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Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2014 04:56:37 +0800
From: Pavel Labushev <>
Subject: Re: Thoughts on Shellshock and beyond

On Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:00:04 -0400 (EDT)
"David A. Wheeler" <> wrote:

> On Thu, 9 Oct 2014 10:34:49 -0700, Tracy Reed <> wrote:
> > Sure, but at least with Haskell (and the like) you have to make it very
> > explicit that this is what you want to do.
> Not in this case.  A Haskell implementation of the POSIX "sh" specification,
> that then added function imports, could have made the same mistake
> just as easily.

Just as easily? Might be, but that's a totally unjustified conclusion.

First of all, *if* a programmer wants to express higher level concepts
(such as "untrusted data" and how it may and may not be manipulated) in
languages like Haskell, he doesn't resort to some sort of manual labour
of maintaining a masochistic discipline of performing tedious repetitive
tasks in the context of ubiquitous uncertainty and fuzzy reasoning, no.
He expresses himself in a much more concise and abstract way, and places
much of the burden of reasoning and proving on the machine.

Complexity must be under control, reasoning must be automated as much
as practically possible. While you seem to suggest continue to make
the same critical methodological mistake that the industry keeps making
over and over and over again since Von Neuman. The burden - machines
must carry it, not humans. We don't *want* to carry it, isn't it clear
already? And in the light of that fact, it doesn't really matter
whether we can or can not.

Then, let's assume that Haskell or some other technology is indeed a
crucial part of a solution (there's probably not the only one).
Obviously, some people don't want to "learn Haskell". And some of them
don't even want to "participate in this security circus" at all. So,
it's a personal choice of each and every one of us: do we want to
become a part of a solution or we are ok with remaining a part of the
problem. And making this choice either way is so much easier and more
productive than trying to find universal solutions for everyone.

> But let's not oversell the tools.

I'd say let's start considering the emergent properties of the systems
that the tools and their users are parts of. Otherwise we would
certainly throw the baby out with the water, instead of overselling

> Educating developers is less risky, way faster, and costs less too.

Educating to do what exactly? Like writing secure code in C? It doesn't
work much more often than not, and absolutely doesn't scale. And why do
you think it's less risky and even *way* faster (faster than what?
faster in general?)?

People don't learn in vacuum, they need and happen to have real life
experience, which means writing real life code, in real life
circumstances: changing requirements, increasing complexity, limited
time and cognitive resources, many different conventions to follow,
questionable quality standards (hello, time to market and lean
development), aggressive social context and unstable motivation. Who do
you expect will pay the expenses? An employer, an employee, an
independent open source contributor, the users or customers? Barely
and rarely, to put it mildly.

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