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

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 [email protected]. 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
RetiredUser
50%
50%
RetiredUser,
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
News
US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
News
Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
News
FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
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-2021-3035
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
An unsafe deserialization vulnerability in Bridgecrew Checkov by Prisma Cloud allows arbitrary code execution when processing a malicious terraform file. This issue impacts Checkov 2.0 versions earlier than Checkov 2.0.26. Checkov 1.0 versions are not impacted.
CVE-2021-3036
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
An information exposure through log file vulnerability exists in Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS software where secrets in PAN-OS XML API requests are logged in cleartext to the web server logs when the API is used incorrectly. This vulnerability applies only to PAN-OS appliances that are configured to us...
CVE-2021-3037
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
An information exposure through log file vulnerability exists in Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS software where the connection details for a scheduled configuration export are logged in system logs. Logged information includes the cleartext username, password, and IP address used to export the PAN-OS conf...
CVE-2021-3038
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
A denial-of-service (DoS) vulnerability in Palo Alto Networks GlobalProtect app on Windows systems allows a limited Windows user to send specifically-crafted input to the GlobalProtect app that results in a Windows blue screen of death (BSOD) error. This issue impacts: GlobalProtect app 5.1 versions...
CVE-2021-3506
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
An out-of-bounds (OOB) memory access flaw was found in fs/f2fs/node.c in the f2fs module in the Linux kernel in versions before 5.12.0-rc4. A bounds check failure allows a local attacker to gain access to out-of-bounds memory leading to a system crash or a leak of internal kernel information. The hi...