150 ways to let hackers in

Shut that (code) door

To paraphrase Paul Simon, there are 150 ways to leave your software open to attack, according to Fortify Software, the Palo Alto-based security software specialist.

In the latest update to its Fortify Security Coding Rulepack, the company says it has added a further 34 "vulnerability categories", bringing the grand total to 150.

Fortify's philosophy is that the best place to deal with security threats is in source code when software is being built. Well-designed code can prevent a wide range of attacks and Fortify's Source Code Analysis tool helps improve code design and keep out the malcontents.

"Security threats are a constant challenge to programmers - but their priorities are to meet deadlines and deliver new features. We can help by giving them good tools to help make software less vulnerable," says Jacob West, manager of the security research group at Fortify.

According to Fortify, the two most-prevalent forms of attack are cross-site scripting, where rogue code pretends to be from a trusted site, and SQL injection, where executable SQL commands are put into data streams.

West says cross-site scripting can be prevented by using data flow analysis. "You can identify data as it comes in and check that it is what it says it is. A billing address, for example, should only contain letters and numbers. If it contains special characters then it may well be suspect."

Similarly, SQL injection may be avoided by ensuring that SQL data streams do not contain executable instructions. "SQL injection introduces extra commands into an SQL stream which can circumvent access control and enable data to be changed. If you can control the SQL command input you can do almost anything. But you can prevent it by input validation and restricting what you allow in commands."

The rulepacks are part of Fortify's Manager Security Control Centre. ®

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