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4/17/2011
10:09 PM
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Security Software, Services Score Poorly In Security

Latest state of software security report from Veracode also finds application developers' security grades low

Most of the security and security services software tested by Veracode got an "unacceptable" rating in their first security scans, as did more than 65 percent of all commercial software, a new report released today says.

Veracode's new State of Software Security Report shows only customer support software in worse shape than security products and services, with 82 percent of apps receiving an "unacceptable" rating, versus 72 percent for security software and security services software.

While 66 percent of all commercial software scanned by Veracode received an "unacceptable" rating upon their first security scans by Veracode, the low scores of security products and services software was most telling. "That was a shocker for us," says Sam King, vice president of product marketing at Veracode, which scanned more than 4,800 applications for this report. "That helps explain some of the headlines we've seen lately-- RSA, HBGary, Comodo ... Attackers are targeting security companies and other vertical industries should be taking better care of the apps. The lesson learned for people buying: you can't assume that even security vendors are any more secure."

The bright spot, however, was that the commercial software vendors were relatively quick to clean up their products, with more than 90 of them achieving an "acceptable" score for security within one month after the first scan by Veracode. And the security vendors were especially speedy, with an average of three days to get their applications into acceptable security shape, the Veracode report says.

But why the initial lousy security grade for security vendors' software? Chris Eng, senior director of research, says the bottom line is that security vendors face the same challenges as any other organization: developers with security experience are few and far between. "They are not necessarily better off in security expertise," he says. And more than 50 percent of application developers who took a security fundamentals exam from Veracode's online training program got a "C" or lower grade on the test, which covers common threats and other security basic concepts. That exam is taken as an assessment test, prior to any courses. More than 30 percent earned a "D" or failed it, according to the Veracode report.

"There is a poor state of knowledge with regard to application security fundamentals, which helps you understand the other statistics we reported," King says.

Between 35- and 48 percent of developers who took Veracode's secure coding for Java and .NET courses as well as its introduction to cryptography class, got a grade of "C" or lower. "The passing grades for those were a little higher than the app sec fundamentals. So that's heartening: with the right education, they perform better," King says.

Among the other findings in the report: more than eight out of 19 Web applications fail the OWASP Top 10 list of common vulnerabilities, and cross-site scripting remains the number one flaw in apps. SQL injection bugs are decreasing by about 2.4 percent per quarter, according to the report.

The financial services and software industries are most aggressively holding their software suppliers accountable for security flaws by ordering third-party scans of the software. More than 75 percent of the enterprises in the report who request this verification are from finance and software, while the aerospace and Defense industries are starting to do the same with their software suppliers.

Veracode's report is available for download here.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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