Active content

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Active content refers to programs that are embedded transparently in web pages and that cause action to occur. Active content can display moving graphics, download and play audio, or implement web-based spreadsheet programs. Active content is used in e-commerce to place items one wishes to purchase into a shopping cart and to compute the total invoice amount, including sales tax, handling, and shipping costs. The best known active content forms are Java applets, ActiveX controls, JavaScript, and VBScript.

Since active content modules are embedded in web pages, they can be completely transpar- ent to anyone browsing a page containing them. Anyone can embed malicious active content in web pages. This delivery technique, called a trojan horse, immediately begins executing and taking actions that cause harm.

Embedding active content to web pages involved in e-commerce introduces several security risks. Malicious programs delivered quietly via web pages could reveal credit card numbers, usernames, and passwords that are frequently stored in special files called cookies. Because the internet is stateless and cannot remember a response from one web page view to another, cookies help solve the problem of remembering customer order information or usernames or passwords. Malicious active content delivered by means of cookies can reveal the contents of client-side files or even destroy files stored on client computers.

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