Net Twits

2004-07-27

False Sense of Security

I'm sure we're all aware of the ridiculous copyright laws and terms of use statements that so many companies have on their websites. They vary in content but their message is essentially the same. it's usually something like you cannot use repoduce any content on our site, or use any images without permission or something along those lines. That's fair enough, people have the right to protect their work. Well, it turns out there are some people who are so over zealous about their copyright, they go to great lengths just to prevent any user obtaining any of their content… Well, at least, not without a fight, but hey, that's what they think. They don't realise that in the process, they're making their site innaccessible to so many people for little, or no benefit.

Many of you would have heard of the Odeon debacle as talked about by Zeldman and Dave Shea, about how Matthew Somerville created an Accessible Odeon site, but was forced to close it down for various reasons including copyright. Well, the twittiness of the Odeon site doesn't even compare to the twittiness and accessibility issues with Share2s.com's product! (Though it is still worthy of a Net Twit award, which I'll write about later)

Share2s.com have come up with WebPage Protector — a product designed to encrypt the content of any static HTML file. It does this by parsing the enitre document, and outputting JavaScript that has encoded every character as an entity. They've published a sample page to demonsrate what it can do. Firstly, for those of you who haven't already figured this out; this is a serious accessbility problem! Try viewing the document with JavaScript disabled, or in a user agent that doesn't even support JavaScript — you won't see a thing!. Not only does this mean that users that use user agents such as Lynx, JAWS, or other limited ability device such as a PDA or mobile phone without JavaScript, search engines such as Google will be unable to index the site well. But I figure any twit willing to destroy their site in this way doesn't deserve to have their site listed anywhere.

They've published a few lists of features, which I'll go through now to prove that the script is entirely useless, and point out where they breach guidelines such as the WAI WCAG. Unless explicitly stated, each method of bypassing has been performed using Mozilla, Firefox and Opera.

Encrypt HTML to hide the source code

Enrypted using a complicated JavaScript technique that encodes everything with an entity and require a self decrypting script to convert it to a lot of document.write statements that eventually writes the real source code for the document. This violates Guideline 6 of WCAG 1.0.

Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported.

In Mozilla, this is easily bypassed. Simply pressing Ctrl+A and then selecing View Selection Source from the context menu reveals the entire source code in the DOM. I could not do this with Opera.

Disable offline use, prevent Save As… function to save image

I was not able to determine how exactly this is done, however it does mean that any user who wishes to download the page for viewing later offline cannot do so. I could not find any specific guidline that deals with this, but it's quite obvious that this causes unexpected behaviour for the user.

After viewing the source from the previous step, copy and paste the source into a plain text editor and save as HTML. Then, you need to either disable JavaScript or edit the source code and remove the script manually.

There seems to be some code in there that prevents the page displaying when (I'm assuming) the URI does not match the sites domain. Because I was unable to aquire the source with Opera, this also could not be done.

Set No Cache

This means that whenever a user revisits the site, the entire page including all text, images and any other content need to be downloaded again. For user's with a slow connection, and especially for sites with relatively large pages, the user has to wait a lot longer to view the page again.

This can be done using the HTTP Expires header, and does not require JavaScript, but that is intended for pages where the content is frequently updated, and/or it would be a security risk if the page were cashed. ie. Aany content from a secure site, such as an online banking site.

Presumably, this was to prevent any user searching the cache for images files or other content.

I didn't bother checking the cache, I'd already, already saved all the files with Mozilla, however I believe that it must use an IE specific meta tag or something, just like everything else in this encrypted page.

Fully disable the right mouse-click context menu

This disables a feature that the page author should not have any control over. User agents should prevent web page scripts from interacting the the user agent's interface because it interferes with the user's ability to use the application easily. This also applies to preventing the document from being saved as well.

Descent user agents, such as Mozilla and Opera have options to prevent scripts controlling the user interface such as context menus, the status bar and opening or moving windows.

Presumably, this feature was designed to prevent user's from saving images. Even IE can bypass this feature simply by pressing Print Screen on the keyboard, and cutting out and saving the picture with an image editor.

