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Use Isolated Storage for Stateful Network-deployable .NET Components

Isolated storage is a .NET security feature that assigns each application a unique storage area that is fully isolated from other applications and essentially private. Isolated storage provides true isolation in the sense that the identity of an application or a component uniquely determines the root of a virtual, sandboxed file system. This form of data storage is well suited to partially trusted applications in general and ASP.NET applications in particular.




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solated storage represents a subset of the file system that partially trusted applications can access to perform their private I/O operations. Introduced to preserve the integrity and the functionality of the whole operating system, isolated storage exploits the principle of the sandbox—isolate to prevent damage and malicious code. A set of stream-based classes let you work with such a storage system in an extremely simple and immediate way. In .NET, not all applications run with the same set of security permissions. Security permissions represent the key to access critical system resources such as the file system, the registry, the clipboard, and the printer. Applications that attempt to access these resources without a valid authorization simply run into an exception. The mechanism behind security permissions is called Code Access Security (CAS) and represents the .NET answer to the growing demand for software security. CAS works by granting permissions to each assembly that is loaded in the CLR. The permission set for an assembly stems from the evidence that the assembly itself provides. The evidence defines the set of information that constitutes input for security decisions. This information includes any digital signatures the assembly may have and the location from which the assembly is accessed.

Just the location of download is a critical factor for applications. The set of permissions granted, in fact, changes considerably if the assembly is accessed locally or maybe remotely from a Web site. As you can guess, location dependent permissions pose a number of issues to developers that are going to write network-deployable classes. In this article, after a brief introduction to fully and partially trusted applications, I'll focus on isolated storage—namely, a feature of the .NET Framework that elegantly works around the file system limitations for network-based applications, including ASP.NET applications. Trusted Applications
While loading a managed assembly on behalf of a running application, the CLR is called to determine the set of permissions associated with that assembly. The CLR bases any decision both on the privileges of the currently logged user and the location from which the assembly is going to be downloaded. As a result, the permissions allowed to a certain assembly may prevent the code to perform certain necessary but potentially harmful operations such as writing files or accessing the registry. Applications automatically limited in their functionality for security reasons are said to be partially trusted applications.

When applications attempt to perform an operation not allowed by the ongoing security policy, the event is signaled with an exception of type SecurityException. The CLR prompts the user with a dialog box like the one shown in Figure 1.

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