Securing Rhino in Java6

posted on 06 Feb 2012
java rhq rhino scripting

In RHQ we let the users provide scripts that can be run when an alert fires. This is great for automation because the script can do anything the users can do with our remote API. But the users of course can write a script like this:


This would shut down the whole RHQ server, which, of course, is not so nice.

The solution to this problem is to run the Rhino script engine in a custom access control context. One has to define the set of Java permissions that the scripts are allowed and specifically NOT include the "exitVM" RuntimePermission in the set. After that a custom AccessControlContext can be created with the set of permissions.

But now comes the fun part. In Java6 update 28, the Rhino script engine actually changed the way it can be secured due to a found security vulnerability. So in a Java6 update 27 patched with this patch or in Java6 update 28 and later, the Rhino runs the scripts with the access control context that it was created with itself. In the unpatched Java6 u27 and earlier the scripts were run with an access control context active at the time when the script evaluated.

So what does that mean for you, my dear readers, that want to reliably secure your application and allow custom scripts to be executed in it at the same time? Well, of course, you need to secure your script engine twice (or refuse to run on anything older than Java6 u28).

Let me show you how it is done in RHQ:

ProtectionDomain scriptDomain = new ProtectionDomain(src, permissions);
AccessControlContext ctx = new AccessControlContext(new ProtectionDomain[] { scriptDomain });
try {
    return AccessController.doPrivileged(new PrivilegedExceptionAction<ScriptEngine>() {
        public ScriptEngine run() throws Exception {
            ScriptEngineManager engineManager = new ScriptEngineManager();
            ScriptEngine engine = engineManager.getEngineByName("JavaScript");
            return new SandboxedScriptEngine(engine, permissions);
    }, ctx);
} catch (PrivilegedActionException e) {

What do you actually see in the code above? The privileged block is there to ensure that the script engine is created using the desired access control context (so that it can use it in Java6 u28). The script engine itself (created by the call to getEngineByName) is then wrapped in a SandboxedScriptEngine which is a special decorator that wraps all the eval() invocations in a access control context with the specified permissions. That will ensure that the access control context is enforced in the unpatched Java6 u27 and earlier.