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Re: feedkeys() allowed in sandbox

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  • Matthew Winn
    On Sat, 28 Apr 2007 22:43:23 +1000, John Beckett ... I don t like the idea of preventing modelines over 100 bytes. To start with, there s no real logic
    Message 1 of 25 , Apr 29, 2007
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      On Sat, 28 Apr 2007 22:43:23 +1000, "John Beckett"
      <winterwaffle@...> wrote:

      > "Potentially unsafe" means we're pretty sure it IS safe, but
      > (for example), it's simply not worthwhile allowing a modeline
      > longer than 100 bytes because if another vulnerability were
      > ever found, we don't want to make it easy for the attacker.

      I don't like the idea of preventing modelines over 100 bytes. To start
      with, there's no real logic behind it: it's an arbitrary number pulled
      out of thin air, and I put it in the same category as saying "it's OK
      to use gets() so long as you use a long enough buffer that it'll never
      overflow". A modeline that's long enough to allow useful things to be
      done is long enough to allow unpleasant things to be done.

      Furthermore, what am I supposed to do if I want a long, complicated
      but legitimate modeline?

      I like Perl's approach to untrustworthy data. It's flagged as tainted
      at the point it is read, and anything derived from it is also flagged
      as tainted. Tainted information cannot be used in unsafe operations,
      ever. From what I've read in this thread Vim does something similar,
      but in a way that's less complete. That's the right way to go about
      it. Setting an arbitrary limit and hoping it'll have the effect of
      improving security is far too optimistic for my tastes.

      --
      Matthew Winn
    • John Beckett
      ... I imagine (haven t looked) that a modeline has no hard limit to its length. So multi-megabyte modelines are probably handled by Vim. That s potentially
      Message 2 of 25 , Apr 29, 2007
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        Matthew Winn wrote:
        > I don't like the idea of preventing modelines over 100 bytes.

        I imagine (haven't looked) that a modeline has no hard limit to
        its length. So multi-megabyte modelines are probably handled by
        Vim. That's potentially offering attackers extraordinary power.

        Would someone who wants a modeline longer than 100 bytes please
        show us an example. How about a 200-byte limit?

        Modelines are enabled by default, and are very useful for things
        like setting tabs. So most people, and all new installs, will
        have modelines enabled. It's very poor security practice to
        offer a rich auto-execution environment with a single line of
        defence (the sandbox).

        This discussion reminds me of the days of the Code Red
        vulnerability in IIS (Microsoft web server), and of the
        years of repeated vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.

        The IIS and IE developers just couldn't bring themselves to
        build in limits to what their wonderful software could do.
        "But a web site might need a 100KB URL with hundreds of '../'
        paths!".

        > Furthermore, what am I supposed to do if I want a long,
        > complicated but legitimate modeline?

        I would like a default "high security" setting for handling
        modelines. If people want modelines that do complex stuff, I
        would recommend setting a new "anything goes" option.

        > I like Perl's approach to untrustworthy data. It's flagged as
        > tainted at the point it is read, and anything derived from it
        > is also flagged as tainted.

        Perl has to have that system because part of its intended usage
        is to handle data entered into web pages. It's pretty complex
        and has taken years to get right.

        Vim is a text editor - it should not automatically execute code
        in any old file that I might accidentally open.

        John
      • Ciaran McCreesh
        On Sat, 28 Apr 2007 21:52:07 +0200 ... Probably not. In a multi-user environment it can be used as a privilege escalation by inserting the contents of a
        Message 3 of 25 , Apr 29, 2007
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          On Sat, 28 Apr 2007 21:52:07 +0200
          Bram Moolenaar <Bram@...> wrote:
          > I don't like this solution. Opening some files would be OK in the
          > sandbox, e.g., for reading. readfile() would be OK in the sandbox,
          > right?

          Probably not. In a multi-user environment it can be used as a
          privilege escalation by inserting the contents of a non-world-readable
          file into a world-readable file when the latter is edited by a user
          with elevated privileges.

