An engineer at Google is asking developers to be more security conscious in a world filled with malware like Spectre.
In 2018, the Spectre family of vulnerabilities were disclosed to exist in the latest generation of microprocessor chips. The Spectre wave consisted of data-leaking side-channel attacks designed to exploit the way chips try to predict future instructions. Chip manufacturers and operating system makers scrambled to reduce the impact of the threats.
As news of Spectre vulnerabilities propagated, Intel and others rolled out firmware patches. Linux kernel maintainers added capabilities like STIBP (Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors). Browser developers took steps to mitigate the danger, such as reducing the precision of timers.
“A Collection of Interesting Ideas”
A Google security engineer named Mike West has posted an article titled, “Post-Spectre Web Development“. Calling his work “A Collection of Interesting Ideas”, West explained his aim in the Abstract.
“Post-Spectre, we need to adopt some new strategies for safe and secure web developement,” he writes. “This document outlines a threat model we can share, and a set of mitigation recommendations.”
“Spectre made it clear that a foundational security boundary the web aimed to maintain was substantially less robust than expected,” West notes.
This revelation has pushed web browsers to shift their focus from the platform-level origin boundary to an OS-level process boundary, according to West.
A set of best practices
West makes a series of general recommendations. These guidelines exhort developers to pay attention to the lack of fixed and fast boundaries between different web resources.
Now Mozilla’s Daniel Veditz of the W3C’s Web Application Security Working Group has called for the group to support West’s recommendations. Although the group has not yet formally adopted West’s recommendations, anecdotal responses from members suggest they will adopt the advice as a set of best practices.