[Mono-devel-list] Performance issues with security permissions

Sebastien Pouliot sebastien at ximian.com
Tue Jan 25 14:16:39 EST 2005


My updates to System.Environment are now in SVN. 
You can see the changes at:

Included here are some of the performance consideration used. Other
considerations will follow in another email.

Comments welcome!

* Declarative security is not gonna hurt performance (at least if you're
not using mono --security). So, as much as possible, declarative
security has been used. E.g.

	[EnvironmentPermission (SecurityAction.Demand,
	public static string[] GetLogicalDrives ()
		return GetLogicalDrivesInternal ();

* Sadly declarative security cannot be used everywhere. When security
decisions requires information only available at runtime then imperative
security must be used. E.g.

	public static string GetEnvironmentVariable (string name)
		new EnvironmentPermission
		    (EnvironmentPermissionAccess.Read, name).Demand ();

		return internalGetEnvironmentVariable (name);

* However this results in creating a lot of permission objects with a
very short lifetime (as Demand wont do anything useful without
--security). From CodeAccessPermission.cs

        public void Demand ()
        	// note: here we're sure it's a CAS demand
        	if (!SecurityManager.SecurityEnabled)
* So the only thing creating the permission object does (without
--security) is more memory allocations, additional garbage collection...
All bad for Mono's performance. So the pattern was changed to something

	public static string GetEnvironmentVariable (string name)
		if (SecurityManager.SecurityEnabled) {
			new EnvironmentPermission 
			    name).Demand ();
		return internalGetEnvironmentVariable (name);

This avoid the creation of the permission objects and, if someone
forgets to add the check, wouldn't affect security.

* Now the property value for SecurityManager.SecurityEnabled reside in
unmanaged code (so it can be used over there and so we can't reflect on
the field to change its value). This means an internal call each time.

To avoid this the JIT _could_ produce code to replace SystemManager.
SecurityEnabled by false when --security isn't enabled. In this case the
permission creation/demand would be treated as dead code (and possibly
totally removed by optimizations).

	??? is it worth it ???

We could also replace SystemManager.SecurityEnabled by false when it's
false. I.e. true can become false, but false can't become true.

This is a little more "funky" but it's a behavior of the MS runtime (at
least for 1.0 and 1.1, didn't try with 2.0) that I didn't understand
before today (not that I really tried to ;-).

        Short story: the MS runtime defaults SystemManager.
        SecurityEnabled to TRUE and you can switch it off anytime (if
        you have the rights to do so). However the results are
        "undefined" if you turn it back to TRUE.

* Another important thing to watch for is avoiding multiple demands (in

        * A good example is not looping a call that does a security
        check (e.g. GetEnvironmentVariables). However it's easy to
        "forget" this (e.g. ExpandEnvironmentVariables) and may require
        much more code refactoring.

        * Another example is demanding a permission that is already
        demanded by something else down the execution stack. This is why
        Environment.CurrentDirectory doesn't check for PathDiscovery
        permissions because System.IO.Directory already does the job.
        Note: IMHO we'll need some (hopefully automated) tools to
        detects those kind of conditions.

Sebastien Pouliot  <sebastien at ximian.com>
blog: http://pages.infinit.net/ctech/poupou.html

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