In Protest of the Web{*} Bulldozer

Venting my frustrations about new web standards

Tim K
7 min readMay 20, 2020


Come off it Mr. Dent. You can’t win, you know. You can’t lie in front of the bulldozer indefinitely.

A story cropped up this morning on my feed. Someone had discovered that while visiting eBay, their web browser was running a port scan on localhost with WebSockets. Presumably, the browser fed that information back to eBay, so they could do a risk assessment of some sort. Is the user a part of a fraud network?

Needless to say, this is mildly alarming. My web browser could be used to port scan my network? I try to follow security fairly closely, and I didn’t even know this could happen. What’s more, the scan just happened silently in the background, only visible to those who would happen to look for it.

I know enough web development to be dangerous… but to be honest, I haven’t read up on WebSockets. Could a malicious bit of JavaScript attack my desktop’s SSH server with a 0-day payload?

The answer is no, and yes. And I have some thoughts to add at the end.

This isn’t all THAT big deal…

After about half an hour of research, this is what I found.

First, I looked into whether WebSockets were as dangerous as I thought. Honestly, I didn’t know what they did, because I had no incentive to look into them until now. My initial fear was that WebSockets could be used to fire arbitrary packets at my computer or other devices on my network.

  • Firstly, WebSockets seem to be prohibited from accessing and In Firefox, it raises SecurityError. Odd that it can access localhost, but meh.
  • In Firefox, WebSockets can’t open to port 21, 22, or 23. The console spits back the same SecurityError. I was hoping that WebSockets would be blocked for privileged ports (< 1024), but it didn’t raise an error for port 24. It seems that Firefox maintains a blacklist? (I didn’t investigate this further, or build a complete list of ports.)
  • Finally, I ran a simple netcat listener on my machine, and opened a WebSocket to it. Netcat spit out an HTTP request with a few headers indicating it was a WebSocket. The console wouldn’t let me send data until the connection was established, either.



Tim K

Tim builds circuit boards in Virginia Beach, and enjoys writing about current events, history, theology, and philosophy.