POLA Would Have Prevented the Event-Stream Incident

The mistake is in asking “How can we prevent attacks?” when we should be asking “How can we limit the damage that can be done when an attack succeeds?”. The former assumes infallibility; the latter recognizes that building systems is a human process.

— Alan Karp, “POLA Today Keeps the Virus at Bay”, HP Labs

The JavaScript world was rocked this week by news that the popular npm package event-stream included malicious code that attempted to steal the private keys of certain Bitcoin users.

Since the attack was discovered, both the JavaScript community and the cryptocurrency community have been passionately debating how to prevent such an attack. At Agoric, we think this attack was entirely preventable, and the answer is POLA, the Principle of Least Authority.

Read more about how POLA would have helped here.