[Python-Dev] Re: 2.3.1

Tim Peters tim.one@comcast.net
Sat, 26 Jul 2003 19:45:27 -0400

[Paul Moore]
> Um. While I understand the issue involved, I find it hard to be quite
> as convinced as this, that the issue is a bug.

User perceptions aren't technical issues, so whether it's "a bug" doesn't
really matter -- Python wants to be friendly to newbies, and even in areas
their OS is hostile.

> First of all, I would say that on a correctly functioning machine,
> applications should be able to listen on, and send to, unprivileged
> (> 1024) ports on the local machine (
> In that case, I don't see a bug in Python, or in IDLE. There may be
> "bugs" in certain systems, whereby such ports are not available, but
> that isn't Python's fault.

Python has a long tradition of accepting the blame for system bugs it can
reasonably hide.

> In thinking about this, however, there *is* one major point which I
> think needs to be considered. As I understand the issue, IDLE runs as
> 2 processes which talk via a socket. I assume that it is not possible
> for this socket to be used by anything *other* than IDLE - in
> particular, random hackers can't use the open socket as a means of
> exploit? Such a security hole would, indeed, be a major bug which
> needs to be addressed.

I don't know the answer, and agree it should be taken seriously.  For
example, a port that accepts arbitrary Python code and executes it is as
dangerous as anything I can imagine.  But I haven't studied the new IDLE
code, and don't know what the risks are.

> Assuming no such security hole, what remains is an education issue.
> This is exacerbated by the tendency of some "personal firewall"
> products to ask the user for his/her opinion on all sorts of otherwise
> innocent network traffic - often the user has no way of giving an
> informed opinion, and the question does nothing but foster paranoia.

That's the life goal of "security geeks" <wink>.

> Sure, the fact that people might ask "why is Python talking to the
> internet?" is worrying. But surely the correct answer is to say
> firmly, but in the politest possible way, "it's not - whatever gave
> you the impression that it is, is mistaken".
> Explanatory dialogs might help for some people, but you risk hitting
> the other problem, of annoying people who *do* understand what's going
> on by looking patronising.

I didn't understand why IDLE was "accessing the Internet" the first time I
tried it, and I'll immodestly claim that I'm more computer-savvy than a
solid 13.7% of Python's Windows users <wink>.  I expect a one-time warning
would only irritate those who love to be irritated, and there's no pleasing
the unpleasable.