#gotchas

When Amazon Web Services rolled out their version 4 signature we started seeing sporadic errors on a few projects when we created pre-authenticated link to S3 resources with a relative timestamp. Trying to track down the errors wasn’t easy. It seemed that it would occur rarely while executing the same exact code. Our code was simply to get a pre-authenticated URL that would expire in 7 days, the max duration V4 signatures are allowed to be valid. The error we’d get was “The expiration date of a signature version 4 presigned URL must be less than one week”. Weird, we kept passing in “7 days” as the expiration time. After the error occurred a couple of times over a few weeks I decided to look into it.

The code throwing the error was located right in the SignatureV4 class. The error is thrown when the end timestamp minus the start timestamp for the signature was greater than a week. Looking through the way the timestamps were generated it went something like this:

  1. Generate the start timestamp as current time for the signature assuming one is not passed.
  2. Do a few other quick things not related to this problem.
  3. Do a check to insure that the end minus start timestamp is less than a week in seconds.

So a rough example with straight PHP could of the above steps for a ‘7 days’ expiration would be as follows:

Straight forward enough, right? the problem lies when a second “rolls” between generating the `$start` and the end timestamp check. For example, if you generate the `$start` at `2017-08-20 12:01:01.999999`. Let’s say this gets assigned the timestamp of `2017-08-20 12:01:01`. Then the check for the 7 weeks occurs at `2017-08-27 12:01:02.0000` it’ll throw an exception as duration between the start and end it’s actually now for 86,401 seconds total. It turns outs triggering this error is easier than you’d think. Run this script locally:

That will throw an exception within a few seconds of running most likely.

After I figured out the error, the next step was to submit a issue to make sure I’m not misunderstanding how the library should be used. The simplest fix for me was to generate the end expiration timestamp before generating the start timestamp. After I made the PR, Kevin S. from AWS pointed out that while this fixed the problem, the duration still wasn’t guaranteed to always be the same for the same relative time period. For example, if you created 1000 presigned URLs all with ‘+7 days’ as the valid period, some may be 86400 in duration others may be 86399. This isn’t a huge problem, but Kevin made a great point that we could solve the problem by locking the relative timestamp for the end based on the start timestamp. After adding that to the PR it was accepted. As of release 3.32.4 the fix is now included in the SDK.

Posted In: Amazon AWS, PHP

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In the last two weeks, there’s been two frontpage stories coming out of the “sharing economy” space. First up, news broke that Seattle passed new regulation to limit the number of drivers that Uber or Lyft can have on the road at any time, effectively hamstringing both services. Then, over the weekend a story started circulating about an Airbnb stay gone awry involving an orgy, Twitter, and of course the cops. While the stories are wildly different, they both sit at the intersection of the new “sharing economy” and the role of government regulation. Because of this, both stories sparked an intense debate everywhere from The Wall Street Journal to Hacker News. The attitudes and viewpoints of the discourse were interesting and revealing about people’s attitudes towards regulation in the taxi and hospitality space.

The opinion towards the new regulations in Seattle were overwhelmingly negative, ranging from claims of stifling innovation to accusations of outright corruption. Empirically, it seems that most people, even outside of early adopters, have generally positive feelings about Uber and Lyft. It might be because of the horrible experiences people have had in normal cabs or because of the perception of hackney companies as entrenched monopolies but I think it’s primarily due to people’s perception of risk surrounding Uber or Lyft. As a non-user, the perception of how “risky” it is to have Uber drivers operating in your city is probably near zero. Given how small a percentage of total drivers they’ll make up and that “licensed cab drivers” typically already operate in the area, I don’t think many people feel threatened by having additional drivers potentially ferrying people around their city. Because of this, it’s been easier for people to take hold of the “sharing economy” narrative where Lyft or Uber who were empowered to make a living are suddenly shut out by corrupt, entrenched interests.

Contrast this with the reactions from the same people to the Airbnb story, which ranged from disgust that someone would rent out their condo to strangers through feelings that Airbnb should be held liable for the actions of an independent third party. There’s no argument that the Airbnb story is significantly more disturbing, but it isn’t the first time something like this has happened and it certainly won’t be the last. So why such a different, visceral reaction? It’s perceived risk. As a non-user, the perceived risk to having Airbnb operate in your area is undeniably significant. Take a typical condo apartment building where every occupant is either a member of a condo association or a vetted rental tenant. Introducing the possibility of short term, “random occupants” certainly sounds risky and unnerving to anyone living in the building. Anyone considering the situation immediately evaluates worst case scenarios, “what if they’re criminals?” or “drug dealers?” and so on. Compared to driving, where interactions with strangers is a given, introducing “random interactions” into a scenario where it’s unexpected seems to push people towards favoring legislation.

As a whole, the emergence of the new “sharing economy” is probably a net positive. Despite that, companies are certainly thumbing their nose at government regulation and entrenched players which is going to cause ruffled feathers along the way. To win the hearts and minds, companies will definitely need to manage the perception of how risky their services are both to users and non-users alike.

Posted In: General

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Recently we were getting ready to deploy a new project which functions only over SSL.  The project is deployed on AWS using the Elastic Load Balancers (ELB).  We have the ELB doing the SSL termination to reduce the load on the server and to help simply management of the SSL certs.  Anyways the the point of this short post.  One of the developers noticed that on some of the internal links she kept getting a link something like “https://dev.app.com:80/….”, it was properly generating the link to HTTPS but then specify port 80. Of course your browser really does not like that as its conflicting calls of port 80 and 443.  After a quick look into the project we found that we had yet to enable the proxy headers and specify the proxy(s), it was we had to turn on `trust_proxy_headers`.  However, doing this did not fix the issue.  You must in addition to enable the headers specify which ones you trust.  This can be easily done via the following:

Here is a very simple example of how you could specify them. You just let it know the IP’s of the proxy(s) and it will then properly generate your links.

You can read up on this more in the Symfony documentation on trusting proxies.

Anyways just wanted to put throw this out there incase you see this and realize you forgot to configure the proxy in your app!

Posted In: Amazon AWS, PHP, Symfony, Tips n' Tricks

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Recently I was working on a project in which it admins were able to impersonate other users.  It’s a fairly easy task to add to Symfony2, merely adding a switch_user reference to your firewall can make it possible, consult the Symfony docs for more on that.  One thing I noticed was that every now and then when testing I would get weird errors after switching between multiple users, however it didn’t always happen.  After some digging around, it turns out when you switch user it does not clear that sessions attributes, ie if you set attribute ‘hello’ to value ‘world’ it would persist after you’ve impersonated another user.  This caused a few issues as on this application we used the session to store a few things like which set of database connections you currently use.

After looking at the SecurityBundle configuration setup it was clear that there wasn’t any options to have it clear all session attributes on switch user.  At this point it was clear I needed to use an event listener as the firewall dispatched the SwitchUserEvent when a user successfully switched user.  Below is an excerpt from my services.yml
This makes it so that it will call the following code on a successful impersonation of a user:

It’s as simple as that, you can get the actual user by calling $event->getTargetUser(). Long story short, the session can have some tainted values when using switch user as all attributes are not cleared.

Posted In: Symfony, Tips n' Tricks

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