web - Dave's Blog


Detect login with CSP - When Security Generates Insecurity

14 days ago

An interesting way to use the report-uri feature of CSP to detect if a user is logged into Google, Facebook etc.

PermalinkCommentstechnical security csp web

On exploiting security issues in botnet C&C...

Jun 23, 4:26

On exploiting security issues in botnet C&C software:

Hackers “are learning that it’s not so easy to write secure code,” Toro says. “Most of us in the business of securing our applications and systems know that bulletproofing software is an extremely expensive and exhaustive undertaking. Malware creators who have to look to their own defences would have to slow down the production of new attacks.”

FYI, if you want to know what it looks like when you hack a hacker, look no further than the seminal 1995 film Hackers.

PermalinkCommentstechnical security

Netflix API : Retiring the Netflix Public API

Jun 15, 3:02

First they came for our RSS feeds and I said nothing…

PermalinkCommentstechnical Netflix web api api

A high-profile fork: one year of Blink and Webkit Some stats...

Jun 3, 9:10

A high-profile fork: one year of Blink and Webkit

Some stats and analysis at a very high level of the Blink fork from Webkit.

PermalinkCommentstechnology browser webkit blink apple google

XSS game

May 29, 1:10

Google’s XSS training game. Learn how to find XSS issues for fun and profit.

PermalinkCommentstechnical web security xss google

Cloud Share - New App

May 23, 4:06

I've put a new app on the Windows Store: Cloud Share. It connects the web to your Windows 8 share charm.

I did the development on GitHub and quite enjoyed myself. I wasn't sure I liked the game-ification of development in GitHub's dashboard showing you your longest development streak in days. However I realized that it encourages me to do work on my personal project and anything that aids in holding my attention on and helping me finish these projects is a good thing.

PermalinkCommentsdevelopment github javascript JS technical windows

Debugging anecdote - the color transparent black breaks accessibility

May 22, 10:36

Some time back while I was working on getting the Javascript Windows Store app platform running on Windows Phone (now available on the last Windows Phone release!) I had an interesting bug that in retrospect is amusing.

I had just finished a work item to get accessibility working for JS WinPhone apps when I got a new bug: With some set of JS apps, accessibility appeared to be totally broken. At that time in development the only mechanism we had to test accessibility was a test tool that runs on the PC, connects to the phone, and dumps out the accessibility tree of whatever app is running on the phone. In this bug, the tool would spin for a while and then timeout with an error and no accessibility information.

My first thought was this was an issue in my new accessibility code. However, debugging with breakpoints on my code I could see none of my code was run nor the code that should call it. The code that called that code was a more generic messaging system that hit my breakpoints constantly.

Rather than trying to work backward from the failure point, I decided to try and narrow down the repro and work forwards from there. One thing all the apps with the bug had in common was their usage of WinJS, but not all WinJS apps demonstrated the issue. Using a binary search approach on one such app I removed unrelated app code until all that was left was the app's usage of the WinJS AppBar and the bug still occurred. I replaced the WinJS AppBar usage with direct usage of the underlying AppBar WinRT APIs and continued.

Only some calls to the AppBar WinRT object produced the issue:

        var appBar = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBar.getForCurrentView(); 
// appBar.opacity = 1;
// appBar.closeDisplayMode = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBarClosedDisplayMode.default;
appBar.backgroundColor = Windows.UI.Colors.white; // Bug!
Just setting the background color appeared to cause the issue and I didn't even have to display the AppBar. Through additional trial and error I was blown away to discover that some colors I would set caused the issue and other colors did not. Black wouldn't cause the issue but transparent black would. So would aqua but not white.

I eventually realized that predefined WinRT color values like Windows.UI.Colors.aqua would cause the issue while JS literal based colors didn't cause the issue (Windows.UI.Color is a WinRT struct which projects in JS as a JS literal object with the struct members as JS object properties so its easy to write something like {r: 0, g: 0, b: 0, a: 0} to make a color) and I had been mixing both in my tests without realizing there would be a difference. I debugged into the backgroundColor property setter that consumed the WinRT color struct to see what was different between Windows.UI.Colors.black and {a: 1, r: 0, g: 0, b: 0} and found the two structs to be byte wise exactly the same.

On a hunch I tried my test app with only a reference to the color and otherwise no interaction with the AppBar and not doing anything with the actual reference to the color: Windows.UI.Colors.black;. This too caused the issue. I knew that the implementation for these WinRT const values live in a DLL and guessed that something in the code to create these predefined colors was causing the issue. I debugged in and no luck. Now I also have experienced crusty code that would do exciting things in its DllMain, the function that's called when a DLL is loaded into the process so I tried modifying my C++ code to simply LoadLibrary the DLL containing the WinRT color definition, windows.ui.xaml.dll and found the bug still occurred! A short lived moment of relief as the world seemed to make sense again.

