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8. Security Considerations

There are two main settings in which JNDI is used: with and without a security manager installed.

In the case of Java applications running with no security manager installed, the code is trusted and the application can access service providers from the local classpath. Furthermore, there is no restriction if the service providers access local files, or make network connections to naming or directory servers anywhere on the network.

In the case of an applet or application running with a security manager installed, there can be trusted code and untrusted code within the same applet or application. The Sharing Context Handles and Context Environment sections below are especially applicable in such a scenario. The ability of an applet or an application running with a security manager installed to access service providers, especially service providers that require the use of restricted resources (like the file system or network connections) may be severely limited.

8.1 JNDI Classes

The classes in the JNDI packages contain no native methods. They do not require any special installation in order to run inside an applet or an application.

JNDI uses several system properties (see Application/Applet-scope Standard JNDI Properties ). This allows applets and applications to be configured easily without much programming. However, an applet or application might have restricted access to some or all system properties as a result of the security manager installed on the platform on which it is running. Consequently, JNDI also allows these same properties to be specified as applet parameters, in resource files, or as environment properties passed to a context.

In the Java 2 Platform, the JNDI classes use doPrivileged blocks when accessing the system properties listed in Application/Applet-scope Standard JNDI Properties .

8.2 Security Model

JNDI does not define a security model or a common security interface for accessing naming and directory servers. Security-related operations, such as those required for authentication or access control to the directory service, are dealt with by individual service providers. JNDI provides the means by which an application or applet can pass such security-related information to service providers in order to establish a connection with the service, but does not itself take part in such security-related activities.

JNDI also provides the means by which security-related problems can be indicated to the client in the form of security-related exceptions.

JNDI service providers are controlled by the security manager in place when they try to gain access to protected resources such as the file system or network. Some service providers may control directory access by making use of the Java 2 Platform security architecture (for example, allowing access to special ports for administration-related applets).

8.3 Access To Servers

Naming and directory services typically have their own security system in place to protect information stored therein. For example, one directory might require that its users first "login" to the directory before reading or updating information in the directory. Some services might allow anonymous access to part of its namespace/directory.

Once a user has logged into a service, it is imperative for security reasons not to share that privilege with untrusted code.

8.4 Sharing Context Handles

In the following discussion, we refer to a context handle as a reference to a Context instance. This is analogous to how a reference to a Reader / Writer / InputStream / OutputStream instance is often referred to as a file handle .

A context handle should be treated like any other protected resource. If a piece of trusted code obtains a context handle (possibly by authenticating its access with the directory server), it should protect the use of that context against unauthorized or untrusted code. This is analogous to how application and/or applet code should protect file handles. For example, if a piece of trusted code opens a file for writing (and it was granted such privilege because of its trusted nature), it should be careful about passing that file handle to any other pieces of code, trusted or otherwise.

Similarly, giving access of a context handle to untrusted code may lead to its misuse in accessing or updating information in the directory, or accessing security-sensitive environment properties associated with the context.

8.5 Context Environment

JNDI allows the application/applet to pass preferences and information to a context in the form of an environment. The application/applet can also get the current environment from a context. See See Configuration and Appendix A for more information on a context's environment.

The nature of the information contained in a context's environment might be sensitive and need protection from untrusted access. Specifically, the environment properties java.naming.security.principal and java.naming.security.credentials contain information that should not be given out to untrusted code. Service providers might take precaution to protect against accessing these properties (see Responsibilities of Service Providers below). Client applications and applets should take care not to pass context handles with such sensitive environment properties to untrusted code.

8.6 Class Loading

JNDI allows the class files to be loaded dynamically.

When JNDI is run on the JDK 1.1.x platform, it uses the RMI class loader. The classes can only be loaded if there is a security manager installed, and if that security manager permits the class to be loaded. When such classes are loaded, they run in the security context dictated by the security manager.

When JNDI is run on the Java 2 platform, it will attempt to load such classes from the locations specified in the codebase using the java.net.URLClassLoader . In order for the class loading to succeed, you must grant the application and the JNDI and service provider classes the permissions appropriate for the URLs named in the codebase. For example, if the URL scheme is "http" or "ftp", you must grant the application the appropriate java.net.SocketPermission ; if the URL scheme is "file", you must grant the application the appropriate java.io.FilePermission .

8.7 Serializable Objects

Several of the JNDI classes are serializable. This allows the objects to be accessed in the form of a byte stream, possibly outside of the environment in which they were created. See the document at the following URL regarding security issues related to serialized objects.

http://java.sun.com/products/jdk/1.2/docs/guide/serialization/spec/security.doc.html

8.8 Responsibilities of Service Providers

8.8.1 Context Environment

When a context handle is created (either by getting the initial context or by looking it up or by creating it from the directory), some environment properties may be specified for it. Sometimes security-related properties are required for the creation of the context handle (such as user information that "logs" the user in with the directory). The service provider should take care to protect this security-sensitive information from untrusted code.

The service provider needs to protect the context's environment from being tampered or otherwise modified by untrusted code. The service provider needs to protect the security-sensitive environment properties from being read by untrusted code. It might do this by disallowing any thread whose execution context and/or trust level is different than that originally held by the thread that created the context handle to use the context handle. Or it might disallow certain operations (such as accessing security-sensitive environment properties). Or it might simply not return security-sensitive environment properties, or only return them to trusted code.

8.8.2 Network Security

Untrusted code (such as those found in untrusted applets) have limited access to the network. Untrusted applets, for example, can only create a network connection to the host from which they were downloaded. With finer-grain security models, it will be possible for the service provider itself to be trusted code, and hence be allowed to connect to hosts not allowed for untrusted applets. In such a scenario, the service provider should be careful not to compromise the security intended by the security manager. If the service provider is sure that access by an untrusted applet to the directory will cause no security problems, then it may proceed to offer such a service to untrusted code. For example, allowing untrusted code to access a directory "anonymously" would post no security problems because the directory already allows any anonymous client (written in the Java programming language or otherwise) to access the same data.

Most naming and directory services are accessed over the network. Although the data requested is protected by the server's authentication and access control mechanisms, some protocols do not protect (encrypt) the data being sent as replies. Again, this is not a problem particular to a client using JNDI but a problem for any client accessing the directory. The service provider should document the security implications associated with using the associated directory over a network.

8.8.3 Accessing Local Files

Similar to network access, untrusted code has limited access to the local file system. If the service provider has special privileges for accessing local files, it should do so with utmost precaution so as not to compromise the security policies intended by the runtime/platform.

8.8.4 Privileged Code, Native Methods

A service provider that is written completely in the Java programming language with no privileged sections is controlled by the same security policies afforded other code written in the Java programming language. All protected resources that it attempts to access go through the same security manager and access controller.

If a service provider contains privileged code sections, or if it contains native methods, then it needs to be especially careful to preserve the security policies intended by the runtime/platform.


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