Mark Smith's Journal

Work related musings of a geek.

protected content security

[staff profile] mark
There's a bunch of talk going around right now about the whole issue of content security, and trusting the people who host your content and have access to it. I wanted to talk on that for a moment as it's something that is really important to me.

The only people that are authorized to view protected content on Dreamwidth that they don't otherwise have access to are [staff profile] denise and myself. We are the only people with the proper access level. On top of that, it's not automatic -- in order to view the protected content, every time one of us visits a URL we have to edit it and add "viewall=1" to the end of it. It's a very manual process (for good reason). It's also logged -- and I don't know about Denise, but I review the logs regularly, just like every other security log we have.

The second level of access is for people who have access to the production servers that run Dreamwidth. When someone has the ability to log in to our servers, they have full access to the data on the databases and could in theory access protected content. The only people with server access are again myself and Denise, plus our two sysadmins: [personal profile] matthew, who used to work for LJ (before and during Six Apart), and [personal profile] alierak, who I've known for a decade and I trust completely.

That's it. The four of us.

At some point, it comes down to trust. We need the ability to work on the servers, so there are always going to be a set of people who have the ability to see private data. This isn't something that we can feasibly get rid of, either. The data exists on the servers (that's how we can show it to you and the people who are authorized to see it) and we need access to those servers to maintain them. The data isn't just sitting around visible to us, though -- it's tucked away in the database and requires a lot of manual effort to dig out, unzip, and connect to a user account. We never see post content accidentally.

In the end, I think that the best that I can offer anybody is to be explicit about who has access (and what kind of access they have) and to personally watch the security logs. I watch to make sure we don't have unauthorized access to our servers, and I look for unauthorized access to private data as well. It's part of the routine, and it's something I take very seriously. Having dealt with some problems related to this in the past (on other projects, with other people) it's not something I want to see Dreamwidth have to go through.

I'm happy to talk about this, if anybody has any thoughts, comments, or questions.
09.05.2010 08:43 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

aveleh: Close up picture of a vibrantly coloured lime (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aveleh
If it's automatic, I suspect people would use it as a form of harassment; sending in a report purely so that the poster would get a notification that it was looked at. That's not a reason to avoid doing this, but I'm not sure that the benefits are worth it.

An alternative could be something like you guys have talked about it terms of sharing TOS investigations; doing it the other way? "In May, x journals were looked at for a, b, and c reasons". Let people know how rare or common it is?
09.05.2010 11:44 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

msilverstar: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] msilverstar
I like this, especially if it's auto-generated by the database records. While it's self-reporting, it's enough to give everyone some feeling for the process, and change over time (so give percentages too).
Edited (where "this" = periodic reports of what accesses have been done) 09.05.2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
11.05.2010 03:21 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

phi: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] phi
I like this idea as well.