W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webcrypto@w3.org > October 2012

Re: Was: Draft Blog Post on Cryptography API, Now: Potential API recommendation caveats

From: Ryan Sleevi <sleevi@google.com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2012 15:11:01 -0700
Message-ID: <CACvaWva4vWK0V0NJ8w1gvXjLVSBLP+00m3-VegaMTaP7Z-4yXw@mail.gmail.com>
To: David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com>
Cc: David Rogers <david.rogers@copperhorses.com>, public-webcrypto@w3.org, hhalpin@w3.org
On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 2:13 PM, David Dahl <ddahl@mozilla.com> wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Ryan Sleevi" <sleevi@google.com>
>> To: "David Dahl" <ddahl@mozilla.com>
>> Cc: "David Rogers" <david.rogers@copperhorses.com>, public-webcrypto@w3.org, hhalpin@w3.org
>> Sent: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 3:41:22 PM
>> Subject: Re: Was: Draft Blog Post on Cryptography API, Now: Potential API  recommendation caveats
>> It sounds like your solution offers nothing more than a signature on
>> the (initial) code, which is the same as offered by a number of
>> existing extension mechanisms (eg: Both Firefox and Chromium)
>> Again, you make reference to a more "trustworthy" environment, but
>> it's unclear what your concerns are that you feel are mitigated here.
>> An extension/Open Web App/SysApp that say, calls eval on the result
>> of
>> an XHR over HTTP, is just as likely to get owned as a web page.
> I think this would be much less likely, but is of course still possible.

It is incredibly common and a frequent point of research into
extension security. As demonstrated by the literature, the concerns
apply to all of the existing extension mechanisms (Chrome, Firefox,
Safari). Chrome tried to restrict extensions even more - and other
browsers have followed and perhaps surpassed in some areas - but I
think it's a fundamental issue.

For example - http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~afelt/extensionvulnerabilities.pdf

Excerpt from Section 3

"We reviewed 100 Google Chrome extensions from the official directory.
This set comprised of the 50 most popular extensions and 50
randomly-selected extensions from June 2011. Section 3.1 presents our
extension review methodology. Our security review found that 40% of
the extensions contain vulnerabilities, and Section 3.2 describes the
vulnerabilities. Section 3.3 presents our observation that 31% of
developers do not follow even the simplest security best practices."

Extensions/Firefox OS apps/"Open Web Apps" can request data over HTTP,
rather than HTTPS. They can use innerHTML instead of innerText (thus
causing inline script execution). They can use eval rather than

Neither the Chrome/Chromium nor the Firefox/Firefox OS architecture
prevent the malleability of the runtime, which you seem to be
asserting. While it may prevent some forms of XSS persistence,
Facebook's example shows that extensions can be compromised
persistently as well, without invalidating the code signature.

I'm not the person to talk about extension security for Chrome, and in
previous discussions, I've understood you to make the same claim for
yourself regarding Firefox, but I think we must be clear here that
while "SysApps" can offer a number of compelling solutions, they are
not a single and isolated solution - and in fact, may offer less
security than that offered by SSL+CSP.

>> While I appreciate the security concern, I feel like there's some
>> handwaving here that it's better, and I'm trying to understand the
>> concrete concerns here. Is it just that the (initial) code is signed
>> (since it can always change later)?
> If the code changes, it was again signed and is again verified upon re-install

Incorrect. This can be circumvented through a number of means.

>> That the user explicitly installed
>> the extension (which seems wholly unrelated to malleability or any of
>> the other security concerns raised)
> True.
>> What I'm trying to tease out here is what security properties are
>> *unique* to what you're proposing that are not already available to
>> the web platform, AND why you feel those security properties are
>> essential to the API.
>> To put it differently, if the API required CSP and an HTTPS origin,
>> what concerns do you have that fundamentally non-applicable to your
>> Extension/"Open Web App" scenario?
> I think a locally installed, verified application fetched from an "honest broker" like Mozilla's or Google's AppStores is far and away a better security risk than a web page - even with HTTPS and CSP.

I fear I must re-ask the question. I'm well aware that you consider
AppStores to be better security (though I respectfully disagree). What
I'm trying to find out is *why* you think that.

Is the assumption that all extensions/apps are scanned for "hostile"
code or poor security? That's a halting problem - it's an unrealistic
expectation. Sure, it may offer the ability for blacklisting, but as
any user of any app store ever (Google, Apple, Mozilla, Amazon, Cydia,
etc) can tell you, it's not a perfect solution.

As I demonstrated above, the "code signing" does in no way prevent
mutation of the extension or hot patching - whether the extension
starts out innocent (and is compromised) or hostile (and is
maliciously abused). So what *else* is useful here?

Restricting cookie jars? Privilege separation? These are things
already implemented today in browsers such as Chrome and their
multi-process model. So I can appreciate Firefox's interest in it, but
I think you may be conflating two ideas if you think it's necessary to
use "web apps" to get those benefits. Chrome (and even Webkit2 as used
by Safari) demonstrate it can be used within origins on the general

I'm just trying to be pragmatic and tease out what you see our
security *requirements* are, as opposed to the method of how they
should be accomplished. I think this will be essential to updating the
spec appropriately with any recommendations, and is the point multiple
members raised during our previous con-call (that we should focus on
the security requirements, rather than the implementation details)
Received on Tuesday, 9 October 2012 22:11:29 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Tuesday, 9 October 2012 22:11:30 GMT