Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

10/23/2009
07:25 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Application Security Is National Security

Hacks targeting U.S. government computers are coming from China. We knew that. The Chinese hackers are relying on zero-day software vulnerabilities to exploit critical systems. So, tell me again: why aren't we doing more to require applications be built secure from the start?

Hacks targeting U.S. government computers are coming from China. We knew that. The Chinese hackers are relying on zero-day software vulnerabilities to exploit critical systems. So, tell me again: why aren't we doing more to require applications be built secure from the start?This is an excerpt from the report, Capability of the People's Republic of China to Conduct Cyber Warfare and Computer Network Exploitation [.pdf]:

China is likely using its maturing computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the US Government and industry by conducting a long term, sophisticated, computer network exploitation campaign. The problem is characterized by disciplined, standardized operations, sophisticated techniques, access to high-end software development resources, a deep knowledge of the targeted networks, and an ability to sustain activities inside targeted networks, sometimes over a period of months.

Analysis of these intrusions is yielding increasing evidence that the intruders are turning to Chinese "black hat" programmers (i.e. individuals who support illegal hacking activities) for customized tools that exploit vulnerabilities in software that vendors have not yet discovered. This type of attack is known as a "zero day exploit" (or "0-day") as the defenders haven't yet started counting the days since the release of vulnerability information. Although these relationships do not prove any government affiliation, it suggests that the individuals participating in ongoing penetrations of US networks have Chinese language skills and have well established ties with the Chinese underground hacker community. Alternately, it may imply that he individuals targeting US networks have access to a well resourced infrastructure that is able to broker these relationships with the Chinese blackhat hacker community and provide tool development support often while an operation is underway.

More clearly: our adversaries (not just criminally motivated Black Hats, but state-sponsored adversaries) are using the fact that most software shipped today is both shoddily designed and insecure to steal billions of intellectual property and state security secrets every year.

The report provided a case study of on infiltration on an unnamed U.S. business. The attack was made possible by a flaw in Adobe Acrobat. And the attack was initiated in the typical way: an e-mail with a maliciously crafted attachment that, once clicked, executes the attack on some software vulnerability and a Trojan horse, botnet, or keystroke logger is injected into the user's system.

These attacks happen in a split second, and anyone can fall victim -- especially when these e-mails come from someone who knows the plenty about the person or organization being targeted. And they're made possible because the PDF viewers, word processors, spreadsheets, Internet browsers, Web applications -- are all -- to some degree vulnerable to attack.

Unfortunately, it's you -- the end user or the organization -- who always suffers the consequences of the vulnerability: not the software developer. Sure, they'll have to endure the cost of developing a patch for a discovered vulnerability: but they're not held liable for your having lost $20 million is research and development on that fancy new widget. Nor are they held liable when a foreign government accesses military secrets.

Perhaps it's time part of the risk for developing insecure software shifts onto software developers. End users have businesses have been shouldering the risk, and the cost, for far too long.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Zero Trust doesn't have to break your budget!
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-31476
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of Foxit PhantomPDF 10.1.3.37598. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability in that the target must visit a malicious page or open a malicious file. The specific flaw exists within the han...
CVE-2021-31477
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of GE Reason RPV311 14A03. Authentication is not required to exploit this vulnerability. The specific flaw exists within the firmware and filesystem of the device. The firmware and filesystem contain hard-...
CVE-2021-32690
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Helm is a tool for managing Charts (packages of pre-configured Kubernetes resources). In versions of helm prior to 3.6.1, a vulnerability exists where the username and password credentials associated with a Helm repository could be passed on to another domain referenced by that Helm repository. This...
CVE-2021-32691
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
Apollos Apps is an open source platform for launching church-related apps. In Apollos Apps versions prior to 2.20.0, new user registrations are able to access anyone's account by only knowing their basic profile information (name, birthday, gender, etc). This includes all app functionality within th...
CVE-2021-32243
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-16
FOGProject v1.5.9 is affected by a File Upload RCE (Authenticated).