Enforcement of the Java Language Rules

The list of rules we outlined above are fine in theory, but they must be enforced somehow. We’ve always been taught that overwriting the end of an array in C code is a bad thing, but I somehow still manage to do it accidentally all the time. There are also those who willfully attempt to overwrite the ends of arrays in an attempt to breach the security of a system. Without mechanisms to enforce these memory rules, they become simply guidelines and provide no sort of security at all.

This necessary enforcement happens at three different times in the development and deployment of a Java program: at compile time, at link time (that is, when a class is loaded into the virtual machine), and at runtime. Not all rules can be checked at each of these points, but certain checks are necessary at each point in order to ensure the memory security that we’re after. As we’ll see, enforcement of these rules (which is really the construction of this part of the Java sandbox) varies depending on the origin of the class in question.

Compiler Enforcement

The Java compiler is the first thing that is tasked with the job of enforcing Java’s language rules. In particular, the compiler is responsible for enforcing all of the rules we outlined above except for the last two: the compiler cannot enforce array bound checking nor can it enforce all cases of illegal object casts.

The compiler does enforce certain cases of illegal object casts—namely, casts between ...

Get Java Security now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.