Disable text and picture highlight select,Disable image Drag drop

Again, this interferes with the user agent's interface and thus the user's expectations and ability to use the application and website are impaired.

This did not work in Mozilla or Opera.

Disable Image Tools Bar in IE6

Presumeably, this is to prevent the user using the save, and other buttons provided on that toolbar. This also interferes with the application interface, and thus has the same problems as disabling the context menu and secting text.

Need I say more? Who give a crap, they're annoying anyway! This is IE specific, so it doesn't apply to Mozilla or Opera, so there is no need to bypass it.

Hide display links and address and messages in status bar

The status bar provides valuable information about the link being clicked. Looking at the URI displayed in the status bar for links can indicate to the user that the link is a fragment identifier, a link to an page on the same site or a file, or a link to another resource on another website. Not all users use this, and some choose to hide the status bar.

However for users who do use that feature, their usability of the application will also be impaired as for the 3 previous points.

Again, Mozilla has the option to disable the ability for scripts to change the status bar, and Opera displays the URI in a tooltip text, so it is not affected.

Disable Smart Tags
This is another IE specific feature, and I do not exactly know what Smart Tags to on websites, however, this again interferes with the application interface.

This appears to be performed using an IE specific meta element, which after saving the source code, can be easily removed and thus opened in IE.

Disable Web pages printed
This interferes with one of the most used application features that every user knows how to do, and do so quite often. The accessibility issues are obvious, but this violates Guideline 9 because the page depends on the screen medium and, in particular, user agents that support JavaScript.

This feature did not work in Mozilla or Opera, however this is the easiest feature to by pass. Pressing Print Screen on the keyboard, and creating the page in an image editor will enable printing.

Compress the Html code before encrypt

Ever heard of deflate, or g-zip compression done on the fly by the server? What a waste of time. This may actually be true, I didn't compare the source code sizes.

Nothing to bypass here… Move along people, move along …

Bypass any web content Filter and “Fire Wall” and get more visitors to your site
In the process, you are preventing access to any user who has JavaScript disabled or not supported. Also, any site that is going to trigger a content filter or fire wall to block the page is going to be something that most users wouldn't want to see anyway.

There was no reason to even try to test this, it's a pointless feature.

Stop junk mail and spam
… and every user of a user agent that does not support JavaScript.

Not if I ever find your email address! expect to be abused!

2004-07-06

What a Mess!!!

While doing some research into various parts that I'll need to upgrade my computer, I stumbled across this rather odd looking page. Lian-Li, one of the best computer case manufacturers, made a complete mess of the CSS on their reviews page. Basically, much of the text was unreadable. Why? Because entire blocks of text were completely overlapping other blocks of text.

Looking into this further, although CSS was used, the page has been flooded with not less than 296 opening, and 289 closing <font> tags! hmmm… I wonder why those figures don't match? Many of these have up to 10 or more levels of nesting <font> tags within <font> tags; filling a document that has not less than 26 pages of source code for only 6 pages worth of acual content.

Of course, like any sensible web developer, I use a standards compliant web browser (eg. Mozilla) most of the time, avoiding Internet Explorer like the plague. The CSS seems to work in IE's buggy implementation, however the fault is infact with the author, not Mozilla. Fortunately, in this case, the ability to disable stylesheets using Chris Pederick's Web Developer toolbar allows the page to be read.

From what I can tell, the site was only tested in Internet Explorer by the author (partly because of the fact that the external stylesheet is in a file called "ie.css"). AFAICT, the charset of the HTML file has been specified as windows-1252, which suggests that a poor Microsoft editor was used. As to what causes the overlap of the text, I cannot determine that. It's most likely a combination of factors, not the least being the 368 errors within the document. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure… The page in question was written by a a complete twit!

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This WeBlog is a gallery of websites that basically, just get it wrong! The aim is to showcase the stupidity of some of the worst HTML-Terrorists. It's not just about the millions of average website builders who use image-text navigational links, tables for layout, or nothing but <font> tags. This blog aims to point out those who take that little extra step in making their site difficult to use, completely inaccessable, totally annoying or just hypocritical!

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