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SECURITY

Programming .NET Components : Addressing Other Security Issues

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1. Link-Time Demand and Reflection

When you demand a security permission at link time using the SecurityAction.LinkDemand value for the security action, the demand applies only to early-bound code—that is, code that uses the compile time (or actually, the JIT compilation-time) linker. Malicious code can use reflection with late-binding invocation to avoid the link-time demand. To close this potential security hole, when a method is invoked using late binding the .NET reflection libraries reflect the method, looking for security permission attributes with link-time demands. If any such attributes are found, the reflection libraries programmatically demand these permissions, triggering a stack walk that verifies whether a caller has circumvented the demand for the permissions. As a result, code that works with a certain call chain that uses early binding may not work when one of the callers uses late binding. This is because the reflection libraries convert a link-time demand (which affects only the immediate caller) to a full stack walk that affects all callers. This behavior is yet another reason to avoid late-binding invocation.

2. Link-Time Demand and Inheritance

Consider a subclass that uses a link-time security demand while overriding a base-class method. The subclass demand is security-tight only if the base class demands the same permission at link time. If you develop a class hierarchy that requires security, it's best to define an interface that the class hierarchy implements and demand link-time permission checks at the interface level. This provides the demand for every level in the class hierarchy.

3. Strongly Named Assemblies and Full Trust

A strongly named assembly can easily be shared by multiple applications whose components come from potentially untrusted origins. Imagine a component library vendor that produces an assembly and installs it in the GAC. That assembly is now available for use by any unknown, malicious client. To prevent even the potential for abuse, by default a .NET strongly named assembly can be used only by client assemblies granted the FullTrust permission set. This ensures that partially trusted clients can't use assemblies that are not properly secured. .NET enforces this default by placing a link-time demand for the FullTrust permission set on every public or protected method on every public class in the assembly. The JIT compiler does this automatically when it detects that the assembly has a strong name. For example, if a strong name is specified, the JIT compiler converts this method definition:

    public void SomeMethod(  )
{}

to this:

    [PermissionSet(SecurityAction.LinkDemand,Name = "FullTrust")]
public void SomeMethod( )
{}

A partially trusted assembly can still implement interfaces defined in a strongly named assembly, because interfaces have no implementations to protect and the compiler doesn't change their definitions.


This extra precaution can be a liability, especially if you intend for your assembly to be used by semi-trusted assemblies or to run in a partially trusted environment. For example, if the client assembly is a partially trusted ClickOnce application or if the client is coming from the local intranet, it won't be able to access your code. If you want to allow partially trusted callers to use your assembly, you can apply the attribute AllowPartiallyTrustedCallersAttribute to the assembly:

    [assembly:AllowPartiallyTrustedCallers]

This instructs the compiler not to add the link-time demand for full trust to the public entry points.

4. Unsafe Code

C# (and potentially future .NET languages) allows you to use unsafe code to directly manipulate memory using pointers. Such C# code is called unsafe because it lets go of most of the safety of .NET memory management, such as bound-safe arrays. However, unsafe code is still managed code, because it runs in the CLR and it manipulates the managed heap. This can present a security breach, because objects from multiple assemblies (with potentially different security permissions) share the same heap. A malicious assembly may not have permission to access assemblies that are more privileged, but it can potentially use unsafe code to traverse the managed heap and read or modify the state of objects. Worse yet, even if you try to isolate questionable assemblies in one app domain and put trusted assemblies in another, it will be to no avail. Because all app domains in the same physical process share the same managed heap, a malicious component could use unsafe code to access the other app domains. Clearly, only trusted assemblies should be granted permission to use unsafe code. .NET doesn't have an unsafe code permission, but it does have a security permission with the right to skip verification. Because unsafe code is unverifiable, you can use this permission to grant, in effect, permission for unsafe code. Note that the FullTrust permission set grants that permission, as does the dedicated SkipVerification permission set.

5. Security and Remote Calls

As long as the client and the object share the same physical process, .NET can enforce code access permission checks using stack walks, even when the call is made across app domains. This is possible because the cross-app domain remoting channel uses the original client thread to invoke the call, so the stack walk can detect callers without the required permissions. However, in a distributed application that spans processes and machines, multiple physical threads are involved every time the call flows to another location. Because each thread has its own stack, the stack-walk strategy as a mechanism for enforcing access permissions doesn't work when crossing the process boundary. Link-time permission demands are of no use either, because the component is linked against the trusted host, not the remote client. In addition, each machine may well have a different code access policy, and what is allowed on one machine may be forbidden on another.

: Secure .NET Remoting

In order to authenticate and authorize remote calls, you need the security call context— the caller's identity and credentials—to flow across process and machine boundaries. .NET 2.0 introduced support for propagating the security call context for remoting, and even support for encrypted channels. That said, if you need to secure remote calls on your intranet, I recommend using Enterprise Services instead of remoting. Enterprise Services offer a richer security model than remoting (such as support for audit trails and granular role-based security), and more significantly, applications that require secure remote calls typically require other aspects that Enterprise Services support natively, such as distributed transactions and disconnected calls. Remoting should be used when you need extensibility, not when you need Enterprise-level services. For that, use Enterprise Services.