          --
          Ciaran McCreesh
        • Bram Moolenaar
          ... In the sandbox you can t insert text into a file or buffer. Anything that requires saving text for undo is blocked. You can also get the text from an
          Message 4 of 25 , Apr 29, 2007
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            Ciaran McCreesh wrote:

            > On Sat, 28 Apr 2007 21:52:07 +0200
            > Bram Moolenaar <Bram@...> wrote:
            > > I don't like this solution. Opening some files would be OK in the
            > > sandbox, e.g., for reading. readfile() would be OK in the sandbox,
            > > right?
            >
            > Probably not. In a multi-user environment it can be used as a
            > privilege escalation by inserting the contents of a non-world-readable
            > file into a world-readable file when the latter is edited by a user
            > with elevated privileges.

            In the sandbox you can't insert text into a file or buffer. Anything
            that requires saving text for undo is blocked.

            You can also get the text from an already opened file with getbufline().
            It's difficult to draw a line, but I think blocking everything that
            writes is good enough.

            --
            `The Guide says there is an art to flying,' said Ford, `or at least a
            knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground
            and miss.' He smiled weakly.
            -- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

            /// Bram Moolenaar -- Bram@... -- http://www.Moolenaar.net \\\
            /// sponsor Vim, vote for features -- http://www.Vim.org/sponsor/ \\\
            \\\ download, build and distribute -- http://www.A-A-P.org ///
            \\\ help me help AIDS victims -- http://ICCF-Holland.org ///
          • A.J.Mechelynck
            John Beckett wrote: [...] ... Folding may be useful in a modeline. (Don t know what you call a default modeline.) Depending on how the particular file is
            Message 5 of 25 , Apr 29, 2007
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              John Beckett wrote:
              [...]
              > Is folding really needed in a default modeline?
              >
              > John
              >

              Folding may be useful in a modeline. (Don't know what you call a "default"
              modeline.) Depending on how the particular file is written, you may want to
              set foldmethod=marker (and which marker), foldmethod=syntax,
              foldmethod=indent, or default it to whatever (if anything) is set by the
              filetype-plugin.


              Best regards,
              Tony.
              --
              Some of these fortunes are dated: I have an ADSL connection and a 96 gig HD,
              and I don't feel it's any special kind of achievement.
              --
              hundred-and-one symptoms of being an internet addict:
              208. Your goals for the future are obtaining an ISDN connection and
              a 6 gig hard drive.
            • John Beckett
              ... By default modeline I mean I would like Vim to be changed so that its default behaviour is aggressively safe. If wanted, there could be a new option to
              Message 6 of 25 , Apr 30, 2007
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                A.J.Mechelynck wrote:
                >> Is folding really needed in a default modeline?
                > Folding may be useful in a modeline.
                > (Don't know what you call a "default" modeline.)

                By "default modeline" I mean I would like Vim to be changed so
                that its default behaviour is aggressively safe. If wanted,
                there could be a new option to enable clever features, and a
                user could choose to allow modelines with folding or expression
                evaluation, etc.

                But the only long-term safe procedure is to have Vim *default*
                to work with only very restricted modelines (set tab and other
                options - no way to even get near executing code).

                I am wondering what the lack of comment on this topic indicates.
                Do you understand that another modeline vulnerability could
                allow the next file you open to overwrite all files under your
                home folder? Or it might overwrite all sectors on your disk, if
                you have sufficient privilege.

                How about if you go to another computer that you rarely use.
                Would you be happy using Vim on that computer?
                Network admins in secure environments should be prohibited
                from using Vim.

                If I am overlooking something, or am overly alarmist, please
                tell me. For anyone new to this, enter following in Google:
                vim vulnerability modeline

                I just noticed that the fourth hit features Ciaran McCreesh who
                discovered a vulnerability in January 2005.

                John
              • Matthew Winn
                On Sun, 29 Apr 2007 19:10:55 +1000, John Beckett ... It doesn t matter how many bytes are accepted. Security that depends on the assumption that an exploit
                Message 7 of 25 , Apr 30, 2007
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                  On Sun, 29 Apr 2007 19:10:55 +1000, "John Beckett"
                  <winterwaffle@...> wrote:

                  > Matthew Winn wrote:
                  > > I don't like the idea of preventing modelines over 100 bytes.
                  >
                  > I imagine (haven't looked) that a modeline has no hard limit to
                  > its length. So multi-megabyte modelines are probably handled by
                  > Vim. That's potentially offering attackers extraordinary power.

