[swift-evolution] Swift null safety questions
ejrx7753 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 22 21:25:03 CDT 2017
On March 22, 2017 at 8:41:25 PM, Joe Groff (jgroff at apple.com) wrote:
> On Mar 22, 2017, at 4:07 PM, Elijah Johnson <ejrx7753 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Note that this thread has branched off a bit, so my latest proposal and
the “head” of this thread can be found at
> Can you give an example of this corruption which would be exploitable in
a web server context? An example where, having caught the force-unwrap or
other precondition fatalError, that the web server would face more danger
from continued execution that it would loose by crashing?
> The optional has been triggered, the request has been stopped, and
incoming requests are going to a new process, but there are a few threads
open still finishing what they were doing - I’d like to see a good example
of the danger caused by a real “inconsistency”. Lets assume also that all
objects shared between threads are Swift objects and not “UnsafePointers”,
which is a very fair assumtion for a web server. Java even allows native
access and they don’t even crash there.
When considering security threats, we have to take the presence of an
exploit as given until we prove otherwise. A precondition failure indicates
a logic error somewhere in the program, and while safe Swift abstractions
are intended not to lead to memory unsafety in the face of precondition
failures, there's plenty of relatively young, unsafe code below the hood in
the implementations of those abstractions, written by humans who make
mistakes. Whatever lurking security bugs there may be, they're more likely
to be exploitable if you're already in a situation where assumptions have
> I’m sorry, but I completely fail to grasp the danger as being > crashing.
Crashing is inconvenient. The user may have to retry their request or
relaunch their app. Security breaches or data corruption are disasters that
can have unbounded impact and cost—you can't undisclose sensitive data.
> I’d be interested to know who these web server developers (ex. Kitura,
Vapor) are targeting without any form of crash handling and if they read
these threads. It really limits the pool of developers more so than on apps
because a single crash on the app ie equivelant to a failed request, not a
crashed web server. I realize you are not competing with Java, but I do not
see yet the compelling reason for no crash handling.
> The “actors” with thread pool and proccesses is one idea, but I think
these servers are aiming also for speed and scaleability - don’t know if
they would accept this model. I know that it does get used, and do work for
a company that uses it on their backend (just plain Java, not sep.
processes). Their front-end probably runs like a pre-fork server, but Java
is so stable that there is simply no need for that.
You can use processes for fault isolation today, and that will have some
cost. At Swift's current maturity level, that's really probably the only
responsible isolation strategy. The goal of "actors" would be to get most
of the benefits of processes through language-level isolation without
paying the full cost of processes.
I have no personal objection to actors or processes or anything else. I
would just emphasize that the webservers in existence for Swift (and quite
well funded) are right now on a “crash the whole thing” model AFAIK. I
don’t know if they will be able to get by with catching all the
precondition failures in testing - maybe they will - maybe not, but I see
people either wisely turning down Swift for web development or getting
their first crash as a “zero-day” system down event where some guy has to
ssh in and actually start the server back up.
But whatever the fix is, or nothing, they (developers of Perfect, Kitura,
Vapor, etc) will have to like it and implement it. If they’re not
interested, I’m not starting a development company to compete. And also the
development time is so short on my idea that you basically just have to
approve it and the development time for it is hours not months or years.
Just add a fatalError function override and any c developer could have it
done in minutes like this guy https://github.com/ankurp/unsafe-swift (not
endorsing the post, just showing evidence that setjmp and longjmp work fine
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