6. Serialization

Imagine a class containing sensitive information that needs to interact with partially trusted clients. If a malicious client could provide its own serialization formatters, it would be able to gain access to the sensitive information or deserialize the class with bogus state. To prevent abuse by such serialization clients, a class can demand at link time that its clients have the security permission to provide a serialization formatter that uses the attribute SecurityPermissionAttribute with the SecurityPermissionFlag.SerializationFormatter flag:

    [SecurityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemand,
Flags = SecurityPermissionFlag.SerializationFormatter)]
[Serializable]
public class MyClass
{...}



If the class has sensitive state information, you may want to consider using custom serialization to encrypt and decrypt the state during serialization and deserialization. The problem with demanding the serialization formatter permission at the class level is that it precludes clients that don't have that permission and don't even need to serialize the class from using the class at all. In such cases, it's better to provide custom serialization and demand the permission only on the deserialization constructor and GetObjectData( ):

    [Serializable]
public class MyClass : ISerializable
{
public MyClass( )
{}
 
[SecurityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemand,
Flags = SecurityPermissionFlag.SerializationFormatter)]
public void GetObjectData(SerializationInfo info,StreamingContext context)
{...}
 
[SecurityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemand,
Flags = SecurityPermissionFlag.SerializationFormatter)]
protected MyClass(SerializationInfo info,StreamingContext context)
{...}
}




If all you need are the standard .NET formatters, there is a different solution altogether to the problem of malicious serialization clients. Use the attribute StrongNameIdentityPermissionAttribute to demand at link time that only Microsoft-provided assemblies serialize and deserialize your class:

    public static class PublicKeys
{
public const string Microsoft = "0024000004800000940000000602000000240000"+
"52534131000400000100010007D1FA57C4AED9F0"+
"A32E84AA0FAEFD0DE9E8FD6AEC8F87FB03766C83"+
"4C99921EB23BE79AD9D5DCC1DD9AD23613210290"+
"0B723CF980957FC4E177108FC607774F29E8320E"+
"92EA05ECE4E821C0A5EFE8F1645C4C0C93C1AB99"+
"285D622CAA652C1DFAD63D745D6F2DE5F17E5EAF"+
"0FC4963D261C8A12436518206DC093344D5AD293";
}
 
[Serializable]
public class MyClass : ISerializable
{
public MyClass( )
{}
 
[StrongNameIdentityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemand,
PublicKey = PublicKeys.Microsoft)]
public void GetObjectData(SerializationInfo info,StreamingContext context)
{...}
 
[StrongNameIdentityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemand,
PublicKey = PublicKeys.Microsoft)]
protected MyClass(SerializationInfo info,StreamingContext context)
{...}
}



If you wish to allow either Microsoft or clients with the serialization formatter permission to serialize your class, use a link-time demand choice on both permissions:

       [StrongNameIdentityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemandChoice,
PublicKey = PublicKeys.Microsoft)]
[SecurityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemandChoice,
Flags = SecurityPermissionFlag.SerializationFormatter)]
public void GetObjectData(SerializationInfo info,StreamingContext context)
{...}
 
[StrongNameIdentityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemandChoice,
PublicKey = PublicKeys.Microsoft)]
[SecurityPermission(SecurityAction.LinkDemandChoice,
Flags = SecurityPermissionFlag.SerializationFormatter)]
protected MyClass(SerializationInfo info,StreamingContext context)
{...}



7. Transactions

An application that uses transactions managed by the Light-Weight Transaction Manager (LTM) can consume resources from at most a single durable recourse such as SQL Server 2005. This, however, is not the case with a distributed transaction, which can interact with multiple resources, potentially across the network. This opens the way for both denial-of-service attacks by malicious code, or even just accidental excessive use of such resources. To prevent that, the System.Transactions security permission. Whenever a transaction is promoted from an LTM to OleTx transaction, the code that triggered the promotion will be verified to have the DistributedTransaction permission. Verification of the security permission is done like any other code-access security verification, using a stack walk, demanding from every caller up the stack the DistributedTransaction permission. Note again that the security demand will affect the code that triggered the promotion, not necessarily the code that created the LTM transaction in the first place (although that can certainly be the case if they are on the same call stack). namespace defines the DistributedTransaction

This permission demand is of particular importance for Smart Client applications deployed in a partial trust environment, such as the LocalInternet zone, that want to perform transactional work against multiple resources. None of the predefined partial trust zones grant the DistributedTransaction permission. You will have to grant that permission using a custom code group, or manually list that permission in the application's ClickOnce deployment manifest. Another solution altogether is to introduce a middle tier between the client application and the resources, and have the middle tier encapsulate accessing these resources transitionally.

Other  
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