Global Posting Privileges on the Mozilla Discussion Forums

Have you ever tried to post a message to a Mozilla discussion forum, particularly one you haven’t posted to before, and received back a “your message is held in a queue for the moderator” message?

Turns out, if you are subscribed to at least one forum in its mailing list form, you get global posting privileges to all forums via all mechanisms (mail, news or Google Groups). If you aren’t so subscribed, you have to be whitelisted by the moderator on a per-forum basis.

If this sounds good, and you are looking for a nice low-traffic list to use to get this privilege, try mozilla.announce.

Google Concedes Google Code Not Good Enough?

Google recently released an update to End-to-End, their communications security tool. As part of the announcement, they said:

We’re migrating End-To-End to GitHub. We’ve always believed strongly that End-To-End must be an open source project, and we think that using GitHub will allow us to work together even better with the community.

They didn’t specifically say how it was hosted before, but a look at the original announcement tells us it was here – on Google Code. And indeed, when you visit that link now, it says “Project “end-to-end” has moved to another location on the Internet”, and offers a link to the Github repo.

Is Google admitting that Google Code just doesn’t cut it any more? It certainly doesn’t have anything like the feature set of Github. Will we see it in the next round of Google spring-cleaning in 2015?

FirefoxOS 3 Ideas: Hack The Phone Call

People are brainstorming ideas for FirefoxOS 3, and how it can be more user-centred. Here’s one:

There should be ways for apps to transparently be hooked into the voice call creation and reception process. I want to use the standard dialer and address book that I’m used to (and not have to use replacements written by particular companies or services), and still e.g.:

  • My phone company can write a Firefox OS extension (like TU Go on O2) such that when I’m on Wifi, all calls transparently use that
  • SIP or WebRTC contacts appear in the standard contacts app, but when I press “Call”, it uses the right technology to reach them
  • Incoming calls can come over VoIP, the phone network or any other way and they all look the same when ringing
  • When I dial, I can configure rules such that calls to certain prefixes/countries/numbers transparently use a dial-through operator, or VoIP, or a particular SIM
  • If a person has 3 possible contact methods, it tries them in a defined order, or all simultaneously, or best quality first, or whatever I want

These functions don’t have to be there by default; what I’m arguing for is the necessary hooks so that apps can add them – an app from your carrier, an app from your SIP provider, an app from a dial-through provider, or just a generic app someone writes to define call routing rules. But the key point is, you don’t have to use a new dialer or address book to use these features – they can be UI-less (at least when not explicitly configuring them.)

In other words, I want to give control over the phone call back to the user. At the moment, doing SIP on Android requires a new app. TU Go requires a new app. There’s no way to say “for all international calls, when I’m in the UK, use this dial-through operator”. I don’t have a dual-SIM Android phone, so I’m not sure if it’s possible on Android to say “all calls to this person use SIM X” or “all calls to this network (defined by certain number prefixes) use SIM Y”. But anyway, all these things should be possible on FirefoxOS 3. They may not be popular with carriers, because they will all save the user money. But if we are being user-centric, we should do them.

Unanimity Is Not a Requirement

People sometimes wonder how to best involve all of the affected/important/relevant parts of the Mozilla community in a decision. The prospect of doing this can lead to a certain amount of fear – of criticism, bike-shedding, etc.

At the last All Hands in October 2013, at a session in Brussels, we produced a Best Practices document called “Productive Discussion” to help with exactly this problem. Given Mitchell’s keynote at the recent All Hands, I thought it was worth reflagging its existence.

An Invitation

Ben Smedberg boldly writes:

I’d like to invite my blog readers and Mozilla coworkers to Jesus Christ.

Making a religious invitation to coworkers and friends at Mozilla is difficult. We spend our time and build our deepest relationships in a setting of on email, video, and online chat, where off-topic discussions are typically out of place. I want to share my experience of Christ with those who may be interested, but I don’t want to offend or upset those who aren’t.

This year, however, presents me with a unique opportunity. Most Mozilla employees will be together for a shared planning week. If you will be there, please feel free to find me during our down time and ask me about my experience of Christ.

Amen to all of that. Online collaboration is great, but as Ben says, it’s hard to find opportunities to discuss things which are important outside of a Mozilla context. There are several Christians at Mozilla attending the work week in Portland (roc is another, for example) and any of us would be happy to talk.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Search Bugzilla with Yahoo!

The Bugzilla team is aware that there are currently 5 different methods of searching Bugzilla (as explained in yesterday’s presentation) – Instant Search, Simple Search, Advanced Search, Google Search and QuickSearch. It has been argued that this is too many, and that we should simplify the options available – perhaps building a search which is all three of Instant, Simple and Quick, instead of just one of them. Some Bugzilla developers have sympathy with that view.

