Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Pat Romanski, Ed Featherston, Liz McMillan, Shelly Palmer, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Machine Learning , 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.


@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software in the hope of capturing value in IoT. Although IoT is relatively new in the market, it has already gone through many promotional terms such as IoE, IoX, SDX, Edge/Fog, Mist Compute, etc. Ultimately, irrespective of the name, it is about deriving value from independent software assets participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution.
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across supply chain networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation's open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost and time for product recall as well as advance trade. Are you curious about Blockchain and how it can provide you with new opportunities for innovation and growth? In her session at 20th Cloud Exp...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
As pervasive as cloud technology is -- and as persuasive as the arguments are for using it -- the cloud has its limits. Some companies will always have security concerns about storing data in the cloud and certain high-transaction applications will always be better suited for on-premises storage. Those statements were among the bottom-line takeaways delivered at Cloud Expo this week, a three day, bi-annual event focused on cloud technologies, adoption and associated challenges.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists will examine how DevOps helps to meet th...
Building a cross-cloud operational model can be a daunting task. Per-cloud silos are not the answer, but neither is a fully generic abstraction plane that strips out capabilities unique to a particular provider. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Wolf, VP & Chief Technology Officer, Global Field & Industry at VMware, will discuss how successful organizations approach cloud operations and management, with insights into where operations should be centralized and when it’s best to decentraliz...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, CTO of Embotics, will discuss how automation can provide the dynamic management required to cost-effectively deliver microservices and container solutions at scale. He will discuss how flexible automation is the key to effectively bridging and seamlessly coordinating both IT and developer needs for component orchestration across disparate clouds – an increasingly important requirement at today’s multi-cloud enterprise.
Developers want to create better apps faster. Static clouds are giving way to scalable systems, with dynamic resource allocation and application monitoring. You won't hear that chant from users on any picket line, but helping developers to create better apps faster is the mission of Lee Atchison, principal cloud architect and advocate at New Relic Inc., based in San Francisco. His singular job is to understand and drive the industry in the areas of cloud architecture, microservices, scalability ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...