                  It doesn't matter how many bytes are accepted. Security that depends
                  on the assumption that an exploit can't be written in less than an
                  arbitrarily chosen number of bytes is no security at all. Take a look
                  at some of the coding golf competitions that take place online, where
                  the object is to perform some complex task in the minimum number of
                  characters.

                  If there was a security problem in Vim do you really think it couldn't
                  be exploited in 100 characters? That's a pretty shaky foundation on
                  which to build your security.

                  > Would someone who wants a modeline longer than 100 bytes please
                  > show us an example. How about a 200-byte limit?

                  Oh, so nobody will need a long modeline? Just like they will never
                  need more than [insert your favourite inaccurate prediction about
                  the maximum amount of computing power anyone would ever need here].

                  > Modelines are enabled by default, and are very useful for things
                  > like setting tabs. So most people, and all new installs, will
                  > have modelines enabled. It's very poor security practice to
                  > offer a rich auto-execution environment with a single line of
                  > defence (the sandbox).
                  >
                  > This discussion reminds me of the days of the Code Red
                  > vulnerability in IIS (Microsoft web server), and of the
                  > years of repeated vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.
                  >
                  > The IIS and IE developers just couldn't bring themselves to
                  > build in limits to what their wonderful software could do.
                  > "But a web site might need a 100KB URL with hundreds of '../'
                  > paths!".

                  A web browser should be able to handle anything thrown at it in a way
                  that doesn't compromise security. _Every_ application should be able
                  to handle anything thrown at it in a way that doesn't compromise
                  security.

                  What you're suggesting isn't much different from security through
                  obscurity. You're relying on the hope that nobody would ever be able
                  to craft an exploit in under 100 bytes. Security doesn't work like
                  that. Security needs to be something people can rely on to work every
                  time, not something that depends on "Well, let's hope nobody thinks
                  of this".

                  If Vim's modeline security is written correctly and securely then
                  the length of modeline it can handle safely would depend only on the
                  amount of memory it wants to allocate to hold it. If it isn't able to
                  do that then there's no security at all.

                  > > Furthermore, what am I supposed to do if I want a long,
                  > > complicated but legitimate modeline?
                  >
                  > I would like a default "high security" setting for handling
                  > modelines. If people want modelines that do complex stuff, I
                  > would recommend setting a new "anything goes" option.

                  ABSOLUTELY NOT! Are you honestly suggesting that to enter a long
                  modeline you have to disable security? I wouldn't touch an editor
                  like that.

                  > > I like Perl's approach to untrustworthy data. It's flagged as
                  > > tainted at the point it is read, and anything derived from it
                  > > is also flagged as tainted.
                  >
                  > Perl has to have that system because part of its intended usage
                  > is to handle data entered into web pages. It's pretty complex
                  > and has taken years to get right.
                  >
                  > Vim is a text editor - it should not automatically execute code
                  > in any old file that I might accidentally open.

                  Perl and Vim have exactly the same requirements: the need to safely
                  handle code taken from an untrustworthy source. It makes no difference
                  whether it comes directly from a network or from a disk. (If, like me,
                  you use Vim as your source viewer for web pages, the need for the same
                  level of security is obvious.)

                  --
                  Matthew Winn
                • Bram Moolenaar
                  ... This is not true. It just reduces the chance of a mistake being made by an unknown factor. It s still possible to allow an option to be set, thinking
                  Message 8 of 25 , Apr 30, 2007
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                    John Beckett wrote:

                    > A.J.Mechelynck wrote:
                    > >> Is folding really needed in a default modeline?
                    > > Folding may be useful in a modeline.
                    > > (Don't know what you call a "default" modeline.)
                    >
                    > By "default modeline" I mean I would like Vim to be changed so
                    > that its default behaviour is aggressively safe. If wanted,
                    > there could be a new option to enable clever features, and a
                    > user could choose to allow modelines with folding or expression
                    > evaluation, etc.