Debugging into DllMain nothing interesting happened. There were interesting calls in there to be sure, but all of them behind conditions that were false. I was again stumped. On another hunch I tried renaming the DLL and only LoadLibrary'ing it and the bug went away. I took a different DLL renamed it windows.ui.xaml.dll and tried LoadLibrary'ing that and the bug came back. Just the name of the DLL was causing the issue.

I searched for the DLL name in our source code index and found hits in the accessibility tool. Grinning I opened the source to find that the accessibility tool's phone side service was trying to determine if a process belonged to a XAML app or not because XAML apps had a different accessibility contract. It did this by checking to see if windows.ui.xaml.dll was loaded in the target process.

At this point I got to fix my main issue and open several new bugs for the variety of problems I had just run into. This is a how to on writing software that is difficult to debug.

PermalinkCommentsbug debug javascript JS technical windows winrt

location.hash and location.search are bad and they should feel bad

May 22, 9:25
The DOM location interface exposes the HTML document's URI parsed into its properties. However, it is ancient and has problems that bug me but otherwise rarely show up in the real world. Complaining about mostly theoretical issues is why blogging exists, so here goes:
  • The location object's search, hash, and protocol properties are all misnomers that lead to confusion about the correct terms:
    • The 'search' property returns the URI's query property. The query property isn't limited to containing search terms.
    • The 'hash' property returns the URI's fragment property. This one is just named after its delimiter. It should be called the fragment.
    • The 'protocol' property returns the URI's scheme property. A URI's scheme isn't necessarily a protocol. The http URI scheme of course uses the HTTP protocol, but the https URI scheme is the HTTP protocol over SSL/TLS - there is no HTTPS protocol. Similarly for something like mailto - there is no mailto wire protocol.
  • The 'hash' and 'search' location properties both return null in the case that their corresponding URI property doesn't exist or if its the empty string. A URI with no query property and a URI with an empty string query property that are otherwise the same, are not equal URIs and are allowed by HTTP to return different content. Similarly for the fragment. Unless the specific URI scheme defines otherwise, an empty query or hash isn't the same as no query or hash.
But like complaining about the number of minutes in an hour none of this can ever change without huge compat issues on the web. Accordingly I can only give my thanks to Anne van Kesteren and the awesome work on the URL standard moving towards a more sane (but still working practically within the constraints of compat) location object and URI parsing in the browser.

Encrypted Web Traffic More Than Doubles

May 18, 1:20

RT @PeerProd In Europe, encrypted traffic went from 1.47% to 6.10%, and in Latin America, it increased from 1.8% to 10.37%
http://www.wired.com/2014/05/sandvine-report/ #NSA

PermalinkCommentstechnical security nsa encryption

FCC planning new Internet rules that will gut Net Neutrality. Get ready to pay more for the stuff you love online.

Apr 24, 3:29
PermalinkCommentstechnical net-neutrality fcc bullshit

The decline of the mobile web...

Apr 8, 6:49

The decline of the mobile web http://cdixon.org/2014/04/07/the-decline-of-the-mobile-web/

PermalinkCommentstechnical web browser mobile phone

thefrogman: Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza...

2013 Oct 15, 7:47


Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand
[website | tumblr | twitter | facebook]

PermalinkCommentshumor comic robot

FitBit and WebOC Application Compatibility Errors

2013 Aug 29, 7:17
I just got a FitBit One from my wife. Unfortunately I had issues running their app on my Windows 8.1 Preview machine. But I recognized the errors as IE compatibility issues, for instance an IE dialog popup from the FitBit app telling me about an error in the app's JavaScript. Given my previous post on WebOC versioning you may guess what I tried next. I went into the registry and tried out different browser mode and document mode versions until I got the FitBit software running without error. Ultimately I found the following registry value to work well ('FitBit connect.exe' set to DWORD decimal 8888).
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

"Fitbit Connect.exe"=dword:000022b8

For those familiar with the Windows registry the above should be enough. For those not familiar, copy and paste the above into notepad, save as a file named "fitbit.reg", and then double click the reg file and say 'Yes' to the prompt. Hopefully in the final release of Windows 8.1 this won't be an issue.

Subtleties of postMessage

2013 Jul 15, 1:00

In IE10 and other new browsers one may create MessageChannel objects that have two MessagePorts each connected (w3c spec calls it entangled) to one another such that postMessage on one port results in the message event firing on the other. You can pass an array of ports as the last parameter to postMessage and they show up in the ports property of the message event arg.


The postMessage here is like the worker postMessage and unlike the window and iframe postMessage in that it applies no origin checking:

  1. No origin postMessage in workers and MessagePorts: postMessage(messageData, ports)
  2. Origin postMessage in windows and iframes: postMessage(messageData, targetOrigin, ports)

Unfortunately the origin isn't an optional parameter at the end to make the two postMessages have the same signature.

