Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Esmeralda Swartz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Glenn Rossman, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Mobile IoT, Microservices Expo, ColdFusion, IBM Cloud, Weblogic, Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, IoT User Interface, Agile Computing, Release Management , Recurring Revenue, Log Management, @CloudExpo, Apache, Government Cloud

Cloud Security: Interview

Bulletproofing the WebSocket Wire Protocol

There's been a flurry of discussion this week among Internet & Web standards experts about the WebSocket communications protocol

Web Security Journal: There's been a flurry of discussion this week among Internet and Web standards heavy-hitters around WebSocket, the new communications protocol supported in Chrome 4 and Safari 5. What was the main issue? Is there some kind of fundamental security vulnerability with the WebSocket (WS) protocol?

John Fallows: When surfing the Web, our browsers may communicate with Web servers via HTTP proxies that deliver many benefits, such as providing previously cached Web content more efficiently than repeatedly contacting the target server. These proxies may be either explicitly configured at the browser or they may form part of the general network topology to intercept the communication path implicitly. Securely encrypted Web communication cannot be intercepted by such proxies.

Members of the Hypertext Bidirectional (HyBi) IETF Working Group recently completed a study to test the vulnerabilities of these implicit, intercepting HTTP proxies. The study found that the raw socket capabilities of Flash and Java could be used to mount an attack on these intercepting HTTP proxies, such that an attacker might be able to influence the contents of the cache and change the behavior of specific sites for users accessing those sites through the same intercepting HTTP proxy.

The results showed that of the 47,338 intercepting HTTP proxies tested with the unencrypted WebSocket handshake alone, 0.37% and 0.017% were found vulnerable for the two specific attacks described in the study.

Web Security Journal: If the flaw lies not in WebSockets, but in some particular type of proxies, why are commentators inclining towards discussing WebSockets and only WebSockets?

Fallows: If all intercepting HTTP proxies correctly implemented the HTTP standard, then the 101 Switching Protocols response used by WebSocket handshake would be both sufficient and elegant.

Even though these intercepting HTTP proxies vulnerabilities have been enabled by Flash and Java for a long time, they were reported in the study as part of the IETF working group design process for the WebSocket wire protocol, therefore commentators have been inclined to comment specifically about the WebSockets portion of this result.

In the short term, browser providers have elected to temporarily withdraw the JavaScript WebSocket API from deployed browser implementations until they and others in the IETF working group reach agreement on how to bulletproof the WebSocket wire protocol to handle even buggy implementations of intercepting HTTP proxies. There are already proposals in place so I anticipate a timely resolution early next year.

Web Security Journal: The tests that spurred Mozilla and Opera to disable WebSockets as the default were done with Java and Flash clients. That means presumably that this issue has been around long before WebSockets? Why hasn't it been caught and dealt with before?

Fallows: The WebSocket wire protocol design effort has brought together a huge community of experts to deliver this functionality such that it can be deployed on a global scale, which necessitates such experiments to validate the standards compliance of deployed HTTP proxy infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see how Adobe and Oracle respond to address the vulnerabilities enabled by raw socket access in Flash and Java. Perhaps this will encourage them to adopt WebSockets as a native part of their platform, and have a more restrictive policy on raw socket access for Web deployments of their plug-in technologies.

Web Security Journal: What's the exact current status, then? The protocol is being standardized by the IETF as we speak, but what about the WebSocket API overall? What's its status vis-a-vis the W3C?

Fallows: The W3C JavaScript WebSocket API remains unchanged in its definition. However, browser providers await resolution of the WebSocket wire protocol at the IETF before deploying an implementation.

Web Security Journal: So is it accurate to describe WebSockets - still - as an early stage specification at the moment?

Fallows: The WebSocket wire protocol is currently in the IETF Internet Draft stage, and there is no shortage of support or dedication in the Hypertext Bidirectional Working Group to reach completion in a timely manner.