                    This is not true. It just reduces the chance of a mistake being made by
                    an unknown factor. It's still possible to allow an option to be set,
                    thinking that it is OK, but we later find out that it was not OK. Just
                    like carefully removing mistakes and screening the options for mistakes
                    does help to make it safer. Thus it doesn't make an essential
                    difference. N times as safe still isn't 100% safe.

                    In other words: If we have an option "run insecure" nobody would set it.
                    Vim must be secure as-is.

                    > But the only long-term safe procedure is to have Vim *default*
                    > to work with only very restricted modelines (set tab and other
                    > options - no way to even get near executing code).

                    As they sometimes joke: The best way to protect your computer from
                    malicious software is to switch it off. Likewise, the only really safe
                    way is to disable modelines. Obviously you pay a price: restricted
                    functionality. Options to partly disable modelines make it more
                    complicated and don't help much for security.

                    > I am wondering what the lack of comment on this topic indicates.
                    > Do you understand that another modeline vulnerability could
                    > allow the next file you open to overwrite all files under your
                    > home folder? Or it might overwrite all sectors on your disk, if
                    > you have sufficient privilege.

                    Don't forget that this requires someone who intentionally wants this
                    evil thing to happen. So far the only examples seen are jokes and proof
                    of concept. I have never seen a file with a modeline that intentionally
                    causes harm.

                    > How about if you go to another computer that you rarely use.
                    > Would you be happy using Vim on that computer?
                    > Network admins in secure environments should be prohibited
                    > from using Vim.

                    Modelines are default off when you are root. The mail filetype plugin
                    also switches it off.

                    > If I am overlooking something, or am overly alarmist, please
                    > tell me. For anyone new to this, enter following in Google:
                    > vim vulnerability modeline

                    Thanks for the advertisement! :-).

                    --
                    Give a man a computer program and you give him a headache,
                    but teach him to program computers and you give him the power
                    to create headaches for others for the rest of his life...
                    R. B. Forest

                    /// Bram Moolenaar -- Bram@... -- http://www.Moolenaar.net \\\
                    /// sponsor Vim, vote for features -- http://www.Vim.org/sponsor/ \\\
                    \\\ download, build and distribute -- http://www.A-A-P.org ///
                    \\\ help me help AIDS victims -- http://ICCF-Holland.org ///
                  • John Beckett
                    ... I am not claiming that sanity-checking a modeline before execution would make it 100% safe. But there have been many examples in other software where minor
                    Message 9 of 25 , May 1, 2007
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                      Bram Moolenaar wrote:
                      > N times as safe still isn't 100% safe.

                      I am not claiming that sanity-checking a modeline before
                      execution would make it 100% safe. But there have been many
                      examples in other software where minor bugs have turned into
                      security disasters because some simple point that could have
                      been checked, wasn't.

                      While code is working correctly, a simple check is redundant,
                      and indeed is offensive because it lengthens and obscures the
                      code. But a few simple checks may prevent disaster at some
                      future time, when Vim is further developed.

                      The Google test (searching for past instances of trouble with
                      Vim's modeline) proves the case that future problems are likely.

                      > Modelines are default off when you are root.
                      > The mail filetype plugin also switches it off.

                      Good grief - I didn't know that. So you *have* got sanity checks
                      built in! I'll go and sit in the corner now, but thanks for
                      confirming that multiple layers of defence are desirable.

                      John
                    • A.J.Mechelynck
                      Bram Moolenaar wrote: [...] ... [...] Are you sure? In a terminal logged-in as root, using vim 7.0.235: vim -u NONE -N ... modeline modelines=5 Modelines
                      Message 10 of 25 , May 1, 2007
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                        Bram Moolenaar wrote:
                        [...]
                        > Modelines are default off when you are root. The mail filetype plugin
                        > also switches it off.
                        [...]

