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The Cost of Crappy Security In Software Infrastructure 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the measured-in-dollars-and-annoying-calls-from-relatives dept.
blackbearnh writes "Everyone these days knows that you have to double- and triple-check your code for security vulnerabilities, and make sure your servers are locked down as tight as you can. But why? Because our underlying operating systems, languages, and platforms do such a crappy job of protecting us from ourselves. The inevitable result of clamoring for new features, rather than demanding rock-solid infrastructure, is that the developer community wastes huge amounts of time protecting their applications from exploits that should never be possible in the first place. The next time you hear about a site that gets pwned by a buffer overrun exploit, don't think 'stupid developers!', think 'stupid industry!'"
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The Cost of Crappy Security In Software Infrastructure

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  • Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:50PM (#40184415)

    Tools are dangerous. If I want to cut my hand off with a chainsaw, I can. If I want to leave my PHP script open to XSS, I can.

  • Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by localman57 (1340533) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:52PM (#40184467)

    The next time you hear about a site that gets pwned by a buffer overrun exploit, don't think 'stupid developers!', think 'stupid industry!'"

    Yeah, yeah. Hate the game, not the player, and all that. If you code a buffer overrun and you get pwned, it may mean the industry is stupid. But that doesn't mean that you're not stupid too.

  • Totally off-base (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:55PM (#40184515) Homepage Journal

    Computers are inherently instruct-able. That's their power, and that's where all security flaws come form. The underlying problems don't arise out of an industry-wide antipathy. If anything the reality is opposite, the entire industry in quite interested in the fundamentals of security.

    The problem lies in the fact that we want to be able to tell computers what to do with a wide assortment of options on each of multiple layers(machine, operating system, high level language, and user application). Every one of those layers necessarily includes things we won't want to do that someone else could want to(i.e. security flaw)

    This is like blaming car theft on a general malaise towards car security, when in fact it's a simple matter of cars that don't go wherever the driver wants or only ever accepts one driver is nigh useless.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:59PM (#40184599) Homepage Journal

    Except the industry has painfully simple solutions to buffer overruns, like, say, almost any programming language developed after 1990 has no risk of buffer overruns.

  • Re:Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:01PM (#40184639)

    This 1 million times THIS!

    Any tool that is useful will be dangerous.

  • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by I_am_Jack (1116205) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:03PM (#40184687)

    Tools are dangerous. If I want to cut my hand off with a chainsaw, I can. If I want to leave my PHP script open to XSS, I can.

    True. But I think the biggest impediment to secure systems and code is what people like my 82 year old dad are going to do if you ask them to start making selections or decisions regarding how tight or loose they want access to the internet. He's going to get angry and tell me, like he always does when I have to clean viruses off his computer, "I just want to read my email!" And there's more people a lot younger than him that will respond the same way, only it'll be over free smilies, fonts or porn.

  • Just Ask Apple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:04PM (#40184715)

    When you protect developers and users from themselves, when you start making engineering tradeoffs that reduce functionality and tinkering and fiddling ability in exchange for greater security and stability, some people start screaming that you've being evil, paternalistic and unfreedomly and not letting them decide for themselves whether they want to make tragic mistakes.

  • by brainzach (2032950) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:11PM (#40184829)

    If you design your tools and infrastructure to prevent those with bad intent, it can also prevent those with good intent from using your system.

    There is no magical solution that will solve our security needs. In reality, everything will require tradeoffs which developers have to balance out according to what they are trying to do.

  • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by neonKow (1239288) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:17PM (#40184973) Journal

    Yeah, and tools have safety standards too. Just because you accept the risk of a car crash when you buy a car doesn't mean you have to accept the risk of your car spontaneously exploding.

    More importantly, if you're writing PHP code that costs money when you have an XSS vulnerability, that means you're responsible for your users' information. So, no, if you want to leave your PHP open to XSS, do it where it doesn't add to the cost of crappy security. And do it in a way that doesn't result in your site being hijacked to serve malware and spam for months on end before you notice.

    You're not an island. Personal responsibility means you don't blame other people for stuff that's your own responsibility (like getting hacked); it doesn't mean you can just neglect the responsibility of protecting you customers' or boss's data, or the network that your share.

  • Re:Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlts (1038732) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:41PM (#40185513)

    I personally am from the IT school of "all operating systems suck, so pick what sucks less", and in some cases, the Mac recommendation may be the best way to go.

    First, Apple has actual customer service compared to the PC companies (well, unless you buy from the "business" tier and get the better support plan.) So, they will have someone to call to get problems fixed and questions answered that isn't you.

    Second, building them a desktop is in some ways the best solution, but it means you are on 24/7/365 call if anything breaks.

    Third, Macs are not unhackable, but as of now, the biggest attack is through Trojan horses, while Windows is easily compromised through browser and browser add-on holes. So, for now, Macs have a less of a chance of being compromised by browser exploits.

    Fourth, Time Machine isn't perfect, but compared to other consumer level backup programs, it is good enough. Especially if paired up with Mozy or Carbonite for documents. That way, the parent's documents are stashed safely even if the computer and its backup drive are destroyed or stolen.

    Fifth, the App Store and a stern instruction to not run anything unless it came from there will help mitigate the possibility of Trojans. It isn't perfect, but it is a good method.

    Of course, Linux is a workable solution as well, but a Mac's advantage is that it still has a mainstream software selection available for it, so Aunt Tillie can get a copy of Photoshop if she so chooses.

  • Re:Ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:47PM (#40185659)

    I find the biggest impediment to secure systems is cost. In previous companies I have worked for, there was a mantra by the management, "security has no ROI."

    The fact that on the accounting ledger, proper security practices, doesn't mean black numbers are added, but that red numbers are not added escaped them. The typical response when I asked what the contingency plan about a break-in was usually "We call Geek Squad. They are open 24/7."

    Yes, good security costs. Good routers, firewalling, hiring clued network guys, and running penetration scenarios are not cheap. However compared to other business operating costs, it isn't expensive on the relative scale.

    Because there is little to no penalty if a business does get compromised, there is not much interest in locking things down. Until this is addressed, crappy security policies will be the norm.

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