Web Security Journal: You mentioned earlier that there's no real barrier to improving the WebSocket protocol the moment it is bulletproofed to withstand broken infrastructure, since such an improvement can simply be included in the latest update of whatever browser a user is using. But the creator of JavaScript, Brendan Eich, has warned that we might end up with what he calls "version skew" because users won't necessarily switch browsers just to get the latest version of WS. He asks, rhetorically: "Are we going to synchronize Firefox's release cycle with Chrome's? Is Opera? Is Safari?" Isn't that a valid concern?

Fallows: Web browsers have always innovated beyond the standards, in part to differentiate themselves and in part to drive the standards forward with the benefit of real-world experience. WebSocket is a good example of that, having evolved beyond both Ajax and Comet, as well as raw socket communication provided by plug-ins. If we are careful to provide a stable and extensible WebSocket base, as was achieved with HTTP, then I would fully expect to see browsers implementing custom enhancements to that base, and it will be the responsibility of WebSocket gateway providers to support for those enhancements.

Web Security Journal: Mozilla, despite disabling it as the default in Firefox 4, says it is "excited" by WebSockets. Why is such a major browser player "excited" - what is it about WebSockets that gets a major Internet force like the Mozilla Foundation to be so upbeat about its potential?

Fallows: WebSockets, and HTML5 in general, represent a leap forward for the Web application platform and it is certainly an "exciting" time for all of us using the Web today. For decades we have seen the evolution of Web applications with gradually increasing interactivity getting closer and closer to their desktop installed counterparts. WebSockets allows us to add the final piece of that puzzle, providing desktop class TCP network connectivity while traversing the HTTP-constrained infrastructure of the Web. A new breed of applications can now be built using WebSocket with a fraction of the server-side infrastructure costs, optimized network bandwidth utilization and more immediate delivery of time-sensitive information.

Web Security Journal: And where does the WebSocket protocol sit in terms of HTML5 specification?

The WebSocket wire protocol is governed by the IETF who manage many of the world's protocols like HTTP, FTP, SMTP, and others.

The W3C standards body maintains the both HTML5 specification and the WebSocket API specification which defines how JavaScript applications can leverage WebSocket functionality.

Browser providers depend on both standards to fully deliver WebSocket functionality.

Web Security Journal: Adam Barth, whose paper on a possible exploit of transparent proxies sparked this latest discussion, has also described a handshake for the WebSocket protocol that resists cross-protocol attacks. Is that the direction the IETF will go do you think?

Fallows: Ultimately there are a few ways to proceed that balance HTTP compatibility with strategies to overcome non-compliant HTTP proxies. Given that the same study demonstrated no successful attacks on Adam's proposed enhancement to the WebSocket handshake, it seems to be a very strong candidate as we move forward.

Web Security Journal: Can't a WebSocket connection simply be encrypted? Wouldn't that render this whole issue moot - or is that too simplistic?

Fallows: The attacks identified by Adam Barth's paper would not be possible using an encrypted WebSocket connection because the HTTP proxy would not be able to see the encrypted wire traffic and could therefore not be confused into triggering the buggy behavior. If the browser providers restricted encrypted-only access to WebSockets then this issue could be avoided.

Web Security Journal: So from a Kaazing perspective, then, is it your intention to propagate the world with WebSockets and then go to sleep with the feeling of a job well done, or is the propagation of WS gateways the means to some other kind of business goal?

Fallows: At Kaazing, we believe that WebSockets is the beginning of a new future for Web applications as we move from the disconnected world of yesterday to the always connected, always up-to-date world we live in today. We understand that while WebSockets provide the foundation of that new beginning, the majority of the new capabilities lie in how you use WebSocket to support higher-level protocols that make it straightforward to solve technical challenges that would have taken significantly more effort to achieve otherwise.

Our goals are to help to world transition to this new standard easily and efficiently, and continue to deliver solutions that eliminate the unnecessary architectural complexity found in many Web applications today.

Web Security Journal: And is anybody yet finding that they can make more money, or spend less, because of Kaazing's offerings? Are there real-world implementations at all?

Fallows: We have customers in the Financial Services, Sports Betting, and Online Auctions markets that have used our technology to reduce infrastructure costs, reduce time-to-market, improve end-user experience and drive their revenues more efficiently.