                        Are you sure? In a terminal logged-in as root, using vim 7.0.235:

                        vim -u NONE -N
                        :set ml? mls?
                        modeline
                        modelines=5

                        Modelines default off when 'compatible' is set, they default on (and 5) when
                        'nocompatible' is set. Root login changes nothing to that AFAICT.


                        Best regards,
                        Tony.
                        --
                        "You mean there really is an answer?"
                        "Yes! But you're not going to like it!"
                        "Oh do please tell us!"
                        "You're really not going to like it!"
                        "but we MUST know - tell us"
                        "Alright, the answer is...."
                        "yes..."
                        "... is ..."
                        "yes... come on!"
                        "is 42!"
                        (Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
                      • Bram Moolenaar
                        ... Sorry, my mistake. There is a recommendation that when working as root you switch modeline off, but it s not done automatically. I do think that it s a
                        Message 11 of 25 , May 1, 2007
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                          Tony Mechelynck wrote:

                          > Bram Moolenaar wrote:
                          > [...]
                          > > Modelines are default off when you are root. The mail filetype plugin
                          > > also switches it off.
                          > [...]
                          >
                          > Are you sure? In a terminal logged-in as root, using vim 7.0.235:
                          >
                          > vim -u NONE -N
                          > :set ml? mls?
                          > modeline
                          > modelines=5
                          >
                          > Modelines default off when 'compatible' is set, they default on (and 5) when
                          > 'nocompatible' is set. Root login changes nothing to that AFAICT.

                          Sorry, my mistake. There is a recommendation that when working as root
                          you switch 'modeline' off, but it's not done automatically.

                          I do think that it's a good idea to make it automatic.

                          --
                          He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

                          /// Bram Moolenaar -- Bram@... -- http://www.Moolenaar.net \\\
                          /// sponsor Vim, vote for features -- http://www.Vim.org/sponsor/ \\\
                          \\\ download, build and distribute -- http://www.A-A-P.org ///
                          \\\ help me help AIDS victims -- http://ICCF-Holland.org ///
                        • Matthew Winn
                          On Tue, 1 May 2007 19:42:02 +1000, John Beckett ... What constitutes a reasonable length ? Vim has to load the entire document including its modeline into
                          Message 12 of 25 , May 3, 2007
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                            On Tue, 1 May 2007 19:42:02 +1000, "John Beckett"
                            <winterwaffle@...> wrote:

                            > Matthew Winn wrote:
                            > > If there was a security problem in Vim do you really think it
                            > > couldn't be exploited in 100 characters? That's a pretty shaky
                            > > foundation on which to build your security.
                            >
                            > I am quite surprised at the lack of appreciation for the merits
                            > of "defense in depth" here. I am not claiming that a length
                            > limit would preclude damage, just that a modeline should be
                            > sanity checked before execution, and a reasonable length would
                            > be the first check.

                            What constitutes a "reasonable length"? Vim has to load the entire
                            document including its modeline into memory anyway, so there's no
                            denial-of-service implications in allowing unlimited modelines.
                            Your suggestion amounts to "I won't use a modeline longer than X,
                            so nobody will use a modeline longer than X".

                            My objection to your idea is that it won't improve security by even
                            the tiniest bit. It's not defence in depth at all. It's a worthless
                            measure that can't achieve anything useful and can only get in the
                            way of legitimate uses. Any modeline long enough to be useful for a
                            legitimate purpose must also be long enough to be useful for a hostile
                            one.

                            > It's sensational that Vim can process files with very long
                            > lines, for the occasions we need that. But it would be absurd
                            > for Vim to process a multi-megabyte modeline.

                            Where do you draw the line between absurd and reasonable? When I write
                            options I spell out the names in full so they're easier to understand
                            for someone who doesn't know Vim well. That means that my modelines
                            are quite long. But someone who wanted to save space could use the
                            abbreviated form of an option. That means that if a modeline can be
                            long enough to satisfy me it would give an attacker the ability to use
                            several times as many options to craft their exploit as are needed for
                            general use.

                            > By all means abuse me for my cheeky suggestion to limit
                            > modelines to 100 bytes, but while doing that you might agree
                            > that some limit under 1MB should be enforced.

