Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘france’

Liberté, Accessibilité and Securité – that was Paris Web 2009

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Last week I went to Paris, France to speak at a Yahoo Developer Network event and Paris Web. Paris Web is a web development, design and accessibility conference that runs for the fourth year (I think) and I’ve been speaking there for the third time.

My presentation – basic housekeeping

Originally I planned to speak about my favourite topic – the web of data and how to use it – but the organisers had other plans for me. Normally I hate changing my topic and being asked to do specials but I have a fond spot for Paris Web so I talked about web security instead. The slides of my “basic housekeeping” talk are available on SlideShare:

In the talk I covered some very basic measures you can take to protect your web site from becoming a spam hub, part of a botnet or simply get spammed. I pointed out the following mistakes people make:

  • Underestimating the severity of web application security holes – it is not about your server but also about users who use the same passwords all over the place.
  • Keeping folders listable and thereby allowing people to find vulnerable scripts and dig into data they shouldn’t be able to see (the example I showed was failing to protect their /cgi folder and thus allowing full access to an admin section and listing their DBs)
  • Allowing search engines to index admin sections of web applications (I proposed using robots.txt but as one attendee pointed out in the Q&A protecting with .htaccess makes a lot more sense)
  • Keeping error messaging on and thus allowing people to gain insight into your server setup
  • Having an insecure PHP setup with globals enabled which would allow for overriding security checks and remote code injection (using phpsecinfo can help you find these issues)
  • Blindly relying on software and not testing installs. Also, not overriding preset users and passwords (as an example try the user and password “builtin” on any Ektron-powered web site)
  • Not keeping installs and plugins up-to-date
  • Relying on HTML as a source of data for JavaScript/Ajax (I can easily manipulate this in Firebug)
  • Relying on JavaScript – you can’t and if you use it as the only means of validation turning off JavaScript allows attackers to inject any kind of data.
  • Leaving information inside the HTML by commenting out in HTML - always comment on the server side.
  • Not filtering inputs.
  • Trying to filter instead of whitelisting
  • Allowing for inclusion into iframes and thus allowing for clickjacking.
  • Failing to provide easy to use and stress-free interfaces and thus allowing for social engineering (“This is too hard for you, give me your password and I will fill this out for you”).
  • Staying authenticated and logged in over a longer period and thus allowing attackers to make you click on web sites that contain CSRF traps (the example was demo code that could get protected Twitter updates).
  • Giving users the impression that you are the one responsible for security instead of it being the job of both the user and the site provider.
  • Relying on Captchas as a sole measure against bot attacks (check PWNtcha for a captcha cracking tool).
  • Not keeping their software up-to-date
  • Not periodically checking their logs for hacking attempts.

I then quickly went over some of the ideas we now have in place to make the web easier to use and at the same time safer: Guest Passes, One-off logins, oAuth, OpenID and Caja.

I explained the security threats and trends in phishing social networks, the mobile web, camera access, geo location access and biometric recognition.

I had good feedback and I love speaking in France. You can make jokes and people are happy to laugh out loud when you bring up things that are just not expected.

The rest of the conference

This is a general thing at Paris Web. The speakers do not only really know what they are talking about but are also happy to be unconventional when it comes to presenting. Whilst the slides of ParisWeb do only hint at that you can find some very cool photos of what is going on there.

Paris Web 2009 : Day 2 by  ~Thanh.Paris Web 2009 : Day 2 by  ~Thanh.

Also check out the video:

The location is very luxurious (IBM’s HQ in France) and has all the latest systems you need for presenting – microphones, a great projection system, on-stage monitors, live translation and so on. The catering was very impressive and the food was – well, it is France, we don’t need to say more.

Double budget approach

The other great thing that Paris Web does that other conferences should copy is that on the day after the conference there are workshops with the speakers who are happy to give them for a very low price (last year it was 10 Euro, not sure what it was this year). This allows students that cannot afford the main conference to come only on Saturday and still take advantage of the experts coming to Paris.

