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11/5/2009
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Securing The Cyber Supply Chain

Many parties touch your organization's systems and software, potentially exposing them to malware, breaches, or worse. A new end-to-end approach is required to minimize the risks.

Beware Back Doors

Software pedigree--knowing who developed code at every step, and being able to verify its trustworthiness--is one of the most critical, yet challenging, steps. Earlier this year, Arab telecom provider Etisalat pushed to BlackBerry users what it said was a software update for improving performance. In fact, it was spyware capable of providing access to information on the devices.

Brian Chess, chief scientist at Fortify, a company that specializes in assuring software security, recommends a three-step process: Take a software inventory and apply tools that analyze code for vulnerabilities; ask software vendors to document the steps in their development processes; and recognize that neither of those steps is enough, and therefore be rigorous in your other cybersecurity efforts.

Once software is installed, to make sure hackers aren't using back doors built into code, it's important to baseline network traffic, says NetForensics VP Tracy Hulver. If something looks amiss, "I can be alerted and do something about it," he says. That applies to anomalies in user behavior, as well. "You say, I'm getting database access from an IP address that's outside the United States, and that's unusual, so I need to terminate that," Hulver says.

Verizon's Sachs recommends a multitiered approach to risk mitigation, including establishing new coding standards in the software industry, close monitoring of offshore software development, and a mandate that all critical software used by government agencies be written domestically.

The software industry is in the early days of figuring out how to discuss supply chain issues. SAFECode is working with Adobe, EMC, Juniper, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, and Symantec to develop best practices in secure software development. "We discovered there really wasn't a common lexicon or template for describing supply chain integrity," says Paul Kurtz, executive director of SAFECode and a top White House cybersecurity official in the Bush administration. "Now they're looking at this collectively, which is incredibly important because they're developing a common framework."

Bill Billings, chief security officer for Microsoft's federal group, believes the computer industry should adopt what he calls the Campbell's soup model, where a product-tracking number on every can makes it possible for consumers to get information on where and when soup was made. "You're not changing the quality of it, but you are changing the fact that it comes from somebody you knew rather than somebody you didn't," he says. "It's getting rid of the man-in-the-middle attacks."

chart: Alignment is Off

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