W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webapps@w3.org > April to June 2008

Re: [AC] Helping server admins not making mistakes

From: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2008 11:51:06 -0700
Message-ID: <4856B61A.40409@sicking.cc>
To: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>, "WAF WG (public)" <public-appformats@w3.org>, public-webapps@w3.org

Your proposal seems to be two-fold:

1. Drop the <?Access-Control?> PI
2. Simplify the syntax for the Access-Control HTTP header such
    that you can no longer list multiple sites, but rather just
    a single one.

I must admit that I've thought about 2 as well. It's mostly just a 
change in syntax, is the client origin compared to a list of allowed 
URIs, or just a single URI.

The only downside I can think of is that it gets harder to separate the 
policy in a configuration file, such as apaches .htaccess, for sites 
that only want to whitelist a small set of sites, but which remain the 
same for all users. One example would be www.cnn.com wanting to 
whitelist cnn.com and cnnpolitics.com in order to allow those sites to 
read user private data, such as a list of recently read articles, or 
home zipcode.

If we remove the whitelist you could still in theory write a server 
module that echoes back the origin for those sites, but it is a lot more 

What I do like about the proposal is that if someone forgets to add the 
Vary:Origin header, the result is failing towards being more secure.

However we probably do want to add the ability to allow sharing with 
'*', in order to allow sharing of static resources (especially non-XML 
ones). I think requiring everyone that want to share static public data 
to write a server module that echos back the Origin header with a new 
name is a pretty high bar.

On removing <?Access-Control?> PI. I do think that enabling simple 
sharing of for example XBL bindings and XSLT stylesheets is something 
that UAs are likely to do no matter what we put in this spec. As a 
recent example I can point to the number of complaints we are getting 
about the fact that XSLT stylesheets obey the same-origin policy, while 
CSS stylesheets do not. This increased a lot when we tightened the 
same-origin algorithm for local-file URIs in FF3.

If we want to put this PI in *this* spec or not can still be debated of 
course. However note that you'll likely have to deal with the reality of 
an PI with the same functionality no matter what. If we put it in this 
spec we can at least ensure that there is a single comprehensible 
cross-site spec, and that we apply good security principals to the 
features in that spec.

Like Hixie pointed out, even if we remove the PI from this spec, it is 
likely that the same feature will appear elsewhere.

/ Jonas

Thomas Roessler wrote:
> On 2008-06-12 14:10:56 -0700, Jonas Sicking wrote:
>> My concern with the current spec is that once a server in the
>> pre-flight request has opted in to the Access-Control spec, it is
>> not going to be able to "correctly" handle all the possible
>> requests that are enabled by the opt-in. With "correctly" here
>> defined as what the server operator had in mind when opting in.
> I share that concern, and I think that your Range example (while
> demonstrating the danger of a particularly stupid hypothetical
> implementations) in fact illustrates two very real dangers of the
> current model:
>  - for XML content, the authorization can be triggered by the
>    content, and can't be filtered on the HTTP level
>  - quite generally, the fact that we are moving toward a model with
>    relatively complex messaging from the server to the client means
>    that server-side filtering is more difficult (and therefore
>    error-prone than it needs to be).  The fact that we put the
>    default enforcement point on the client (despite the
>    *possibility* for server-side enforcement) means that, for many
>    web applications, the same code paths that confuse GET and FOOBAR
>    in existing web applications will get exercised for serving the
>    policies, e.g. in response to a preflight check.  Additionally,
>    other weird behavior (such as unknown headers) might further be
>    used to cause a badly written web application to send data to the
>    client that is then interpreted as an authorization -- even when
>    that wasn't intended by the application author at all.
> Therefore, I'd propose two additional requirements:
>    Servers should be able to easily recognize and handle cross-site
>    requests by inspecting HTTP requests, without having to
>    manipulate the HTTP response they send.
>    Servers should be able to easily recognize and handle any
>    authorization data that are sent back to the client, by only
>    inspecting HTTP response headers.
> Put differently, I'd like to be able to implement the server side of
> all of this as a separate module or in an HTTP proxy.
> The second requirement above rules out the processing instruction.
> Let's get rid of it.
> Both requirements together mandate two things:
> - Extreme simplicity.
> - Making information about the party that causes the cross-domain
>   request to occur available to the server.
> Now, I don't think the current model is all bad -- as has been
> discussed ad nauseam, some policy enforcement *must* happen on the
> client, that's inevitable.
> However, I'd like to look again at a simpler model:
> - Let's keep most of the processing model (including the pre-flight
>   check), and let's keep the Origin header.
> - Let's throw away the policy language.  Instead, let's add a single
>   header to the HTTP Response:
>   Authorize-XDomain-Origin: http://.....
>   That header can carry a single origin, nothing else.
> In terms of processing model changes, read access would only be
> permitted if the origin of the request matches the origin of that
> response header.
> Pre-flight checks would only succeed if the origin of the request
> matches the origin of that response header. against 
> To deal with different policies for different origins, send
> different answers depedingn on the HTTP request's origin header. Use
> "Vary: Origin" to control cache behavior.
> The main benefit of this approach is that there is a single response
> header that would have to be checked in an HTTP response filter, in
> order to exclude weird server-side processing from enabling bad
> client-side behavior.  A paranoid site could even perform the
> comparison of Origin and Authorize-XDomain-Origin headers in a
> firewall, and (paranoidly) replace responses to unauthorized
> cross-domai requests with a 403 -- without having to implement the
> entire policy language.
> My preference would be to not differentiate by method in the
> client-side decisions, but force the server to do that --
> preferably, in fact, by way of a dedicated Web server module that
> can live outside the web application proper, and has a configuration
> setup that fails safely.  (Yeah, I know, dream on. *sigh*)
> If people here think that a differentiation by method is really
> called for, then the model I'm suggesting would at least give that
> differentiation the same granularity that is present for all the
> other decisions; I consider that consistency a very good thing.
> Thoughts?
Received on Monday, 16 June 2008 18:52:35 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Friday, 27 October 2017 07:26:09 UTC