[whatwg] JSONRequest

Douglas Crockford douglas at crockford.com
Sun Mar 19 18:54:09 PST 2006

 > Or indeed wrote your script before this JSONRequest was invented.

I think I see where you are confused. A pre-JSONRequest JSON application will be 
using GET, or POST with a conventional POST body. JSONRequest cannot generate a 
GET, so those interfaces are safe, and it cannot generate a conventional POST 
body, so those applications are safe, too.

If an application is so badly implemented that it accepts dangerous POSTs (we 
already determined that JSONRequest is safer than form.submit in this regard) 
and does no validation of the POST data before issuing a JSON response, there is 
the concern that JSON data can be sent to the browser. This is a thing that 
JSONRequest can do that form.submit cannot.

So, is this a problem? No. First, JSONRequest will reject the response and not 
return to the script because the Content-Type is not application/json. 
application/json is only now being registered as MIME media type. Legacy 
applications should not have been using it.

If the legacy application was misusing application/json in a speculative way, 
the data might still be delivered. However, it will still be blocked if any of 
the pre-JSON conventions are used:

    Using a character encoding other than ASCII or UTF-8.

    No quotes on keys.

    Single quotes on keys.

    Single quotes on string literals.

    \x sequences.

    Unusual values such as undefined or NaN.

    Expressions or functions.

So, to repeat, JSON introduces no new security vulnerabilities for the legacy 
JavaScript data formats of six years ago. The dangers of POST are already 
existent. In that respect JSONRequest is strictly an improvement. The formats of 
the POST bodies are not compatible. The Content-Type is not compatible.

I would very much like to see the details of a specific attack in which a legacy 
application which depends solely on firewall locality for its security is 
compromised by JSONRequest. I believe that the string of errors would have to be 
so long as to be completely implausible.

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