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Risk

3/1/2010
10:29 AM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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App Insecurity: More Than Half Fail Security Tests First Time

Applications are where the action is, both for business productivity and, not at all coincidentally, for exploits. A new report from Veracode charges that 58% of reviewed apps flunked security tests the first time.

Applications are where the action is, both for business productivity and, not at all coincidentally, for exploits. A new report from Veracode charges that 58% of reviewed apps flunked security tests the first time.The Veracode State of Software Security report, (free download, registration required) might just take your breath away: 58% of the apps submitted for Veracode security testing and review contained exploitable vulnerabilities.

What's most breathtaking about this, from my perspective, is that these apps -- 1,600 of 'em, both commercial software and internally developed programs, including open source -- was the the fact that they were submitted to Veracode's security tests. The developers clearly felt confident that they'd covered their security bases.

Just as clearly, the confidence was misplaced.

According to Veracode's report, the most common vulnerability was susceptibility to Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks.

The damning thing about the prevalence of persistent XSS and other common and well-known and well understood vulnerabilities is made clear in the report's blunt words:

"The pervasiveness of easily remedied vulnerabilities indicates a lack of developer education on secure coding."

Open source apps came off better than others, at least in terms of closing the security holes Veracode uncovered. While initial open source app submissions tended to suffer vulnerability levels similar to those of commercial apps, open source programs got fixed faster, as Veracode noted:

Open Source project teams remediated security vulnerabilities faster than all other users of Veracodes application risk management services platform. Open Source applications took only 36 days from first submission to reach an acceptable security score, compared to 48 days for Internally Developed applications and 82 days for Commercial applications. This is not surprising given the numerous political and organizational complexities of enterprise development efforts and the formal, customer-centric release plans of Commercial software vendors.

Customer-centrism, whatever the platform, is unavoidable, as is market-centrism and any other -ism you care to name; but Veracode's findings indicate that security-centrism had better move to the head of the list for all developers, and soon.

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