Veracode's new, cloud-based Free XSS Detection Service offers a free XSS scan for one Java-based application per user, and is available for 30 days to anyone who signs up for it. "We want to eradicate XSS. It sounds like a lofty goal, but we felt it was about time someone took this issue more seriously," says Sam King, vice president of product marketing for Veracode.
XSS long has been at the top of the list of most common flaws found in applications. According to Veracode's recent State of Software Security Report, XSS was the No. 1 flaw in all applications: It accounted for 51 percent of all vulnerabilities found by Veracode.
"It doesn't have to be this way," King says. "Most cross-site scripting issues are relatively easy to find and easy to fix."
And King says the free XSS scan may be only the beginning: Veracode is considering doing the same for the SQL injection, another common bug in apps, and other vulnerabilities. Veracode went with Java apps initially because Java is the most common development platform its customers submit for the company's security scanning service.
The free service includes a detailed report on the XSS flaws, as well as information on how to fix them and free access to Veracode's XSS e-learning courses. "It's a one-time offer; you can upload one application, and we provide the results" of the scan as well as remediation information, says Fergal Glynn, senior product manager for Veracode.
While the free service also offers Veracode potential for new customers, it's also a significant step toward more widespread XSS awareness among developers, especially ones from smaller organizations. "I think the uptick will be good," says Chenxi Wang, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research, who first came up with the idea for a free XSS scan.
Wang says she thinks the move by Veracode could encourage other security vendors to also offer free scanning services for XSS. Eliminating the majority of XSS bugs in apps would be a big step in making Web apps more secure. "If you do anything in software security in 2011, [you should] do this," she says.
This isn't the first free scanning offering for finding vulnerabilities in applications: WhiteHat Security has done so in the past. But the offers typically didn't generate many new regular customers for the firm, notes Jeremiah Grossman, founder and CTO at WhiteHat. Grossman says that may be because those who were serious about securing their apps were more likely to sign on as paying customers. "But maybe our [experience] was the exception" and Veracode's standing free service will attract more customers, he says.
WhiteHat would consider offering another free service of its own if the Veracode service takes off, he says. "We give away free assessments all the time. But we've never stood up a long-term service like [Veracode] has," Grossman says.
Whether users of the free service will actually go and fix the XSS bugs Veracode finds for them is unclear. Veracode detects up to tens of thousands of XSS vulnerabilities in a week, according to the company, and while some customers fix them and then upload a new build to Veracode the next day, others don't bother correcting the XSS flaws at all.
Wang says Veracode's free scan is more likely to be used by developers who will follow through with fixing their XSS bugs. "It won't get people who don't want to fix [the vulnerabilities]," she says.
Why has XSS been so hard to kill? It's the volume of XSS bugs an organization harbors, WhiteHat's Grossman says. While it's easy to fix the bugs when they are discovered, it's not so simple to do so when they span a large number of sites companywide, he says.
Veracode's new service is available for sign-up here.
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