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.
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)
My videos on ( YouTube)
Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.