HTML5 Security Risks

Aaron Weiss, Tech Journalist / Humorist | 12/14/2012 | 15 comments

Aaron Weiss
Using HTML5 for mobile apps can save costs and provide users with a common experience. But HTML5 comes with its own set of security issues.

Several key facets of the HTML5 platform can increase the surface area for security compromises, which may affect the enterprise through apps developed either in-house or by third parties.

Local storage: Before HTML5, cookies were the only way websites could store local data on the client side. But cookies are limited in multiple ways, whereas HTML5 local storage offers a more robust client-side storage solution, including a relational database with SQL access. With client-side storage, HTML5 apps can be both more sophisticated and faster than their web-based predecessors. Users can access key data offline, and apps can manipulate data without network bottlenecks.

But the data stored on the client side will also be more vulnerable to compromise. Hackers who slip through the “same origin rule” that protects access to local storage could extract sensitive data and leak it to malicious servers. In the mobile realm, physical loss or theft of smartphones and tablets could put sensitive data directly into hackers' hands.

This means that using HTML5 local storage to store sensitive data must go hand in hand with security awareness. This might include siloing the most sensitive data to session-only storage (which is destroyed with app exit), or employing the same robust encryption techniques that would be used to store sensitive data on servers.

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS): A complex subject whose intricacies threaten to trip up developers, CORS is the rules mechanism that defines which data apps can interact with. Before HTML5, this security policy was known as the Same Origin Policy, and it required that web apps interact with code and content delivered from a common parent server to limit the opportunity for hackers to inject malicious data. CORS expands the limitations of the SOP and provides a more sophisticated syntax by which developers can define which origins are allowed to interact with which app behaviors.

The security risk here is not CORS itself but the opportunity for developers to misuse it, writing rules that are either too broad or too vulnerable to exploitation, giving hackers an in-road to cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks and other forms of data hijacking.

WebSockets: HTML5 WebSockets feature an asynchronous, full-duplex network connection directly between web client and server, enabling “push” communications originating from the server. This technology significantly reduces bandwidth for what would be polling-intensive apps, promising payoff in both reduced data usage and app performance. But WebSockets are, at least currently, opaque to many network security tools, which may rely on packet inspection to qualify traffic. In short, use of WebSockets may dilute the effectiveness of present-day network security defenses like web application firewalls.

HTML5 is not inherently insecure, but enterprises that use it need to look at it like using a Swiss Army Knife -- the new features promise great utility, but also more ways to cut yourself.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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Nemos   HTML5 Security Risks   1/31/2013 8:10:44 PM
About HTML5
HTML5 seems to be a large step in making the storage of temporary files much more efficient. Having a larger cache for applications for mobile devices has been a problem ever since they came on the market as upon exit, the data would get lost.

What I, however, do not understand is why a solution to the danger of hacking would be to delete the files upon exit of the application, would this not defy the purpose of the whole thing?
batye   HTML5 Security Risks   1/1/2013 11:02:25 PM
Re: Native Apps
maybe, but we should not count out joomla...
singlemud   HTML5 Security Risks   12/28/2012 7:59:59 PM
Re: Native Apps
Total agree. HTML5 comes a long way, it is the future of web dev.
tinym   HTML5 Security Risks   12/18/2012 4:05:56 PM
Re: Native Apps
Getting over the learning curve will certainly bring lots of innovation just as it did with plain old web development.
eethtworkz   HTML5 Security Risks   12/18/2012 2:40:20 PM
Re: Yep...
Damian,

That's good to know!

Flash is beyond Sucky today!!!
Damian Romano   HTML5 Security Risks   12/18/2012 2:21:02 PM
Re: Yep...
@eethtworkz - he actually didn't heavily weigh in on Flash, but did discuss the reasons Apple won't utilize it. I don't disagree with you that eventually there will be no choice but to utilize HTML5.
eethtworkz   HTML5 Security Risks   12/18/2012 2:04:58 PM
Re: Yep...
Damian,

What did your Professor Say about Flash?

Is he happy with their solutions?

What about Native Apps?

As I had said in an earlier post here;We really have no alternative;its Proper Adoption of HTML5 or bust today!!!!

 

Regards

Ashish.
eethtworkz   HTML5 Security Risks   12/18/2012 2:02:16 PM
One needs to look at the Alternatives first.
Aaron,

Great post!

Thanks for enlightening us some very serious Security Issues facing HTML5.

But when one looks at the alternatives[Flash or going Native];they both suck!

So its extremely important that we work harder and harder to strengthen HTML5 today.

And its good to see majority of Developers[Web-based] also feel the same way.

Good report  from Kendo!

http://www.fiercedeveloper.com/story/html5-research-shows-strong-developer-support/2012-12-14

 

Regards

Ashish.

 
Damian Romano   HTML5 Security Risks   12/17/2012 1:16:46 PM
Yep...
"HTML5 is not inherently insecure, but enterprises that use it need to look at it like using a Swiss Army Knife -- the new features promise great utility, but also more ways to cut yourself."

One of the best analogies I've heard to date regarding HTML5. I took a web developement class last two semesters ago and my professor commented with a similar sentiment on this subject. But like most new code/etc you find many people jumping on board with the features with little regard for security.
Zaius   HTML5 Security Risks   12/16/2012 2:06:01 PM
Re: Native Apps
'Patching loopholes' are not getting the priorities as they should have gotten. These days, we are looking for more 'bells & whistles', and finally we find ourselves in awkward situation when these loopholes show up.
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