I, however, having caught the mood of the times, feel that Mozilla is all about choice, and there is still not enough choice in Bugzilla search. Therefore, I have decided to add a sixth option for those who want it. As of today, December 1st, by installing this GreaseMonkey script, you can now search Bugzilla with Yahoo! Search. (To do this, obviously, you will need a copy of GreaseMonkey.) It looks like this:

In the future, I may create a Bugzilla extension which allows users to fill the fourth tab on the search page with the search engine of their choice, perhaps leveraging the OpenSearch standard. Then, you will be able to search Bugzilla using the search engine which provides the best experience in your locale.

Viva choice!

Bugzilla for Humans, II

In 2010, johnath did a very popular video introducing people to Bugzilla, called “Bugzilla for Humans“. While age has been kind to johnath, it has been less kind to his video, which now contains several screenshots and bits of dialogue which are out of date. And, being a video featuring a single presenter, it is somewhat difficult to “patch” it.

Enter Popcorn Maker, the Mozilla Foundation’s multimedia presentation creation tool. I have written a script for a replacement presentation, voiced it up, and used Popcorn Maker to put it together. It’s branded as being in the “Understanding Mozilla” series, as a sequel to “Understanding Mozilla: Communications” which I made last year.

So, I present “Understanding Mozilla: Bugzilla“, an 8.5 minute introduction to Bugzilla as we use it here in the Mozilla project:

Because it’s a Popcorn presentation, it can be remixed. So if the instructions ever change, or Bugzilla looks different, new screenshots can be patched in or erroneous sections removed. It’s not trivial to seamlessly patch my voiceover unless you get me to do it, but it’s still much more possible than patching a video. (In fact, the current version contains a voice patch.) It can also be localized – the script is available, and someone could translate it into another language, voice it up, and then remix the presentation and adjust the transitions accordingly.

Props go to the Popcorn team for making such a great tool, and the Developer Tools team for Responsive Design View and the Screenshot button, which makes it trivial to reel off a series of screenshots of a website in a particular custom size/shape format without any need for editing.

7 Hours…

…is now the absolute maximum time you have to patch your website after a remote vulnerability is announced in software you are using. The path from patch -> Internet-wide attack can be at least that short.

This is interesting in a number of ways; firstly, the time of day at which you publish your vulnerability will advantage or disadvantage people in different geographies. Want to put US companies at higher risk? Publish your vulnerability at 10pm Pacific Time. Not happy with the Koreans for some reason? Publish at 10pm Korean time.

It means hosting companies now need (if they didn’t have them before) 24-hour security teams watching all possible announcement points, and the ability to deploy patches across their entire base of hosts (tens of thousands of machines) in a small number of hours. There isn’t time for an audit – “Am I using Software X version Y anywhere?” You need to know that already, and where.

Rebel Alliance Ideas

Chris Beard has been encouraging us to think like the rebels; what can we do that other people won’t do? How can we make an impact?

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • The internet, in global average, is getting less reliable, slower and more laggy. Finish Janus and persuade our mobile partners to deploy it and default to it. Your Firefox OS phone now accesses the net faster than an Android phone.
  • Make Firefox OS connect by default to access points, and encourage Firefox OS users to run them. There’s a virtuous circle here. More net in more places; a global movement of being generous with net access.
  • Finish Daala faster, by finding people other than the core team to do everything except design the codec and write the algorithms (e.g., testing, speed optimizations, fuzzing, writing Windows Media plugins). We need to get the word out that this project is critical.
  • Show the core free software community, who have great influence over tech choices and who should be our natural allies, that we care about them. Be the first organization ever to make a free-from-bottom-to-top mobile phone (running Firefox OS) and give some help to the Replicant team to port to it as well, just to prove we mean it and it’s real.
  • Make it possible to search for specifically open source software in the Marketplace, and show we believe it “promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource” by promoting apps which are open source.
  • Ship Collusion (which has been in the works for years), even if there’s not a perfect mapping between what it shows you and what’s actually bad. Make sites feel they have to justify all their 3rd party links.

What are your ideas?

New Class of Vulnerability in Perl Web Applications

We did a Bugzilla security release today, to fix some holes responsibly disclosed to us by Check Point Vulnerability Research, to whom we are very grateful. The most serious of them would allow someone to create and control an account for an arbitrary email address they don’t own. If your Bugzilla gives group permissions based on someone’s email domain, as some do, this could be a privilege escalation.

