Rats in the security world

Let's start with email

While I'm on the subject of encryption, I say it's time everyone stopped coding their own homegrown encryption algorithms and just use well-accepted encryption standards. If you think that your custom triple-rot13-xor-encoded encryption function is unbreakable, think again. Why even bother with your own encryption when there is plenty of freely available code already out there? Why are programmers so compelled to reinvent the wheel? Obviously the public humiliation of endless security advisories isn't enough of a deterrent from people using ROT-13, XOR, or some other lame encryption. What do we have to do, pass a law or something?

Log files. There's so much to say about the chaos we call logging I'm not even going there - I'll leave it for another time, just like people leave their logs to look into at another time, but never do.

How about responsible programming? Sure we have heard a lot about stack overflows and SQL injection, but if you write software, you should let people have a few security options rather than you making all the decisions for them. For example, give people the option to simply not record recently-opened documents, store personal information, or completely shut off unused services such as an embedded web server. When you configure the installer, it would help if you could also set the file permissions automatically so that others don't have to go back later to research and test for the most secure permissions.

While you're at it, make sure there are documents or knowledge base articles to help your users secure your application. Yes, information and documentation is very good.

We have seen so much success with open source software, I'd like to see a new concept take hold: open source data. Open source has worked very well for security software. I'd like to see more open source databases out there for security information. I have long been a fan of the BOGON list, RBL's, and other free data sources. I'd like to see more public blocklists, privacy cleanup lists, spyware prevention lists, security settings, file permissions, and more.

Yes, there are various security lists scattered out there, but we need to bring these projects together to a central location so we can combine our efforts.

And finally, can't we get over the whole which-OS-is-more-secure fervor? When people ask me what OS is the most secure, I tell them it's whichever one they know best. Remember, its not the OS that gets hacked, it's almost always the admin that gets hacked.

Yeah there were good reasons to hate Windows in the past, but Windows 2003 is hardly comparable to NT4. That was almost a decade ago. Maybe some day we can all get together and realize we are also in this together and spend our time making all OSes more secure.

So there they are. Rats. Someone really should do something about these things. I'm just glad it doesn't have to be me.

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