                            Why?

                            In some places there are good reasons for limiting sizes. For example,
                            RFC2822 places a limit of 998 characters on the length of a line. The
                            reason for this is so that RFC2822-conforming applications don't have
                            to deal with data of arbitrary length and allocate unlimited buffers
                            to handle it. They can allocate a buffer 1001 characters long and
                            discard anything that won't fit in the buffer, thereby preventing the
                            possibility of denial-of-service attacks from someone sending a line
                            several hundred megabytes long.

                            Vim doesn't have that issue because it must load the entire file into
                            memory anyway. Vim already knows how to deal with long lines, so
                            there's no extra penalty incurred by a multi-megabyte modeline.

                            > > A web browser should be able to handle anything thrown at it
                            > > in a way that doesn't compromise security. _Every_ application
                            > > should be able to handle anything thrown at it in a way that
                            > > doesn't compromise security.
                            >
                            > Even if a program is perfect now, a later change can introduce a
                            > bug. Any program which can automatically execute untrusted code
                            > should sanity-check the input as a separate step from
                            > sandboxing. That is standard Security 101 stuff - not my idea.

                            I've been working with computer security for over two decades. I know
                            about standard security stuff. I also know that security that doesn't
                            work is worse than no security at all, because it creates an illusion
                            of protection where none exists.

                            > > Perl and Vim have exactly the same requirements: the need to
                            > > safely handle code taken from an untrustworthy source. It
                            > > makes no difference whether it comes directly from a network
                            > > or from a disk. (If, like me, you use Vim as your source
                            > > viewer for web pages, the need for the same level of security
                            > > is obvious.)
                            >
                            > It doesn't matter, but for the record, Perl's tainting system is
                            > not related to the scenario you describe. Perl wants to make
                            > sure that untrusted input is not later used as the basis for
                            > some expression that could do harm, such as executing SQL code.

                            That's what I meant, and that's exactly what Vim needs as well. Both
                            applications read data from a source that can't be trusted, and both
                            need to ensure that untrusted data can't be used in a situation where
                            it could be dangerous. In Vim's case it needs to make sure that an
                            expression used in an option set from a modeline can't be used later
                            in a way that would cause harm, such as executing a command.

                            Take a look at the original message. It sets foldmethod to something
                            that triggers the execution of an external command after the modeline
                            has been processed. Imagine you have a web page that contains the
                            following (with the real command removed so it can't cause problems,
                            just in case someone does view this in Vim; think of "rm -rf /"):

                            <!--
                            vim: fdm=expr fde=feedkeys("\\:!dangerous-command-here\\<cr>")
                            -->

                            Now imagine that someone uses Vim as their browser's "view source"
                            application. That's _exactly_ the thing Perl's tainting mechanism is
                            designed to prevent, and that's exactly what Vim must prevent too.

                            --
                            Matthew Winn
                          • John Beckett
                            ... We ve probably slugged this out enough, but I m glad to have another opportunity to promote the safe modelines message. Bram has made the point that
                            Message 13 of 25 , May 3, 2007
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                              Matthew Winn wrote:
                              > My objection to your idea is that it won't improve security by even
                              > the tiniest bit. It's not defence in depth at all.

                              We've probably slugged this out enough, but I'm glad to have
                              another opportunity to promote the "safe modelines" message.

                              Bram has made the point that despite repeated modeline
                              vulnerabilities over several years, there are no known cases of
                              a malicious attack. We have only seen PoC and jokes.

                              I see the sense of that position - why put in a bunch of ugly
                              checking which is going to reduce features and upset some users?
                              Why do it if there are no known benefits?

                              My answer is essentially an appeal to a higher moral purpose.
                              There may never be in-the-wild exploits based on modelines, but
                              that would make it all the easier to direct a specific attack
                              against a targeted victim. The attacker would have a list of 10
                              or 20 "slight" security flaws in the victim's network. One of
                              those would be the fact that the victim uses Vim. An attacker
                              may use a Vim modeline as the coup de grace to fully own the
                              victim's network.

                              I find that situation offensive, and believe that modelines
                              should be REALLY fixed.

