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Re^2: Unix shell versus Perl

by eyepopslikeamosquito (Canon)
on Aug 08, 2008 at 08:03 UTC ( #703073=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: Unix shell versus Perl
in thread Unix shell versus Perl

I do not agree that running an "external command" is "inherently" less secure than calling an "internal function". And I've no idea what you mean by "global environment".
By global environment, I was referring to environment variables (e.g. PATH, IFS, CDPATH, ENV, BASH_ENV, SHELL, TZ, LD_LIBRARY_PATH) and other elements of the execution environment (e.g. umask, inherited file descriptors, temporary files) that are a common source of exploits by malicious attackers. Certainly, executing an external program securely is not trivial: there are many, many security exploits to consider and guard against. That's why I stated that calling an internal function was inherently more secure -- because all these many and varied exploits need not be considered.

To give a specific example, most shell scripts tend to use the (potentially insecure) $HOME and $SHELL environment variables to ascertain a user's home directory and shell, while a Perl script can get this information via the more secure (and more reliable) getpwnam internal function.

That shell scripts tend to be insecure is widely known and acknowledged; see, for example, FAQ: How can I get setuid shell scripts to work? and perlsec, which opens with:

Unlike most command line shells, which are based on multiple substitution passes on each line of the script, Perl uses a more conventional evaluation scheme with fewer hidden snags. Additionally, because the language has more builtin functionality, it can rely less upon external (and possibly untrustworthy) programs to accomplish its purposes.

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