Ricardo Saporta Ricardo Saporta - 3 months ago 20
R Question

What specifically are the dangers of eval(parse(...))?

There are several questions on how to avoid using


Which sparks the questions:

  • Why Specifically should
    be avoided?

  • And most importantly, What are the dangers?

    • Are there any dangerous if the code is not used in production? (I'm thinking, any danger of getting back unintended results. Clearly if you are not careful about what you are parsing, you will have issues. But is that any more dangerous than being sloppy with

42- 42-

Most of the arguments against eval(parse(...)) arise not because of security concerns, after all, no claims are made about R being a safe interface to expose to the Internet, but rather because such code is generally doing things that can be accomplished using less obscure methods, i.e. methods that are both quicker and more human parse-able. The R language is supposed to be high-level, so the preference of the cognoscenti (and I do not consider myself in that group) is to see code that is both compact and expressive.

So the danger is that eval(parse(..)) is a backdoor method of getting around lack of knowledge and the hope in raising that barrier is that people will improve their use of the R language. The door remains open but the hope is for more expressive use of other features. Carl Witthoft's question earlier today illustrated not knowing that the get function was available, and the question he linked to exposed a lack of understanding of how the [[ function behaved (and how $ was more limited than [[). In both cases an eval(parse(..)) solution could be constructed, but it was clunkier and less clear than the alternative.