(Update 2014-10-07 05:42 BST: to be clear, this pattern is most commonly used to add “all people in a particular company” to a group, using an email address regexp like .*$. It is used this way on to allow Mozilla Corporation employees access to e.g. Human Resources bugs. Membership of the Mozilla security group, which has access to unfixed vulnerabilities, is done on an individual basis and could not be obtained using this bug. The same is true of BMO admin privileges.)

These bugs are actually quite interesting, because they seem to represent a new Perl-specific security problem. (At least, as far as I’m aware it’s new, but perhaps we are about to find that everyone knows about it but us. Update 2014-10-08 09:20 BST: everything old is new again; but the level of response, including changes to, suggest that this had mostly faded from collective memory.) This is how it works. I’m using the most serious bug as my example. The somewhat less serious bugs caused by this pattern were XSS holes. (Check Point are going to be presenting on this vulnerability at the 31st Chaos Communications Congress in December in Hamburg, so check their analysis out too.)

Here’s the vulnerable code:

my $otheruser = Bugzilla::User->create({
    login_name => $login_name, 
    realname   => $cgi->param('realname'), 
    cryptpassword => $password});

This code creates a new Bugzilla user in the database when someone signs up. $cgi is an object representing the HTTP request made to the page.

The issue is a combination of two things. Firstly, the $cgi->param() call is context-sensitive – it can return a scalar or an array, depending on the context in which you call it – i.e. the type of the variable you assign the return value to. The ability for functions to do this is a Perl “do what I mean” feature.

Let’s say you called a page as follows, with 3 instances of the same parameter:


If you call param() in an array context (the @ sigil represents a variable which is an array), you get an array of values:

@values = $cgi->param('foo');
['bar', 'baz', 'quux']

If you call it in a scalar context (the $ sigil represents a variable which is a scalar), you get a single value, probably the first one:

$value = $cgi->param('foo'); 

So what context is it being called in, in the code under suspicion? Well, that’s exactly the problem. It turns out that functions called during hash value assignment are evaluated in a list context. However, when the result comes back, that value or those values are assigned to be part of uthe hash as if they were a set of individual, comma-separated scalars. I suspect this behaviour exists because of the close relationship of lists and hashes; it allows you to do stuff like:

my @array = ("foo", 3, "bar", 6);
my %hash = @array;
{ "foo" => 3, "bar" => 6 }

Therefore, when assigning the result of a function call as a hash value, if the return value is a single scalar, all goes as you would expect, but if it’s an array, the second and subsequent values end up being added as key/value pairs in the hash as well. This allows an attacker to override values already in the hash (specified earlier), which may have already been validated, with values controlled by them. In our case, real_name can be any string, so doesn’t need validation, but login_name most definitely does, and it already has been by the time this code is called.

So, in the case of the problematic code above, something like:


would end up overriding the already-validated login_name variable, giving the attacker control of the value used in the call to Bugzilla::User->create(). Oops.

We found 15 instances of this pattern in our code, four of which were exploitable to some degree. If you maintain a Perl web application, you may want to audit it for this pattern. Clearly, param() calls are the first thing to look for, but it’s possible that this pattern could occur with other modules which use the same context-sensitive return feature. The generic fix is to require the function call to be evaluated in scalar context:

my $otheruser = Bugzilla::User->create({
    login_name => $login_name, 
    realname   => scalar $cgi->param('realname'), 
    cryptpassword => $password});

I’d say it might be wise to not ever allow hash values to be assigned directly from functions without a call to scalar.

Prevent Territoriality

Watch out for participants who try to stake out exclusive ownership of certain areas of the project, and who seem to want to do all the work in those areas, to the extent of aggressively taking over work that others start. Such behavior may even seem healthy at first. After all, on the surface it looks like the person is taking on more responsibility, and showing increased activity within a given area. But in the long run, it is destructive. When people sense a “no trespassing” sign, they stay away. This results in reduced review in that area, and greater fragility, because the lone developer becomes a single point of failure. Worse, it fractures the cooperative, egalitarian spirit of the project. The theory should always be that any developer is welcome to help out on any task at any time.

— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

Licensing Policy Change: Tests are Now Public Domain

I’ve updated the Mozilla Foundation License Policy to state that:

PD Test Code is Test Code which is Mozilla Code, which does not carry an explicit license header, and which was either committed to the Mozilla repository on or after 10th September 2014, or was committed before that date but all contributors up to that date were Mozilla employees, contractors or interns. PD Test Code is made available under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. Test Code which has not been demonstrated to be PD Test Code should be considered to be under the MPL 2.

So in other words, new tests are now CC0 (public domain) by default, and some or many old tests can be relicensed as well. (We don’t intend to do explicit relicensing of them ourselves, but people have the ability to do so in their copies if they do the necessary research.) This should help us share our tests with external standards bodies.

This was bug 788511.