[langsec-discuss] Langsec and Java Object Serialization

Will Sargent will.sargent at gmail.com
Tue Nov 10 03:11:22 UTC 2015

Hi all,

I've been getting involved in the latest object serialization mess:


So, the problem with Java object serialization is at first glance that
people "deserialized untrusted objects."

The problem here is unpacking that statement.

What is trusted and untrusted?  Developers trust internal applications in
the data center.  They trust JMX to run on an internal port inside the
firewall.  "Trusted" is not a useful definition here, because developers
trust things all the time on the principle that they "should" be secure,
while security researchers are astonished that developers still have an
idea of "inside" and "outside."

How do you trust objects?  Well, they go through validation.  Or, if you
like langsec (and who doesn't), they go through full recognition before

What's validation?  What's recognition?

Well, it's when you figure out that a message is good.  When you can look
at a serialized class and divine its goodness.

And then I came across the following interesting blog posts by Sami Koivu:



The first paragraph is probably the best flavor:

"I decided to write this bit after I started participating on the Cert/CC
Java Secure Coding guidelines and was looking at the rules in the
Serialization section. I immediately spotted some problems and started
working on how to do serialization right, in terms of security. I already
knew many of the pitfalls, but I quickly found that secure validation while
deserializing is extremely difficult. Need proof? If Joshua Bloch can't get
it right, and the (Oracle/Sun) Secure Coding Guidelines can't get it right,
and key core classes can't get it right, what chances do the rest of us

Basically, the only way I know of to securely check the goodness of java
serialization is to check the class name.  I have no real idea if that can
be faked or not (I wouldn't be surprised), but anything involving any kind
of internal query into the structure of a message seems inherently doomed.

Any ideas?

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