Web Security Journal: What, in your view, is the best way of channeling developers' interest in experimenting with what a WebSocket gateway can do for their architecture? How can someone who is not yet au fait with the technbology most easily play catch-up?

Fallows: The WebSocket.org site is dedicated to explaining the various aspects of WebSocket technology and would be a useful starting point for those wishing to read up. It contains links to the relevant WebSocket API and wire protocol specifications, including a discussion of the many benefits of WebSockets.

A developer download of Kaazing WebSocket Gateway is also freely available from kaazing.com. This delivers emulation of the standard WebSocket API for all browsers. So in the interim until browser providers re-enable WebSockets, developers can still experiment with the same WebSocket APIs in both current and older browsers that will prepare them for the future of Web communication.

More Stories By Security News Desk

SYS-CON's Security News desk trawls the world of security for news of software, hardware, products, and services that seems likely to be of interest to infosec professionals and summarizes them for easy assimilation by busy IT managers and staff.

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
In their Live Hack” presentation at 17th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty and Paul Fletcher, Chief Security Evangelists at Alert Logic, will provide the audience with a chance to see a live demonstration of the common tools cyber attackers use to attack cloud and traditional IT systems. This “Live Hack” uses open source attack tools that are free and available for download by anybody. Attendees will learn where to find and how to operate these tools for the purpose of testing their own IT infrastructu...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp 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. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and a...
Red Hat is investing in Tesora, the number one contributor to OpenStack Trove Database as a Service (DBaaS) also ranked among the top 20 companies contributing to OpenStack overall. Tesora, the company bringing OpenStack Trove Database as a Service (DBaaS) to the enterprise, has announced that Red Hat and others have invested in the company as a part of Tesora's latest funding round. The funding agreement expands on the ongoing collaboration between Tesora and Red Hat, which dates back to Febr...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of I...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DataClear Inc. 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. The DataClear ‘BlackBox’ is the only solution that moves your PC, browsing and data out of the United States and away from prying (and spying) eyes. Its solution automatically builds you a clean, on-demand, virus free, new virtual cloud based PC outside of the United States, and wipes it clean...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Cloud and datacenter migration innovator AppZero has joined the Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Alliance Program. AppZero is a fast, flexible way to move Windows Server applications from any source machine – physical or virtual – to any destination server, in any cloud or datacenter, using its patented container technology. AppZero’s container is also called a Virtual Application Appliance (VAA). To facilitate Microsoft Azure onboarding, AppZero has two purpose-built offerings: AppZero SP for Azure,...
WSM International, the pioneer and leader in server migration services, has announced an agreement with WHOA.com, a leader in providing secure public, private and hybrid cloud computing services. Under terms of the agreement, WSM will provide migration services to WHOA.com customers to relocate some or all of their applications, digital assets, and other computing workloads to WHOA.com enterprise-class, secure cloud infrastructure. The migration services include detailed evaluation and planning...
This Enterprise Strategy Group lab validation report of the NEC Express5800/R320 server with Intel® Xeon® processor presents the benefits of 99.999% uptime NEC fault-tolerant servers that lower overall virtualized server total cost of ownership. This report also includes survey data on the significant costs associated with system outages impacting enterprise and web applications. Click Here to Download Report Now!
IBM’s Blue Box Cloud, powered by OpenStack, is now available in any of IBM’s globally integrated cloud data centers running SoftLayer infrastructure. Less than 90 days after its acquisition of Blue Box, IBM has integrated its Blue Box Cloud Dedicated private-cloud-as-a-service into its broader portfolio of OpenStack® based solutions. The announcement, made today at the OpenStack Silicon Valley event, further highlights IBM’s continued support to deliver OpenStack solutions across all cloud depl...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advance...
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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on...
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes ab...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, 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. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of tech...
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
U.S. companies are desperately trying to recruit and hire skilled software engineers and developers, but there is simply not enough quality talent to go around. Tiempo Development is a nearshore software development company. Our headquarters are in AZ, but we are a pioneer and leader in outsourcing to Mexico, based on our three software development centers there. We have a proven process and we are experts at providing our customers with powerful solutions. We transform ideas into reality.
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...