Risk
1/21/2010
12:31 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
Commentary
Connect Directly
Facebook
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Sloppy Software Dev Exposes Google Hacker Holes

I've ranted on the subject before, but it's worth sounding off again in light of the recent China hacker breaches of Gmail: Poor software development procedures are the big reason major firms are apparently running around scared witless that their products are vulnerable to cyberattacks. (The corollary, about which we haven't read anything, is that firms with buttoned-down dev rules are likely feeling, if not entirely safe, then at least free of the panic which plagues the cluelessly unprepared.

I've ranted on the subject before, but it's worth sounding off again in light of the recent China hacker breaches of Gmail: Poor software development procedures are the big reason major firms are apparently running around scared witless that their products are vulnerable to cyberattacks. (The corollary, about which we haven't read anything, is that firms with buttoned-down dev rules are likely feeling, if not entirely safe, then at least free of the panic which plagues the cluelessly unprepared.)The scary thing is, it's my belief that there aren't many PC-generation vendors (you know what I mean here; I'm not going to name names) who adhere to enforced best practices. Let's stipulate that this is not totally their fault; software developers who came of age without ever having to wield a soldering iron can't be expected to have a deep understand of the hardware upon which their poorly commented, non-error-trapping spaghetti code is running.

I do suspect that networking companies have an inherent advantage insofar as hacker exposure goes. That's because the higher complexity level of their software output -- as compared with, say, desktop PC apps -- means that they're more likely to enforce internal practices such as (real, as opposed to theatrical) code reviews and deep QA testing. This may not be driven by security concerns; at the top level, it's because without a proper process, the stuff just won't work. But the upshot is the same, and they're in a better place as a result.

Personally, I hadn't been planning on writing anything in the wake of the Google China attack. However, I was set off by Wednesday's New York Times article, Fearing Hackers Who Leave No Trace, by John Markoff and Ashlee Vance.

It's a worthy piece of work, taking note of the U.S. government-enforced back door, which vendors like Cisco must put into their products so the National Security Agency can do what it does. (Though of course the NSA would be able to do that even without the back door.)

However, as one would expect from a broad-audience article, it doesn't pick inside-baseball nits, such as my software dev complaint above.

User-Side Protection

The one other angle I'd like to mention involves not the vulnerabilities of the creators of source code, but rather of the users. The deal here is, if any company really wants to be secure, what they would have to do is ensure that they're not using any apps which might be vulnerable.

Sounds like a small deal, but it's not. In practice, this means that if Adobe Acrobat is perceived as being vulnerable to attack--something mentioned in the Times article--then what your organization would need to do to be secure is to not use (or to sandbox) Acrobat. [I can't believe I'm half-channeling Richard Stallman here, though not with the intention of making the same point.]

That's not really practical in the workaday world, but it is in organizations which have the resources to develop their own alternatives. What I'm getting at here is, I wonder if any of the "black ops" orgs are down with this? They're the people who are providing our attack-side resources in the below-the-radar cyberwar with China and Russia.

I don't know what the answer is, but it's certainly an interesting question.

Follow me on Twitter: (@awolfe58)

What's your take? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at alex@alexwolfe.net. Like this blog? Subscribe to its RSS feed: (here)

 My videos on ( YouTube)

 Facebook 

  LinkedIn

Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
gnuian
50%
50%
gnuian,
User Rank: Ninja
5/22/2014 | 6:09:24 AM
Right on the Money
I absolutely agree.  The recent Heartbleed article on Dark Reading got me ranting similarly about the need for security requirements in software projects and more care by the community in observing them: http://www.darkreading.com/messages.asp?piddl_msgthreadid=11947&piddl_msgid=219318#msg_219318
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-2184
Published: 2015-03-27
Movable Type before 5.2.6 does not properly use the Storable::thaw function, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via the comment_state parameter.

CVE-2014-3619
Published: 2015-03-27
The __socket_proto_state_machine function in GlusterFS 3.5 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (infinite loop) via a "00000000" fragment header.

CVE-2014-8121
Published: 2015-03-27
DB_LOOKUP in nss_files/files-XXX.c in the Name Service Switch (NSS) in GNU C Library (aka glibc or libc6) 2.21 and earlier does not properly check if a file is open, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (infinite loop) by performing a look-up while the database is iterated over...

CVE-2014-9712
Published: 2015-03-27
Websense TRITON V-Series appliances before 7.8.3 Hotfix 03 and 7.8.4 before Hotfix 01 allows remote administrators to read arbitrary files and obtain passwords via a crafted path.

CVE-2015-0658
Published: 2015-03-27
The DHCP implementation in the PowerOn Auto Provisioning (POAP) feature in Cisco NX-OS does not properly restrict the initialization process, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands as root by sending crafted response packets on the local network, aka Bug ID CSCur14589.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Good hackers--aka security researchers--are worried about the possible legal and professional ramifications of President Obama's new proposed crackdown on cyber criminals.