Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Rob Markovich, Joe Pruitt, SmartBear Blog, Pat Romanski, Greg O'Connor

Related Topics: Cloud Security, IoT User Interface, Agile Computing

Cloud Security: Article

Discoverer of JSON Recommends Suspension of HTML5

Douglas Crockford: "The HTML5 proposal does not attempt to correct the XSS problem."

"There is much that is attractive about HTML5," says Douglas Crockford, known to millions of developers as the discoverer of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), the widely used lightweight data-interchange format.

"But ultimately," Crockford continues, "the thing that made the browser into a credible application delivery system was JavaScript,
the ultimate workaround tool." The problem is that there is what he calls "a painful gap" in the specification of the interface between JavaScript and the browser. The result? XSS and other maladies. The responsible course of action, Crockford contends, is to correct that defect first before pushing ahead with HTML5.



In an email exchange with Jeremy Geelan, here is what Crockford (pictured above) says, in his own words...

"The most serious defect in web browsers is the incorrectly named Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability. XSS enables an attacker to inject code into a web page that runs with the authority of the site that issued the page. The rights granted to the attacker include the right to interact with the server, the right to scrape data from the page, the right to modify the page, the right to dialog with the user, the right to load additional scripts from any server in the world, and the right to transmit the data it obtained from the server, the page, and the user to any server in the world. This is dangerous stuff.

XSS is misnamed for two reasons. First, it is not necessary for a second site to be involved. Sites that can reflect user generated content can be attacked without the participation of a second site. But more importantly, XSS suggests that cross site scripting is a bad thing. In fact, cross site scripting is a highly beneficial thing. It is what enables mashups. Cross site scripting enables Ajax libraries, analytics, and advertising. The problem is that the browser's security model did not anticipate mashups.

The XSS problem comes from two fundamental problems. The first is that the language of the web is unnecessarily complicated. HTML can be embedded in HTTP, and HTML can have embedded in it URLs, CSS, and JavaScript. JavaScript can be embedded in URLs and CSS. Each of these languages has different encoding, escapement, and commenting conventions. Statically determining that a piece of text will not become malicious when inserted into an HTML document is surprisingly difficult. There is a huge and growing set of techniques by which an attacker can disguise a payload that can avoid detection. New techniques are discovered all the time, and usually the attackers find them first. The web was not designed as a system. Instead it was a sloppy cobbling, and that sloppiness aids the enemy.

The second problem is that all scripts on a page run with the same authority. The browser has a better security model than desktop systems because it can distinguish between the interests of the user and the interests of the program (or website). But the browser failed to anticipate that there could be other scripts that represent additional interests. As a result, the browser is confused, treating all scripts as equally trusted to represent a site, even when it has loaded scripts from different sites.

This problem first appeared 15 years ago in Netscape Navigator 2. Those developers could be forgiven for having not foreseen the way that browsers would ultimately be used. But to have this problem incorporated into web standards and left in place for 15 years is intolerable. This problem must be fixed.

The HTML5 proposal does not attempt to correct the XSS problem and actually makes it worse in three ways:

1. HTML5 is huge and bloated. It is likely that this bloat will create new opportunities for malicious script injection.

2. HTML5 adds powerful new capabilities (such as local database and cross-site networking) that become fully available to the attacker.

3. HTML5 is a large effort. The solution of the XSS problem may have to wait until HTML5 is completed, which could be years away.

The fundamental mistake in HTML5 was one of prioritization. It should have tackled the browser's most important problem first. Once the platform was secured, then shiny new features could be carefully added.

There is much that is attractive about HTML5. But ultimately the thing that made the browser into a credible application delivery system was JavaScript, the ultimate workaround tool. There is a painful gap in the specification of the interface between JavaScript and the browser, and that is a source of XSS and other maladies. The responsible course of action was to correct that defect first.

That course is still available to us. My recommendation is that we suspend the current HTML5 activity. We start over with a new charter: To quickly and effectively repair the XSS vulnerability. Then we can mine the bloated HTML5 set for features that have high value and which do not introduce new security vulnerabilities.

HTML5 has a lot of momentum and appears to be doomed to succeed. I think the wiser course is to get it right first. We have learned the hard way that once an error gets into a web standard, it is really hard to get it out.

What do you think? Add your feedback below.

More Stories By Douglas Crockford

Douglas Crockford, an architect at Yahoo!, is an AJAXWorld regular. A technologist of parts, he has developed office automation systems, done research in games and music at Atari, and been both Director of Technology at Lucasfilm and Director of New Media at Paramount. He was the founder and CEO of Electric Communities/Communities.com and the founder and CTO of State Software, where he discovered JSON. He is interested in Blissymbolics, a graphical, symbolic language, and is developing a secure programming language.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
Akana has released Envision, an enhanced API analytics platform that helps enterprises mine critical insights across their digital eco-systems, understand their customers and partners and offer value-added personalized services. “In today’s digital economy, data-driven insights are proving to be a key differentiator for businesses. Understanding the data that is being tunneled through their APIs and how it can be used to optimize their business and operations is of paramount importance,” said Alistair Farquharson, CTO of Akana.
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
The enterprise market will drive IoT device adoption over the next five years. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Greenough, an analyst at BI Intelligence, division of Business Insider, analyzed how companies will adopt IoT products and the associated cost of adopting those products. John Greenough is the lead analyst covering the Internet of Things for BI Intelligence- Business Insider’s paid research service. Numerous IoT companies have cited his analysis of the IoT. Prior to joining BI Intelligence, he worked analyzing bank technology for Corporate Insight and The Clearing House Payment...
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
"Optimal Design is a technology integration and product development firm that specializes in connecting devices to the cloud," stated Joe Wascow, Co-Founder & CMO of Optimal Design, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and simplified management of data on complex storage networks. CommVault's exclusive single-platform architecture gives companies unp...
Electric Cloud and Arynga have announced a product integration partnership that will bring Continuous Delivery solutions to the automotive Internet-of-Things (IoT) market. The joint solution will help automotive manufacturers, OEMs and system integrators adopt DevOps automation and Continuous Delivery practices that reduce software build and release cycle times within the complex and specific parameters of embedded and IoT software systems.
"ciqada is a combined platform of hardware modules and server products that lets people take their existing devices or new devices and lets them be accessible over the Internet for their users," noted Geoff Engelstein of ciqada, a division of Mars International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.