                              My claim is:
                              1. A modeline can execute untrusted code.
                              2. That is incredibly dangerous.
                              3. Any bugs in modeline handling should be fixed.
                              4. In addition, modelines should be sanity checked.

                              I think we agree on points 1-3.

                              I mentioned that the first step for point 4 should (IMHO) be
                              rejecting any modeline beyond some fairly small maximum size.

                              However, that was just the first part of my hoped-for sanity
                              check. After that, I would like the modeline to be examined to
                              determine whether there are any constructs that "look"
                              dangerous. I would reject any modeline with more than ten
                              backslashes, and would reject anything looking like an
                              expression or 'call'.

                              What I'd really like would be a separate sanity check that
                              verifies that the syntax in the modeline is boringly standard
                              'set' options for a declared whitelist of things that a modeline
                              is allowed to do. Note that this checking should NOT be done
                              only in the code that executes the modeline. The checking should
                              be an independent, prior step. That redundancy is likely to save
                              someone's foot in future years, when extra features are added.

                              > My objection to your idea [to limit modeline length] is that
                              > it won't improve security by even the tiniest bit.

                              You may be right. But if I were to accidentally execute malware,
                              I would prefer that the malware was short, rather than of an
                              essentially unlimited length. I agree that 100 bytes of malware
                              could do more damage than I could bear, but I would still
                              prefer that situation.

                              For example, 100 bytes of malware might be able to erase my
                              files, but perhaps it couldn't do something more sophisticated
                              like launching a hidden infiltration of my network.

                              I don't really know why I want to limit the modeline length.
                              That's the whole point of proper security measures. Just because
                              I can't think of a way that a long modeline might be bad, does
                              not mean that some attacker won't find a way, particularly in
                              five years after a bunch more stuff has been added to Vim.

                              > That means that my modelines are quite long.

                              I'm a reasonable guy<g>. Let's take your longest modeline and
                              double it. That length should be the maximum allowed for a
                              modeline unless some new "anything goes" option is enabled.

                              Re Perl tainting: I think we essentially agree on this, although
                              I don't think Vim needs to mark an executable expression read
                              from a modeline as tainted. Vim should immediately reject any
                              modeline that might execute code (unless some new "anything
                              goes" option is enabled).

                              John
                            • Ciaran McCreesh
                              On Fri, 4 May 2007 14:20:22 +1000 ... Most previous exploits have been exploitable with far below the line length that is reasonably used by sensible people.
                              Message 14 of 25 , May 4, 2007
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                                On Fri, 4 May 2007 14:20:22 +1000
                                "John Beckett" <winterwaffle@...> wrote:
                                > I mentioned that the first step for point 4 should (IMHO) be
                                > rejecting any modeline beyond some fairly small maximum size.

                                Most previous exploits have been exploitable with far below the line
                                length that is reasonably used by sensible people.

                                > What I'd really like would be a separate sanity check that
                                > verifies that the syntax in the modeline is boringly standard
                                > 'set' options for a declared whitelist of things that a modeline
                                > is allowed to do.

                                http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=1876

                                > For example, 100 bytes of malware might be able to erase my
                                > files, but perhaps it couldn't do something more sophisticated
                                > like launching a hidden infiltration of my network.

                                100 bytes is more than enough room to download and execute a file that
                                contains the real malicious code.

                                --
                                Ciaran McCreesh
                              • John Beckett
                                ... I actually agree that it is extremely unlikely that a length check would make modelines more secure, but I m being argumentative because it s irritating to
                                Message 15 of 25 , May 4, 2007
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                                  Ciaran McCreesh wrote:
                                  > 100 bytes is more than enough room to download and execute
                                  > a file that contains the real malicious code.

                                  I actually agree that it is extremely unlikely that a length
                                  check would make modelines more secure, but I'm being
                                  argumentative because it's irritating to be authoritatively
                                  assured that a length check would have no benefit in the future.

                                  We just don't know whether some future vulnerability (perhaps
                                  using a currently-unknown new feature) might be avoided with a
                                  modeline length check.

                                  John
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