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Java insecurity - long - argumentative - you are warned.


>From the Java Web pages (as combined in Firewalls/BoS):

> The language's security features (not just applets):
> (http://java.sun.com/whitePaper/javawhitepaper_6.html#HEADING15)
> 4.2 Security in the Java Environment
> Security commands a high premium in the growing use of the Internet
> for products and services ranging from electronic distribution of
> software and multimedia content, to "digital cash". The area of
> security with which we're concerned here is how the Java compiler and
> run-time system restrict application programmers from creating
> subversive code.

But not non-subversive code?  Sounds like a value judgement to me.
Subversive code is not otherwise defined in these documents.

> The Java language compiler and run-time system implement several
> layers of defense against potentially incorrect code.

Is incorrect code subversive?  Vica versa? Does Java provide defenses
against my code not properly calculating numbers?

> One of the Java
> compiler's primary lines of defense is its memory allocation and
> reference model. Simply put, Java does not have "pointers" in the
> traditional C and C++ sense--memory cells that contain the addresses
> of other memory cells.
> Memory layout decisions are not made by the compiler, as they are in C
> and C++. Rather, memory layout is deferred to run-time, and will
> potentially differ depending on the characteristics of the hardware
> and software platforms on which the Java language system is
> executing. The Java interpreter references memory via symbolic
> "handles" that are resolved to real memory addresses at run time. Java
> programmers can't forge pointers to memory, because the memory
> allocation and referencing model is completely opaque to the
> programmer and controlled entirely by the underlying run-time system.

Just because it is opaque, doesn't mean you can't happen across a valid
(but perhaps undesirable) handle.  Sounds like a good issue for attack
by crypto-types.  How do we guess the handle of the disk IO routines?

> Very late binding of structures to memory means that programmers can't
> infer the physical memory layout of a class by looking at its
> declaration. By removing the C/C++ memory layout and pointer models,
> the Java language has eliminated the programmer's ability to get
> behind the scenes and manufacture pointers to memory. These features
> must be viewed as positive benefits rather than a restriction on the
> programmer, because they ultimately lead to more reliable and secure
> applications.

Is the language un-predictable? The same program executes differently
each time? A pseudo-random allocation? What is the technique used to
implement this, and why should we believe it is in fact secure in some
sense.  And if so, in what sense?

> The Byte Code Verification Process
> What about the concept of a "hostile compiler"? Although the Java
> compiler ensures that Java source code doesn't violate the safety
> rules,

What are these "safety rules"?  No reference to them in this document!

> when an application such as the HotJava web browser imports a
> code fragment from anywhere, it doesn't actually know if code
> fragments follow the Java language rules for safety--the code may not
> have been produced by a known-to-be trustworthy Java compiler. In such
> a case, how is the Java run-time system on your machine to trust the
> incoming byte code stream? The answer is simple--it doesn't trust the
> incoming code, but subjects it to byte code verification.
> The tests range from simple verification that the format of a code
> fragment is correct, to passing through a simple theorem prover to
> establish that the code fragment plays by the rules--that it doesn't
> forge pointers, it doesn't violate access restrictions, and it
> accesses objects as what they are (for example, that "InputStream"
> objects are always used as "InputStreams" and never as anything
> else). A language that is safe, plus run-time verification of
> generated code, establishes a base set of guarantees that interfaces
> cannot be violated.

Wait a minute.  If it's so safe, what code can possibly be sent in that
would cause a violation? If the prover is so simple, how can it show
things (e.g., program correctness) in real-time on a PC that the rest of
the world can't show with supercomputers over extended periods? What
EXACTLY are these things doing, and why should we believe they are safe?

> The Byte Code Verifier
> The last phase of the byte code loader is the verifier. It traverses
> the byte codes, constructs the type state information, and verifies
> the types of the parameters to all the byte code instructions.

> The illustration [see the HTML] shows the flow of data and control
> from Java language source code through the Java compiler, to the byte
> code verifier and hence on to the Java interpreter. The important
> issue is that the Java class loader and the byte code verifier make no
> assumptions about the primary source of the byte code stream--the code
> may have come from the local system, or it may have travelled halfway
> around the planet. The byte code verifier acts as a sort of
> gatekeeper. The byte code verifier ensures that the code passed to the
> Java interpreter is in a fit state to be executed and can run without
> fear of breaking the Java interpreter.

So there are byte code sequences that can break the interpreter!

> Imported code is not allowed to
> execute by any means until after it has passed the verifier's
> tests. Once the verifier is done, a number of important properties are
> known:
>       There are no operand stack overflows or underflows

Not so easily proven, is it?

>       The types of the parameters of all byte code instructions are
> 	known to always be correct

Huh? I thought you couldn't have incorrect types.  Do they mean that you
can have incorrect types but that they are detected by the verifier at
load time?

>       No illegal data conversions are done, like converting integers
> 	to pointers

How about legal ones - like converting integers to pointers via case

>       Object field accesses are known to be legal--private or public
> 	or protected

What exactly does this mean?

> While all this checking appears excruciatingly detailed, by the time
> the byte code verifier has done its work, the Java interpreter can
> proceed knowing that the code will run securely. Knowing these
> properties makes the Java interpreter much faster, because it doesn't
> have to check anything.  There are no operand type checks and no stack
> overflow checks. The interpreter can thus function at full speed
> without compromising reliability.

Can computers actually "know" anything?