On the event handler side, the event arg always has an origin property. But in the no origin case it is always the empty string.


There is also a source property on the message event arg which if set is an object that has a postMessage property allowing you to post back to your caller. It is set for the origin case, however, in the no origin case this property is null. This is somewhat reasonable because in the case of MessagePort and Workers there are only two endpoints so you always know the source of a message implicitly. Unlike the origin case in which any iframe or window can be calling postMessage on any other iframe or window and the caller is unknown. So not unreasonable but it would be nice if the source property was always set for consistency.

MessageChannel start

When a MessageChannel is created it has two MessagePorts, but until those ports are started they will queue up any messages they receive. Once started they will dispatch all queued messages. Ports don't have to be started to send messages.

A port may be started in two ways, either by explicitly calling the start method on the port, or by setting the onmessage callback property on the port. However, adding an event listener via addEventListener("message", does not start the port. It works this way in IE and Chrome and the spec states this as well.

The justification is that since you can have only one callback via onmessage that once set you must implicitly be ready to receive messages and its fine to start the port. As opposed to the addEventListener in which case the user agent cannot start implicitly because it doesn't know how many event listeners will be added.� I found Hixie stating this justification in geoloc meeting notes.


W3C Spec

Opera introduction

PermalinkCommentsDOM html javascript postMessage technical web-worker worker

Percent Clcok Windows Store App Development Notes

2013 Jul 11, 1:00

My third completed Windows Store app is Percent Clock which displays portions of a time span like the time of the day or time until your next birthday, as a percentage. This was a small project I had previously started as a webpage and converted and finished as an HTML JavaScript Windows Store app.

The only somewhat interesting aspect of this app is that its the first app for which I tried charging. I picked the minimum amount for price 1.49 USD as it is a simple app and unsurprisingly it has sold very poorly. I'm considering releasing new instances of the app for specific scenarios:

  • Death Clock: viewing your current age with respect to your life expectancy as a percentage.
  • New Year Countdown: percentage of the year until New Years.
PermalinkCommentsdevelopment javascript technical windows windows-store

Words with Hints Windows 8 App Development Notes

2013 Jul 4, 1:00

My second completed app for the Windows Store was Words with Hints a companion to Words with Friends or other Scrabble like games that gives you *ahem* hints. You provide your tiles and optionally letters placed in a line on the board and Words with Hints gives you word options.

I wrote this the first time by building a regular expression to check against my dictionary of words which made for a slow app on the Surface. In subsequent release of the app I now spawn four web workers (one for each of the Surface's cores) each with its own fourth of my dictionary. Each fourth of the dictionary is a trie which makes it easy for me to discard whole chunks of possible combinations of Scrabble letters as I walk the tree of possibilities.

The dictionaries are large and takes a noticeable amount of time to load on the Surface. The best performing mechanism I found to load them is as JavaScript source files that simply define their portion of the dictionary on the global object and synchronously (only on the worker so not blocking the UI thread). Putting them into .js files means they take advantage of bytecode caching making them load faster. However because the data is mostly strings and not code there is a dramatic size increase when the app is installed. The total size of the four dictionary .js files is about 44Mb. The bytecode cache for the dictionary files is about double that 88Mb meaning the dictionary plus the bytecode cache is 132Mb.

To handle the bother of postMessage communication and web workers this was the first app in which I used my promise MessagePort project which I'll discuss more in the future.

This is the first app in which I used the Microsoft Ad SDK. It was difficult to find the install for the SDK and difficult to use their website, but once setup, the Ad SDK was easy to import into VS and easy to use in my app.

PermalinkCommentsdevelopment technical windows windows-store words-with-hints

wilwheaton: owlturdcomix: Thoughts I have instead of smart...

2013 May 13, 2:31



Thoughts I have instead of smart thoughts.


Owl Turd is rapidly becoming one of my favourite webcomics.

This may have been a Serial Experiments Lain episode synopsis.

PermalinkCommentshumor map

Google Street View Hyperlapse

2013 Apr 17, 2:00PermalinkCommentsVimeo webgl hyperlapse googlestreetview teehanandlax

draft-ietf-websec-framework-reqs-00 - Web Security Framework: Problem Statement and Requirements

2013 Feb 20, 2:48

Web Security Framework: Problem Statement and Requirements

PermalinkCommentstechnical rfc security web html

thefrogman: Peanuts / Army of Darkness (Evil Dead III) tribute...

2012 Dec 27, 7:15


Peanuts / Army of Darkness (Evil Dead III) tribute by Justin Hillgrove [website]

PermalinkCommentshumor peanuts army-of-darkness zombie
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