Java IoT Authors: Stackify Blog, Liz McMillan, APM Blog, Jnan Dash, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Java IoT, Cloud Security

Java IoT: Article

Java, Security, and Open Source

Standards are fundamental to security

Now that a significant number of JSRs are being developed as open source projects, I thought it would be interesting to explore the implications of this for security.

First, let's start with the basics. Security is fundamental to the Java platform - it's built in to the Java Language and the Java Virtual Machine specifications.

In the early days it was expected that a primary use of Java would be "executable content" downloaded from the Web. (See this paper from 1995 on security in Java - "A new programming language from Sun Microsystems".) Obviously the security implications of running arbitrary "foreign" code are serious. Java took these into account.

At the most fundamental level, the Java compiler and virtual machine use several mechanisms to ensure security. These include strong data typing and automatic memory management to guard against problems like buffer overflows, bytecode verification to ensure that the contents of Java class files are consistent with the specifications, and secure class loading to ensure that untrusted code cannot interfere with the running of other Java programs.

Security for applets was originally enforced using a simple "sandbox" mechanism. Untrusted code was permitted to execute only in a "sandbox" where it was prohibited from performing many potentially harmful actions such as reading or writing to the local disk or making new network connections. While this simple approach provided effective security, it proved to be too restrictive, making it difficult for benevolent but technically untrusted programs to do anything useful.

Java 1.1 introduced a code-signing and authentication mechanism that made it possible to remove the sandbox restrictions on code that had been digitally signed by a trusted third party. However, in practice this still proved too inflexible, since it adopted an all-or-nothing approach. (Either code was completely trusted and could do anything, or it was completely untrusted and severely restricted.) Finally, Java 1.2 (Java 2), introduced a sophisticated fine-grained security policy, making it possible to grant or deny specific permissions to all Java code (not just applets).

Building on the security features of the language and virtual machine, a variety of APIs provide flexible and extensible support for cryptography, secure communication, authentication, access control, and public key infrastructure. (Click here for details - probably more than you want to know!)

Because security is fundamental, the majority of these APIs were developed and evolved as part of the base Java SE platform JSRs rather than as standalone JSRs. However, there have been several JSRs that specifically addressed security:

It goes without saying that standards are fundamental to security. If we can't agree on encryption algorithms or on secure communication protocols, then we have nothing. Standards, and their public nature, make security possible. However, standards by themselves are not sufficient. Implementations must conform to the standards (conformance test suites, or TCKs, can help to ensure this), and of course the implementations must be free of bugs that would otherwise compromise security. How can we ensure this? Does the public nature of the open source development process help or hinder the development of secure implementations?

Some argue that opening up the source code to public scrutiny is dangerous - that it makes it more likely that "hackers" will discover and exploit security flaws. Others argue that public exposure is the best defense -the more people who study the source code the more likely it is that security problems will be discovered and corrected. A detailed review of the arguments can be found here.

I don't believe that open source development processes necessarily result in secure software, any more than they guarantee high quality. It's just as easy to write buggy or insecure code "in the open" as it is behind closed doors. However, if the source code is available for public scrutiny, and if others are free to modify it, this may make it possible to discover and correct problems that would otherwise go undetected. As Whitfield Diffie, the co-inventor of public-key cryptography and chief security officer at Sun Microsystems has pointed out, "all of the popular cryptographic systems used on the Internet are public...It's simply unrealistic to depend on secrecy for security in computer software." (Risky business: Keeping security a secret.)

The public nature of the JCP's standards-development process, coupled with open source coding practices, are the best guarantees of Java's security.

This Month's Active JSRs
As always, several JSRs advanced through the process this month. (For full details, see the Focus on JSRs section on the JCP homepage or subscribe to our mailing list.)

While it may be more interesting and more exciting to push a new JSR through the process, we shouldn't forget the importance of ongoing maintenance. A standard that is defined but that doesn't evolve is not very useful. This month JSR 927: Java TV, led by Sun, submitted its fourth Maintenance Review. Java standards for TV have been under development for several years and seem likely to reach their full potential soon as OCAP-compatible set-top boxes reach the market. (The "900 number" of the JSR, by the way, signifies that this specification was developed before the JCP was created, and was "grandfathered in" to the process for maintenance purposes.) Similarly, JSR 82: Java APIs for Bluetooth, led by Motorola, issued its third Maintenance Release six years after the initial release of the specification. The spec leads for both of these JSRs are to be commended for their ongoing commitment.

JSR 290: Java Language & XML User Interface Markup Integration, led by Sun, released its Proposed Final Draft. If you, like me, are intrigued by the possibility of combining Java user interfaces with XML markup, check out this JSR, which enables the creation of rich user interfaces on mobile devices by leveraging W3C XML markup specifications such as Scalable Vector Graphics and the Compound Document Format.

Finally, JSR 311: JAX-RS: The Java API for RESTful Web Services - one of the "open and transparent" JSRs that I wrote about last month - is currently in its Final Approval Ballot process.

While we're talking about ballots, if you're a JCP member you will soon have the opportunity to vote in our annual elections. (If you're not, now is a good time to join. It's easy and free for individuals.) More on this next month.

More Stories By Patrick Curran

Patrick Curran is chair of the JCP and director of the JCP Program at Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...