No runtime checking whatsoever.  Get past the supposed verifier, and you
have free run of the machine.  A single verifier bug or inadequacy, and
the world is unsafe for electronic commerce.  And has the Java code been
verified to prove the claimed properties?  Against what criteria?  Where's
the beef?

> Security Checks in the Class Loader
> After incoming code has been vetted and determined clean by the byte
> code verifier, the next line of defense is the Java class loader. The
> environment seen by a thread of execution running Java byte codes can
> be visualized as a set of classes partitioned into separate name
> spaces. There is one name space for classes that come from the local
> file system, and a separate name space for each network source.
> When a class is imported from across the network it is placed into the
> private name space associated with its origin. When a class references
> another class, it is first looked for in the name space for the local
> system (built-in classes), then in the name space of the referencing
> class.  There is no way that an imported class can "spoof" a built-in
> class. Built-in classes can never accidentally reference classes in
> imported name spaces--they can only reference such classes
> explicitly. Similarly, classes imported from different places are
> separated from each other.

But they can explicitly reference each other? I can only explicitly open
a file called command.com on your PC?

> Security in the Java Networking Package
> Java's networking package provides the interfaces to handle the
> various network protocols (FTP, HTTP, Telnet, and so on). This is your
> front line of defense at the network interface level. The networking
> package can be set up with configurable levels of paranoia. You can:
>       Disallow all network accesses 
>       Allow all network accesses 
>       Allow network accesses to only the hosts from which the code was
> 	imported
>       Allow network accesses only outside the firewall if the code
> 	came from outside

Who wants to bet that 99+% of all users configure "Allow all network
accesses".  Hot Java today is defaulted to this state. 

> Applet-specific security: (written for the 1.0a3 release of
> HotJava(tm)... there will be a rewrite for the 1.0b release when that
> occurs.  I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that the Netscape
> implementation is similar.  As I understand it, they licensed the HJ
> code from Sun, so I think it's all very close to the truth.)
> (http://java.sun.com/1.0alpha3/doc/security/security.html)
> [ A rehash of the above text, snipped ]
> Security level four: protecting the file system and network access
> HotJava enforces security policies confident that its security
> interfaces are secure.

In other words, it assumes the other three levels worked properly.
If they don't, you're screwed.

> The three lower levels of security guarantee
> that all local classes, e.g., the file access primitives, are
> themselves protected from being supplanted, replaced, or extended by
> imported code.

You're screwed.

> The file access primitives implement an access control list that
> controls read and write access to files by imported code (or code
> invoked by imported code). The defaults for these access control lists
> are very restrictive[*]. If an attempt is made by a piece of imported
> code to access a file to which access has not been granted, a dialog
> box pops up to allow the user to decide whether or not to allow that
> specific access. These security policies err on the conservative side
> in order to ensure maximum security. This conservative approach may
> make writing some applets more difficult or awkward.

By default - ask the user.  That's restrictive? Please press the OK
button to have our free Lotus update loaded into your computer.

> For network security, HotJava provides a variety of mechanisms that
> can provide information about the trustworthiness of imported
> code. These mechanisms cover a wide range of possibilities. At the
> simple end the system can check on the origin of a code fragment to
> determine if it came from inside or outside a firewall.  At the
> sophisticated end of the range a mechanism exists whereby public keys
> and cryptographic message digests can be securely attached to code
> fragments that not only identify who originated the code, but
> guarantee its integrity as well. This latter mechanism will be
> implemented in future releases.

So today, if the admin specifies the proper IP address ranges when
loading Java into each computer in the network, and if no user ever
installs Java on their own, "code" downloads from external machines
may be stopped - unless the user says OK.

> The security policies implemented by the runtime system can be
> dynamically adjusted based on the information available concerning the
> origin of a code fragment. The Socket class provides such an example.
> The Socket class implements security policies that are adjusted to
> reflect the trustworthiness of the code that invoked it, and
> transitively, the code that invoked the invoker. The information about
> what code began the chain of execution is available to the class in
> the form of which namespace contains the invoking code and what
> parameters are associated with that class. The class loader puts the
> classes it has loaded in a specific namespace, allowing the Socket
> class to determine the network host from which a class is loaded.
> Knowing the network host allows the HotJava security mechanism to
> determine whether the class originated inside or outside a
> firewall. Knowledgable users of HotJava can decide which category of
> hosts to trust when loading executable code.

How about the more than 99.99% of users who are not knowledgable of HotJava?

> For example, the Socket
> class can implement the policy of only allowing new connections to be
> created that terminate at the host from whence the code was
> loaded. This restriction means that code loaded from outside a
> firewall cannot connect to other machines on the net behind the
> firewall.

Unless that machine acts as a gateway for further processing.

> Code that comes from more trusted sources can be allowed
> more freedom to make connections to other machines. As an additional
> defense against untrusted sources HotJava's security can be set to
> prevent any code from being loaded. The level of security is
> configurable by HotJava users.

The user dictates the security policy.  Any user in your site can
potentially, through error or omission or intent, open up a hole to your
entire network by accidentally pressing the OK button one time or by
setting a configuration parameter incorrectly.  And your firewall will
not save you.



When: Tuesday, November 7, 8AM
Where: The Hilton, Washington D.C. (the CSI conference)
The talk: 50 Ways to Attack Your World Wide Web Systems

If you want a chance to heckle - be there.

-> See: Info-Sec Heaven at URL http://all.net
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