sandboxing python code

Moshe Zadka m at
Tue Jun 3 11:32:55 CEST 2003

On 3 Jun 2003, ben at (ben at wrote:

> I've recently (6 months or so) been converted to Python, and so have
> become an avid reader of this newgroup. One thing that has been brought up
> occasionally by other people, but never has really been answered
> satisfactorily is the problem of running untrusted code.

How is the answer "you can't" not satisfactory?

I'll note that even in Java, where a lot of energies and quite a lot
programming hours has been spent on this kind of stuff, it would be hard
to accomplish. IIRC, Java's sandboxing had quite a few bugs itself, and
moreover has limited protection against allocating too much memory (you
can tell the JVM not to let the process allocate over a certain amount,
but not, AFAIK, by sandbox) and against CPU-intensive DoS attacks -- and
that's the best technology.

My suggestion is to try to find a way where you can handle the overhead
for separating the tasks into separate processes, and then use your OS's
sandboxing capabilities. This easily lets you take care of such things
as CPU and memory limitations, and with more advanced operating systems
(like FreeBSD's jails, NSA's SELinux and chroot()) you can achieve more
control. As an extreme measure, you may consider something like
User-Mode-Linux, which gives you (relatively) cheap virtualization of
the operating system.

Of course, you can still use the fact that it is Python on both sides
of the fence by using remote-object protocols to communicate -- such
as Pyro or Twisted's Perspective Broker.

Just like in real life -- if you don't trust someone, don't invite them
into your house and try to keep an eye on them, it's just too hard. Communicate
with them by phone, so that their opportunity to harm you is limited. Of
course, they may shout into your phone, or try to overload your stack
by sending you malformed objects. But it is is much easier to defend against 
these kind of attacks.

Yes, Java and Flash are treated as "code you can run untrusted", but this
is just wrong. It's fairly easy, for example, to crash most browsers with
these, which is a fairly efficient DoS attack :)
Moshe Zadka --
Buffy: I don't like you hanging out with someone that... short.
Riley: Yeah, a lot of young people nowadays are experimenting with shortness.
Agile Programming Language --

More information about the Python-list mailing list