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Re: RIP: ActiveX controls in Internet Explorer?
From: Simon Brady <simon.brady () otago ac nz>
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2003 13:42:51 +1200 (NZST)

On Sat, 30 Aug 2003, Alun Jones wrote:

The descriptions I've heard of this suggest that this patent could be
applied equally to prevent (or grab payment from implementors of)
Javascript, Java, Flash, etc.

I'm with you on the security issues with ActiveX (and Javascript) - I
disable ActiveX on the principle that it has no security consideration, and
Javascript on the basis that it's been frequently implemented in a
vulnerable manner.  But this is a considerably further-reaching patent than
merely killing off ActiveX.  Before we sing "ding dong the witch is dead",
let's have some concern for the peaceful Wiccans that might be next on the
chopping block.

Java and Flash aren't exactly free of security issues either. In fact, I 
would go further and argue that the whole notion of a controlled 
client-side runtime environment for remote code has been an unmitigated 
disaster for the web (and this is solely from a security perspective - see 
http://members.optusnet.com.au/~night.owl/morons.html for a refreshing 
take on the usability crisis they've caused).

I'm not just referring to current implementations with their appalling 
defect rates. All client-side runtimes, no matter how well-written,  
inherently reduce security. That's their function: to give outsiders 
access to your machine they otherwise wouldn't have.

Even more insidiously, their prevalence numbs users into a mode of thought
that it's quite normal and healthy to let this happen. How can the
security community promote safe browsing when users are being forever
brainwashed into ignoring or disabling security features for the sake of
pointless but pretty downloadable applets? How can we encourage content
developers to reduce attack surface when fashion demands yet more
gratuitous bells and whistles?

Web applications belong on the server. The more widely this patent gets
applied the better off the browsing public will be.

--
Simon Brady                             mailto:simon.brady () otago ac nz
ITS Technical Services
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

    I don't speak for my employer, and they don't speak for me.


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