All in all I am always very proud to be part of the conference and to see the enthusiasm and great things that happen in France when it comes to advocating web standards, future technologies and ways to work professionally as web designers. The strong streak of accessibility and usability that compliments the high-tech talks makes it a useful conference for anybody who creates any work on the web.

Alas, there is one issue.

The language barrier

As the conference is held predominantly in French, a lot of the great insights, information and practices is lost for non-francophones. This is a shame as I am very impressed with the pragmatic approach of the talks. There is not much “blue sky” thinking but very down-to-earth information on how to build better products, how to talk to your boss in the right way, how to make web development an important part of your company’s portfolio and a lot of talks about quality of our work and pragmatic accessibility. All the talks are filmed and recorded and it would be a great step for Paris Web to translate the transcripts – maybe that is something that can be done with crowdsourcing?

Minified Metro, Sticky Event Handling and great new encounters – that was ParisWeb 2007

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Minification is the process to remove all unnecessary whitepace (spaces, tabs, linebreaks) from a piece of code to make it weigh less when downloaded. During a strike in Paris this is exactly what happens to the public transport system:

overcrowded metro

I’ve spent the last three days at Paris Web – a three day conference about web standards and accessibility held in Paris, France. Just to sum it up: although travelling through the city to reach the two different locations was more of a nightmare that I’d ever imagined, the conference itself was an amazing experience and I am happy to have been a part of it.

Paris Web shows the hallmarks of a conference that is organized by people who are simply passionate about bringing the good ideas of standardization and accessibility to the people and not to line their pockets.

The two day conference pass held in an IBM building with a state-of-the-art auditorium (I am still geeking out about the remote control and having a monitor in the stage to see my slides) and a more than adequate supply of coffee and beverages was 100 Euro for two days. The workshops, sadly enough (because of the strike) held in a school on the other side of town set back attendees for only 10 Euros!

These prices meant that you were able to reach the folk you normally can’t as they are not able to afford the ticket for much pricier conferences. Pending me, the low price did not mean you didn’t get a line-up of impressive speakers and great presentations. The list of speakers read like a who-is-who of the francophone web scene and included people from WaSP, the W3C, IBM and members of the prototype team.

My presentation at the conference “Successful teams use web standards”

My own presentation was deliberately kept non-technical and explained the benefits of following a standard when you develop web sites:

My workshop on Unobtrusive JavaScript

I based the workshop on my seven principles of unobtrusive JavaScript and tried to apply them by enhancing a table of contents pointing to several content areas in a document. There will be a blow-by-blow description of the enhancement when I get time.

The room was not ideal for doing a workshop as it was a classroom crammed with computers and 19 inch CRT monitors which meant that you couldn’t see much of the people you are teaching something.

I’ve promised the group that by the end of the session the JavaScript savvy ones will have realized that a lot of time they code too much and that the JavaScript afraid participants will know how to work and communicate with JS developers (yes, that is possible).

Making the best of the room and following a whim I explained event handling and event delegation using real people:

Event Handling using Human Guinea Pigs

The first row were the links in the table of contents, behind the list items, then a UL to the left and Stephanie Booth on the left was the window object (I did not treat her as an object, do not start these rumours!). The lady sitting up front was the event listener and the sticky note in the hand of one of the links was the event object e. It is tricky to explain, I guess you had to be there.

I am currently still cleaning up the workshop files and will put them up on my server as soon as they are done. You will find them at later on today.

Will the show go on?

I’ve heard rumours that this would be the last Paris web, and I’d consider that a shame, as it is a conference that reached where it very much needs to and there are too many people to thank and mention. It was a great experience and it should go on.

There are lots of photos of the conference on flickr and the organizers told me that all the sessions will be available as creative commons videos on dailymotion later on.

Photos by
Raphael Goetter and Christophe Porteneuve