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10-07-2010, 08:19 PM   #1
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Feral code from Pentaxforums.com calling home?

Last few months, I've been running a utility called Little Snitch on the Macs I use. It's a great piece of work: it watches your internet connection; when ANY application receives (or sends) any packet from/to any internet address, it asks you whether you want to allow the request to proceed. (It keeps a record of your permissions, so it only asks about a given domain once.)

It's truly astounding how many sites request URLs from totally unrelated sites, particularly Google. Little Snitch is a stroke of genius, if only because you can turn off almost all ads of ANY KIND, not merely the images. You can also turn off those obnoxious Google maps that so many websites want to call up, which take MINUTES to load over an analog connection! You can also refuse to let Google download the most-recent version of GoogleTools, which is a multi-megabyte affair.

It's also surprising how many applications other than your web browser and your email program end up setting up sockets to send or receive info. For example, besides my web browsers, there's always a DNS responder (presumably does nothing but call up my internet provider to resolve domain names.) There's also something that calls up Apple from time to time, and tells Apple my "settings", whatever that means. And of course there's Adobe, trying to call home to be sure my copy of Photoshop is legit. (It is, but I hate it that PS checks.) Little Snitch tells me right now that a grand total of 31 applications have requested a connection since I got this Macbook Pro back in May.

Anyway, the reason I mention Little Snitch now, is that sometimes "PentaxForums.com" shows up on the list of running applications with a socket. That's unusual, but the extremely weird part is, this can happen even when I have not navigated to the Pentax Forums site since I launched my web browser! In the browser, there is NO clue whatsoever that this is going on -- no spinning beach ball, no indication that any resources are loading into the browser. (They're not.)

I tend to think that this behavior (a stand-alone app specifically for PentaxForums.com) is unique among all the websites I visit, but to be honest, I have not checked Little Snitch all that often, and I don't really get around to all that many websites anyway (other than ones that I have designed myself.

So my question for you, Adam, is: can you think of any code of any sort that might stay running and requesting packets, apparently independent of the web browser application itself? Is it some kind of stand-alone Java? Is it something to do with Push technology? (I have Adobe Flash disabled, so it's not that.) Or is it a separate thread (CPU thread, not a forum "thread") set up by the browser specifically for the PentaxForums site (i.e. even when no PentaxForums tab is open?)

If you can think of what it might be, is there any way to turn it off?

Your expert opinion would be welcome.

10-07-2010, 08:30 PM   #2
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We don't use any client-side applications here - so no, I have no clue. Sounds like Little Snitch might think it's too clever

Is PF your homepage, perhaps?

Adam
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10-07-2010, 11:18 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
We don't use any client-side applications here...
Adam,
Are you sure about that? No AJAX? No auto-complete for user names when addressing a message? PF uses several third-party script packages (Yahoo APIs, Google Analytics, as well as scripts associated with ads). It also uses at least a subset of JQuery which has the ability to open sockets when needed.

That being said, the scope of any script is limited to the that of the calling page. Ditto for applets and other embedded programs such as Flash video. The likelihood of code opening a socket to Pentax Forums when a user is viewing content on another site is remote. Not impossible, but remote. Unless, of course, this site is compromised or the owners are evil. One possibility is that the other site has a graphic (say a banner ad or a gallery image?) that is served from here. On a couple occasions, I have commented on other forums and included images hosted on PF. Another is that the other site is lifting one or more PF scripts or stylesheets. (Why anyone would is anyone's guess!)

While "Little Snitch" may be clever, one really should not read too much into what it reports. Activity (requests) to a site is not the same as evil activity. What I would suggest to the OP is that he/she determine what the resource is being requested from PF when a socket is opened.


Steve
10-07-2010, 11:40 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
That being said, the scope of any script is limited to the that of the calling page.
Right- all that CDN crap just helps the local scripts move along.


Adam
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PentaxForums.com server and development costs are user-supported. You can help cover these costs by donating. Or, buy your photo gear from our affiliates, Adorama, B&H Photo, or Topaz Labs, and get FREE Marketplace access - click here to see how! Trusted Pentax retailers:

10-14-2010, 09:48 PM   #5
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When you start looking for something, you'll usually find it. Whether it exists or not.

I had Little Snitch (I think I got it from a MacHeist promo or something), but it scared the stuffings out of me. It's like seeing sausage made; sometimes it's best just not to know.
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