Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd Nov 2011 22:54 UTC
Mac OS X And so the iOS-ification of Mac OS X continues. Apple has just announced that all applications submitted to the Mac App Store have to use sandboxing by March 2012. While this has obvious security advantages, the concerns are numerous - especially since Apple's current sandboxing implementation and associated rules makes a whole lot of applications impossible.
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RE[3]: Comment by frderi
by Neolander on Sun 6th Nov 2011 12:01 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by frderi"
Neolander
Member since:
2010-03-08

"It is my understanding that in such a case, you actually need at least two vulnerabilities. One to make the web browser execute arbitrary code, and one to make this code break through the OS-level isolation of the web browser. The second vulnerability lies not in the web browser itself, but in system software which it relies on, system software that does itself run as root. But I am not a computer security expert either, so I guess we're stuck there."

The net result is the same, a compromised device.

But the probability is much, much weaker. And if instead of crafting gigantic system components running as root you design the OS as a set of small components with limited responsibility and security permissions, the amount of chained exploits that one must use in order to, say, use a web browser to install a rootkit, becomes quite large.

I don't know it it would be enough to reduce the likeliness of being hacked to a "good enough" level, but I think it's worth trying. Even more since such modularization would also benefit code cleanness, stability, and maintainability.

I don't think the App Store has the capacity to nuke the planet. ;)

Isn't there an app for that yet ? ;)

I don't see Aunt Emma installing Osmos on her Linux box in the forseeable future though. ;)

This is debatable, but I don't want to go into this right now ;) I just needed an OS which I use regularly, and where there are standard packages for software installation. OSX also qualifies with its DMG packages, but that's not the best example of an easy-to-use installation package around (Mounting an image disk and dragging and dropping stuff around ? Why can't I just double-click that downloaded file to get stuff installed ?)

Let's examine each individual step and find out what can go wrong with our friend Joe Sixpack when he wants to purchase an app online :
-Finding the developer's website : He ends up on a phishing site, which looks vaguely similar to the original one. Because he isn't that bright as we are he doesn't notice the difference.

I disagree with this one to some extent. If you know what you're looking for, ending up on a phishing site is quite hard. If I take Google, Yahoo, or Bing and type "Osmos (game)", "Trine", or "SpaceChem", the first link will be the developer's website.

I give you that search engines do get hacked from time to time, though. It would be great if we didn't rely on them so much. But the internet has just grown that big...

-Using paypal : The site states only supports credit card, which requires him to enter his card details, which obviously gets stolen

I can tell ;) I have got a credit card for exactly 3 months before it was stolen, without doing anything obviously stupid with it. Credit cards on the internet is a mean of payment that is broken and insecure at a fundamental level, it shouldn't be used anymore. I wish kids would get told that, perhaps it would motivate bankers to come up with a mean of payment that actually works in the Internet age...

-Downloading a file and clicking an "install" button : The installation installs a trojan, which infects his system with a keylogger after which it phones home to a remote C&C center to take on jobs in relaying email messages for spam and scam attempts.

This actually cannot exist on a well-implemented sandboxed OS. If Joe Sixpack downloads a keylogger installer, he will have at some point to confirm that he gives this piece of software the right to sniff other software's input. Unlike with UAC/Android bullshit where privilege elevation warnings are an everyday annoyance, this is the first time that Joe sees this message when installing a game, so chances are high that he will feel that this is suspicious and cancel the installation.

I know I'm being overly sarcastic here, but you wouldn't believe the amount of questions I get on a regular basis from my customers if its "safe" to buy from a certain website. And even on trusted sites like Ebay, there are still scams going on. As a techie, I know where to look, like checking the WHOIS database of a site, examining security certificates and googling for info about said site, but a lot of users don't know how to do this. At least now I can say "buy from the App Store and you'll be okay".

And I think that this is lipstick on a pig. By doing this, you basically say to your users "you don't know what is good and you can't learn, so let Apple do that stuff for you". But at some point, everyone who spends time on the Internet needs to learn how to discriminate the legit from the scam, be it to a basic extent. Buying train tickets, books, doing online banking... Should all that also be done through the App store ?

Really? I never came across a software on the App Store which didn't work as advertized. Granted, I haven't tried all of them, I'm not that rich. ;)

I have, on iOS. Maybe there is a strong distinction between the iOS and Mac implementations of the App Store concept and I should take more care in specifying which one I'm talking about...

"Conversely, legit demos of commercial software, which allow users to try before buy, are not welcome on the App Store."

Sure they are. Gameloft, for example, publishes both free demos and paid versions of their games.

Then either this set of rules is wrong/not respected, or there is a strong difference between the iOS and Mac app stores and we should both specify what we're talking about : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_app_store

I'm not saying there isn't headroom for improvement in Apple's reviewal process. The people who do it are mortals like you and me. However, especially for smartphones, I think its a good move to make, because of the added dangers of smartphones when compared to PCs.

Are you talking about the extra amount of personal information that phones usually store ? But then, software really should not have access to that information under normal circumstances, and good sandboxing would do the trick.

I don't share your view. Microsoft tried this approach (Windows Everywhere) to the smartphone and tablet market. It never became a success.

Windows was not designed to run on anything but a desktop to begin with. As soon as you specify control position and size in pixels by hand, assume the existence of a "hover" functionality, or fill toolbars without taking care of what happens when window sizes are reduced, your software is already dead as far as cross-device portability is concerned.

And then there is also a serious bloat problem with desktop Windows, which is why phone-oriented releases tend to be based on the inferior and incompatible Windows CE version.

It took a new way of doing things (iOS) which reinvented the basic concepts on how to deal with apps on a UI level for such a product to become usable.

Reinvented on a UI level, really ? Icons, pointers, menus, toolbars, tabs... Current mobile OSs, iOS included, looks more like a set of tweak to the desktop UI paradigms than a reinvention of GUI design to me.

Other devices require other ways of doing things in order to be truly useful for the masses. If they don't succeed in this, they primarily end up being geek toys.

Because it hasn't been tried doesn't mean that it is impossible. If you consider interactions with software at a more abstract level than we currently do, there is no theoretical reason why cross-device portability could not be significantly improved...

But then, I suppose that I should shut up and go back to coding my OS, which aims at experimentally proving this point once I reach the "GUI" part, given that computers still allow running alternative OSs at that time ;)

The publishing cirquit in itself is also already a reviewing process.

Fair enough.

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