[Mailman-Developers] Re: subscription confirmations (was Re: [Mailman-Users] [ANNOUNCE] Mailman 2.1 alpha 2)

Jay R. Ashworth jra@baylink.com
Sun, 15 Jul 2001 11:16:33 -0400

On Sat, Jul 14, 2001 at 08:49:34PM -0700, Chuq Von Rospach wrote:
> > What if I have a smart system on my desktop PC that is configured
> > to prefetch any URLs it sees in my incoming email,
> Given the number of viruses, spam with URLs and other garbage out there, I'd
> say you're foolish (bordering on stupid), but that's beside the point. It is
> an interesting issue, one I can't toss out easily; but I'm not convinced,
> either. I think it's something that needs to be hashed over, perhaps
> prototyped both ways so we can see the best way to tweak it.
> Barry, what do you think about this instance? As the net moves more towards
> wireless, PDA, mobile-phone, stuff, could we be setting ourselves up for a
> later problem by ignoring this pre-cache issue Gerald's raised?

What *I* think is that it's a special case, and any such pre-fetch
system ought to, by default, *not* pre-fetch anything with GET
parameters in it.

*All* GETs have side effects by definition: you get something different
depending on what the parameters are.

> > That would allow anyone in the world to sign me up for any
> > mailman-backed mailing list, whether or not I even see the email
> > confirmation requests. And that would be Mailman's fault, for
> > misusing HTTP GETs.
> I disagree with this -- since as you say, any number of places already
> misuse GET, that usage is fairly common. A user who sets themselves up for
> it should know (or be warned by their mail client) that it has the
> possibility to trigger events. I'd say it's more a client issue than a
> Mailman issue. 

Concur.  And I base my opinion on 15 years of systems design
experience, FWIW.

> And, thinking about it, since GET *can* do this, it's probably wrong for W3
> to push for it not to be used that way, because if things like your
> pre-caching system come into common use, the dark side of the net will take
> advantage of it, the way early virus writers took advantage of mail clients
> with auto-exec of .EXE's being on by default. So aren't you setting yourself
> up for problems by having a technology that can, even if you deprecate it,
> because it sets a user expectation that's going to be broken by those
> wanting to take advantage of it? I've got a bad feeling about this -- your
> example seems to set yourself up for abuse by those looking for ways ot
> abuse you, and that's a bigger issue than Mailman using it -- because if all
> of the 'white side' programs cooperate, it just encourages creation of
> things (like the pre-caching) that the dark side will take adavantage of.

Well put, young pilot.

> >Of course, I only do
> > that because I don't have that prefetching thing set up... yet.)
> At this point, I'd never turn on pre-fectching,  since it's safety depends
> entirely no voluntary cooperation, and you aren't in a position to police
> until after the fact. That's a Bad Thing in a big way.

Well, yeah, but you don't have a palmtop, either, Chuq, right?  :-)

> > But I'd be making this
> > argument whether or not that were the case, since it's clearly
> > the Right Thing to do imho...
> And the more I think about it, the more it's an interesting point -- but on
> more than one level. Has W3c considered the implications of defining a
> standard that depends on voluntary acceptance here? Because the service you
> propose is unsafe unless you can guarantee everyone you talk to is
> compliant, and we know how likely that's going to be. That, to me, is a much
> bigger issue than whether or not Mailman complies, and in fact, I could make
> an argument that the standard isnt' acceptable if it's going to be a basis
> for services that can cause harm but requires voluntary acceptance on the
> server side. By the time you figure out the server isn't complying, they've
> burnt down the barn and run off with the horse. That's bad.

I can't find a thing to argue with here; let's see what he comes up

-- jra
Jay R. Ashworth                                                jra@baylink.com
Member of the Technical Staff     Baylink                             RFC 2100
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