Lately I have posted a number of posts on the state of shared hosting security. Unfortunately we have to conclude that only by taking drastic measures a hoster can begin to protect his customers from eachother. And even when the hoster locks dow everything to the best of his abilities, which disables lots of useful functionality, there are some significant holes left. Therefore I have compiled this wishlist of things I would like to see improved in Centaur to make shared hosting security a bit better and easier to deal with.


Setting up shared hosting is largely a process of trial-and-error. There is absolutely no documentation available that tells us which tags will blow up when we Sandbox the temp folder. That cfdocument will error out if the fonts folder is not allowed in the Sanbox. There is nothing to warn us that cfdump will break if we disable createObject(JAVA). What we need is better documentation and preferably a whitepaper that shows us how to configure a secure shared hosting environment step by step.

A locked down application scope

Frameworks are storing more and more data in the application scope. The application scope is currently completely unprotected: everybody can see everything. We need a way to lock down the application scope so we can only access it from just one Sandbox.

Fine grained Java permissions

The biggest useful feature we need to disable in order to protect servers is access to Java objects. We need much more control over which actions a Java class can perform before we can open up access to Java. For starters, we need knobs to disable many actions from the Runtime class. We need to be able to disable the loading of arbitrary classes by users (what is the point in disabling createObject(COM) if users can load their own version of JIntegra?), we need to stop users from killing the server with exitVM, halt etc., we need to stop them from spawning other processes etc. Then we need to have all access to SecurityPermission disabled so that users can’t simply reset the security and we need to have ReflectPermission disabled to keep our private stuff private.

Java provides all the API we need for that, we just don’t have any knobs in ColdFusion to switch them on for our Sandboxes

Sane default settings for Sandboxes

If you create a new Sandbox from scratch it has access to many things it shouldn’t. A secure by default configuration would for instance disable all datasources and leave it up to the administrator to enable them on an as needed basis. Same goes for tags like cfexecute and cfobject.

On the other hand the default Sandboxes do not have access to to for instance the /WEB-INF/cftags/ folder. Without that access cfinterface may not work. What is the harm in giving Sandboxes Read and Execute access to that folder by default? Isn’t the code in those folders written by and trusted by Adobe?

There are many more issues that would help ColdFusion becomming a better hosted platform, and I will address a few more in the future, but these are the 4 most important issues in the area of shared hosting security that Adobe needs to address. All of these have been submitted to Adobe, but I am sure a few more votes and ideas won’t hurt.

One Comment

  1. Russ Michaels says:

    I have also suggested many of these things to Macromedia several times since CF6, and as I run a hosting company Macromedia/Adobe finally contacted me a while back (before CF8 I believe) and we discussed at length the requirements for shared hosting. You will be glad to know they have now finally implemented at least some of my suggestions in ColdFusion 9, best of all the Java runtime lockdown in security sandboxes.
    I have mentioned some of them here