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Sensitive operations must be protected by security manager checks.

Noncompliant Code Example

This noncompliant code example instantiates a Hashtable and defines a removeEntry() method to allow the removal of its entries. This method is considered sensitive, perhaps because the hash table contains sensitive information. However, the method is public and nonfinal, which leaves it exposed to malicious callers.

Compliant Solution

This compliant solution installs a security check to protect entries from being maliciously removed from the Hashtable instance. A SecurityException is thrown if the caller lacks the java.security.SecurityPermission removeKeyPermission.

The SecurityManager.checkSecurityAccess() method determines whether or not the action controlled by the particular permission is allowed.

Noncompliant Code Example (check*())

This noncompliant code example uses the SecurityManager.checkRead() method to check whether the file schema.dtd can be read from the file system. The check*() methods lack support for fine-grained access control. For example, the check*() methods are inadequate to enforce a policy permitting read access to all files with the dtd extension and forbidding read access to all other files. Code that is not itself part of the JDK must not override the check*() methods because the default implementations of the Java libraries already use these methods to protect sensitive operations.

Compliant Solution (checkPermission())

Java SE 1.2 added two methods—checkPermission(Permission perm) and checkPermission(Permission perm, Object context)—to the SecurityManager class. The motivations for this change included

  • Eliminating the need to hard code names of checks in method names.
  • Encapsulating the complicated algorithms and code for examining the Java runtime in a single checkPermission() method.
  • Supporting introduction of additional permissions by subclassing the Permission class.

The single-argument checkPermission() method uses the context of the currently executing thread environment to perform the checks. If the context has the permissions defined in the local policy file, the check succeeds; otherwise, a SecurityException is thrown.

This compliant solution shows the single-argument checkPermission() method that checks to see whether the files in the local directory that have the dtd extension can be read. DTDPermission is a custom permission that enforces this level of access. Even if the java.io.FilePermission is granted to the application with the action read, DTD files are subject to additional access control.

Compliant Solution (Multiple Threads)

Occasionally, the security check code exists in one context (such as a worker thread), whereas the check must be conducted on a different context, such as on another thread. The two-argument checkPermission() method is used in this case. It accepts an AccessControlContext instance as the context argument. The effective permissions are those of the context argument only rather than the intersection of the permissions of the two contexts.

Both the single- and double-argument checkPermission() methods defer to the single-argument java.security.AccessController.checkPermission(Permission perm) method. When invoked directly, this method operates only on the current execution context and, as a result, does not supersede the security manager's two-argument version.

A cleaner approach to making a security check from a different context is to take a snapshot of the execution context in which the check must be performed, using the java.security.AccessController.getContext() method that returns an AccessControlContext object. The AccessControlContext class itself defines a checkPermission() method that encapsulates a context instead of accepting the current executing context as an argument. This approach allows the check to be performed at a later time, as shown in the following example.

Risk Assessment

Failure to enforce security checks in code that performs sensitive operations can lead to malicious tampering of sensitive data.




Remediation Cost









Automated Detection

Identifying sensitive operations requires assistance from the programmer; fully automated identification of sensitive operations is beyond the current state of the art.

Given knowledge of which operations are sensitive, as well as which specific security checks must be enforced for each operation, an automated tool could reasonably enforce the invariant that the sensitive operations are invoked only from contexts where the required security checks have been performed.

Parasoft Jtest9.5SECURITY.WSC.SCFImplemented

Android Implementation Details

The java.security package exists on Android for compatibility purposes only, and it should not be used.




  1. The following sentence seems to be out of place. I couldn't understand the connection with the previous sentence.

    Non-JDK code must not use the check*() methods because the default implementations of the Java libraries already use these methods to protect sensitive operations.

    1. I re-worded that sentence. s/use/override. That is, your code shouldn't use a subclas of SecurityManager that overrides those check*() methods.

      It might be better to state that those methods are deprecated, in favor of SecurityManager.checkPermission().

  2. The first example and solution doesn't make sense since ht is not private.  A subclass of SensitiveHash can be made and ht.remove() called anyway, completely ignoring removeEntry().