and Security: Why Java Security Is Important," for details). This makes Java more secure than those systems, but it does not make Java perfectly secure. Short of proving Java correct (which is unlikely ever to happen given the state of formal methods), we must live with potential security holes. Second, the pattern in the chronology corresponds with major releases of the JDK. The gap between August 1996 and February 1997 included the time period when JDK 1.02 was in common use and JDK 1.1 had not yet been released. As soon as JDK 1.1 was released, some new holes were discovered. The same sort of gap appeared as Java 2 slowly trickled out. This reflects two facts: 1) each major release includes much new functionality, and 2) Java is complicated, and complicated systems always include room for error. From these facts, it is natural to infer that the discovery of holes will coincide with major releases.
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... Preface -- 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4 -- 5 -- 6 -- 7 -- 8 -- 9 -- A -- B -- C -- Refs Front -- Contents -- Help
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Copyright 1999 Gary McGraw and Edward Felten. All rights reserved. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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Attack Applets: Exploiting Holes in the Security Model
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CHAPTER SECTIONS: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20
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Section 3 -- What Applets Aren't Supposed to Do
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2, "The Base Java Security Model: The Original Applet Sandbox," and 3, "Beyond the Sandbox: Signed Code and Java 2," discussed the Java security model at length. Java's designers tried to ensure that untrusted or partially trusted applets could not misbehave by placing them in an adjustable sandbox. For a concise listing of things that untrusted Java applets should not be allowed to do, see 2. It is also worth reading the "Frequently Asked Questions-Java Security'' Web page served by Sun Microsystems at java.javasoft.com/sfaq. In order to provide concrete examples of Java security policies that work, Sun's Security FAQ page includes pointers to a number of applets that cannot get around Java security. The good news is that some straightforward approaches to breaching security will fail. The bad news is that crackers usually don't give up after the straightforward approach fails. Fortunately, neither do security researchers. It is always interesting to get an objective outsider's opinion about Java security. That is probably one of the reasons you are reading this book. Appendix A, "Frequently Asked Questions: Java Security, Java versus ActiveX," includes a hard copy of two of the Princeton Secure Internet Programming team's Java Security FAQs. An up-to-the-minute version of the FAQs can be found at www.cs.princeton.edu/sip/javafaq.html.
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... Preface -- 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4 -- 5 -- 6 -- 7 -- 8 -- 9 -- A -- B -- C -- Refs Front -- Contents -- Help
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Copyright 1999 Gary McGraw and Edward Felten. All rights reserved. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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