Comments on: REBOL Plugins and Security
Once REBOL has the plugin feature, there will be no limit to the range of features developers can add to REBOL. That's because plug-ins will allow (as an option) execution of native code and calls to system libraries. Of course, that also means that there will be no limit on the trouble that a plugin can cause if it is created for malicious purposes.
This issue related to security will need to be addressed with the initial release of plugins. Since all other network-loaded software in the world faces similar issues (e.g. IE plugins), the problems and solutions are well known.
First, I should setup the context by mentioning that every plugin will include a header block that provides a variety of information such as the title, author(s), copyright, description, version, etc. You would expect this from REBOL... it's the same thing we allow with all REBOL programs and data. This header block be loaded and viewed by any REBOL program, so people will be able to build scripts to create and maintain libraries of plugins. In addition, programs like REBOL/View will include an add/remove list to let you select what plugins you want enabled, etc.
Of course, such a header does nothing to address the problem of security. For that, we will need to add a layer of encryption to allow plugins to be signature authenticated. In this mode, the plugin is signed with a private key and all copies of REBOL include a built-in public key that can verify that the signature is correct.
That also does not assure security, because what prevents the bad guys from signing their plugins? So, those of you who are familiar with these types of issues know that there is an easy way to structure the solution. Since this is a blog and not a manual, I'll just outline the basic choices here:
Now, some of you will contact me to say that there are other useful modes as well, and indeed if you look at the security options for a browsers like IE, you can see some of those other choices. However, adding a lot of other options also makes the solution more complex. IE is a good example. Very few people attempt to deal with all the security combinations that IE offers (I used to do it, but not any more). So, in good REBOL style, we'll just keep our method simple and useful.
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