ClickOnce Experiments

Okay, I used to think click once was a sandbox, kind of like Java applets. I used to think that all click once applications installed from an internet link would be put in a sandbox with partial trust so that certain .NET API and unmanaged code couldn’t be executed.

I was wrong! At least, according to my experiments today with .NET 4.0 and click once.

I took the cassini source code and wrote it so that it would launch and then set up a virtual directory for a website that I bundled with it, essentially as “resource”/”content” files. I figure out how to get that to work in .NET and in ClickOnce. I thought, gee, I thought the APIs necessary to load an AppDomain and host an ASP.NET site and serve files on port 80 would be forbidden by the sandbox, right? Initially I thought it was because I was installing it locally. So I put the files up on a website, downloaded and installed and it still let cassini run as in the ClickOnce local storage area, and serve up a website in Full Trust.

Well, the sandbox is opt-in. If a software publisher doesn’t opt in, the user just gets a warning that doesn’t really make any sense and the application runs in Full Trust.

I did check to see how cassinni runs in ClickOnce after opting-in to Internet level trust. Now, the click once version of Cassini fails as soon as it tries to find out the path to it’s own assembly files. I still got… well not so scary as unintelligible warnings about needing to “trust” the remote website.

Well, so much for sandboxing. Now one thing worth nothing is I only get the browsers warning “Hey this came from the internet, sure you want to run it?” I don’t get teh UAC curtain of “this application will change your machine”. I do get the unintelligible Click once, message “Unknown publisher, this app has access to your machine, start menu, and well, it came from the internet” I’m imaging grandma reading that and thinking, “Well, I don’t personally know them either and I’ve already been told this is from the internet” Where else does software come from? The machine I’m writing from doesn’t event have a CD drive.

So a malicious code writer would distribute code and not opt in to sandboxing, in full expectation that some people will click through the messages.

A non-malicious code writer would only get benefit from this if he opts into sandboxing, didn’t need those other APIs, and if a malicious code writer tried to sneak an assembly into the non-malicious application and execute it, maybe if the sandboxed app has a plug in feature. Why bother with malicious plugins when you can just get people to run your separate full trust app? And besides, to run a plug in .NET you need to be able to load assemblies on demand and I bet a medium or low trust application wouldn’t be able to do that.