Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Jack Jachner

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
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, will introduce 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...
Recently, IoT seems emerging as a solution vehicle for data analytics on real-world scenarios from setting a room temperature setting to predicting a component failure of an aircraft. Compared with developing an application or deploying a cloud service, is an IoT solution unique? If so, how? How does a typical IoT solution architecture consist? And what are the essential components and how are they relevant to each other? How does the security play out? What are the best practices in formulating...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
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 ...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Elastifile 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. Elastifile Cloud File System (ECFS) is software-defined data infrastructure designed for seamless and efficient management of dynamic workloads across heterogeneous environments. Elastifile provides the architecture needed to optimize your hybrid cloud environment, by facilitating efficient...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Golden Gate University 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. Since 1901, non-profit Golden Gate University (GGU) has been helping adults achieve their professional goals by providing high quality, practice-based undergraduate and graduate educational programs in law, taxation, business and related professions. Many of its courses are taug...
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of 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. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, 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. Me...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, 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. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud 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. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
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. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.