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2015/07/08

Because everything can jump the rails...


I will have to do a write up. (While you wait for me, read Net::OpenSSH on MetaCPAN and know the key is keypath.) The thing to remember is that this means I can write complex programs that connect to other machines while I'm not there.

I've been able to do similar things with bash scripts for a while, but there's a complexity you can only get once you step away from a shell and move to a language.

That complexity has consequences. If you've never written a thing that went out of control and had unexpected destructive consequences, you're not a programmer. I'd go as far as to say that everyone has written rm -rf foo. * instead of rm -rf foo.* at least once.

This is why computer people strive to be very detail oriented. We wanted remove all the things, be they file or directory, if they start with the string "foo.", not REMOVE ALL THE THINGS!!! BUT GET THAT 'foo.' THING ESPECIALLY!!!! The stereotypical geek response starts with "Well, actually...", because "Well, actually, there's a space in there that'll ruin everyone's day" keeps everyone from spending the next few hours pulling everything off tape backup, or potentially never having those pictures from your wedding ever again.

One of the arguments toward "AI means we're doomed" is that of the stamp collector. Watch the Computerphile video, but the collector wants stamps and tells his AI "I want more stamps to fill out my collection". This is clearly a general statement, conversationally a wildcard, and the AI can take this several different ways, going from going to eBay and buying a few things with your credit card to hacking several printing presses and printing billions and billions of stamps, and to harvesting living beings to be turned into paper ink and glue.

I have a response to this thought experiment, but a part of my problem that I didn't get into is that deleting all your files is easy, spending all your money on eBay is slightly harder, but controlling things on another computer is far more difficult. If you have an open API on a machine, all I can do is things that the API lets me do, and if you have a delete everything option, you've probably done it wrong. (Or you're a Snowdenesque paranoid hacker, in which case, you know what you're doing and that's fine.)

Which brings us back to Net::OpenSSH. The first step is "connect to that server", and once you realize it's going to prompt you for a password, the second step becomes "hard code your password to make it work" and the quick follow up is "Use config files or enable ssh keys or anything that allows you to not have your password in clear text, you idiot!"

Because, with an SSH shell controlled by a program, you grant the program permissions to do every command you're capable of on that system, and for many systems, you have the ability to be very destructive.

And I have that between a number of systems, because I'm trying to make a thing work that has SSH not AJAX and JSON as the API and need to know it works outside of that. I do know, however, that it means I have the capability to run code on another machine.

Which I'm not necessarily logged on and not necessarily monitoring.

Where I'm not the admin, nor the sole user.

Where I can ruin the days of myself and many many others.

So while I code, I feel the same fear I feel while standing in line for that rickety-looking wooden roller coaster at an amusement park.