Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: IoT User Interface, Java IoT, Microsoft Cloud

IoT User Interface: Article

AJAX Book Recommendation: "Ajax Security" by Hoffman and Sullivan

If you call yourself a professional web developer, you need this book

Brian Dilllard's "Ajile Ajax" Blog

Reviewers overuse the phrase "required reading," but no other description fits the new book "Ajax Security" (2007, Addison Wesley, 470p). This exhaustive tome from Billy Hoffman and Bryan Sullivan places the specific security concerns of the Ajax programming model in historical perspective. It demonstrates not only new security threats that are unique to Ajax, but established threats that have gained new traction in the Web 2.0 era. It then details both the specific technical solutions and - more importantly - the mindset that are necessary to combat such threats. If you call yourself a professional web developer, you need this book.

Because so many developers have historically overlooked the importance of security, the authors approach their topic for what it is: a remedial subject. They take pains to explain the basic mechanisms by which hackers have exploited insecure web applications over the last decade: cross-site request forgeries, denial of service attacks, cross-site scripting and SQL injection. Then they explain how those mechanisms have changed thanks to the rise of xmlHttpRequest, public APIs, mash-ups and aggregators. If you've ever read a Douglas Crockford rant about the "brokenness" of the web security model and wondered why the guy was such an alarmist, Hoffman and Sullivan are only too happy to provide you with a much-needed wake-up call.

"Ajax Security" is written in a clear, direct style that mixes compelling narrative examples with both high-level technical discussions and granular programming how-tos. The authors even fashion Chapter 2, "The Heist," into a miniature techno-thriller, walking us through a day in the life of a fictitious hacker named Eve who practically cackles like a "Mission: Impossible" villain when she discovers the holes in an Ajax web app. The book's mixture of intro-level concepts, real-world analogies and advanced code examples should be jarring, but isn't, thanks to its conversational tone. "Ajax Security" should therefore prove useful to a broad range of readers:

  • Developers who either have failed to develop a working knowledge of application security, or whose knowledge has become outdated after recent technological advances.
  • Security professionals who haven't kept pace with the rapidly evolving world of Ajax and other client-side technologies.
  • Technology managers who need to understand the risks as well as the rewards of the new technologies their engineers are pitching.
  • Business users who seek a better understanding of the technologies that power the web and how they can be exploited for malicious ends.

In order to serve all of these readers, "Ajax Security" spends a few chapters establishing the basics of traditional web security. It's worth slogging through these chapters even if you think you're a hardened veteran. The authors get to their central thesis pretty quickly, during a discussion of the "attack surface" of Ajax applications:

In a nutshell, the attack surface of an Ajax application is essentially the complete attack surface of a traditional Web application plus the complete attack surface of a Web service.... Where are all the secret attacks that can instantly destroy any Ajax application? For better or worse, there aren't any. If just being sure to defend against a particular attack was all there was to Ajax security, then this would be a pretty short book.... [D]efending an Ajax application is really just like defending both a Web application and a Web service - all at the same time. This is the price you must pay for expanding the functionality of your site.

Once Hoffman and Sullivan have spelled out this mission statement, the book kicks into high gear with chapters on the business-logic transparency of Ajax applications; the security vulnerabilities of JavaScript, JSON and even CSS; the risk of client-side storage and offline frameworks; and the security considerations of mashups and aggregator sites. I could fill an entire month's worth of blog posts with all of the individual tools, techniques and surprising facts in this book. Here's a random sampling:

  • XHR requests that return raw query results as JSON- or XML-formatted data can make classic SQL injection attacks almost effortless.
  • Offline frameworks such as Google Gears can store sensitive data on user machines without providing a GUI for ever purging that data. When a Gears-enabled web app isn't sufficiently locked down, this increases the user's vulnerability considerably.
  • Public APIs can provide a trojan horse in which an attacker bypasses a web service's built-in security features by posing as or piggybacking on a trusted API consumer.
  • JavaScript is hardly the only vector of attack against Ajax applications. CSS files can expose a host of their own unique vulnerabilities. Image paths in global CSS files can reveal the locations of hidden administrative interfaces, while CSS hijacking can enable phishing scams called "look and feel hacks."

Messrs. Sullivan and Hoffman do more than simply list the vulnerabilities of the Ajax programming model. They also conduct hands-on research into the ways existing companies leverage Ajax and offer advice about how to learn from their mistakes. Consider the following three examples:

Review continues on the next page...

More Stories By Brian J. Dillard

Brian J. Dillard joined Pathfinder Development in August 2007 as RIA Evangelist. After 12 years of focusing on the view layer of large consumer web apps, his role at Pathfinder Associates is one of research, development and ongoing commentary. He prototypes new rich UI features; contributes to open-source and client projects; and otherwise helps build Pathfinder's competency in the AJAX world. Along with Pathfinder CTO Dietrich Kappe, Dillard contributes to the 'Agile Ajax' blog (http://blogs.pathf.com/agileajax). He is also the project lead on Really Simple History, a JavaScript library for AJAX bookmark and back-button management.

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
18th Cloud Expo, taking place June 7-9, 2016, 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. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises are using some...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. 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 Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 24Notion has been named “Bronze 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. 24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to con...
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
SYS-CON Events announced today Object Management Group® has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...