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Hackers target outsourced app development

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Many firms fail to think about security when they outsource application development.

Three in five (60 per cent) organisations overlook procedures to mandate security in software development outsourcing, according to a study by analysts Quocirca. One in five (20 per cent) fail to consider security even when building applications in-house.

Quocirca's figures come from a survey of 250 senior executives in the UK, US, and Germany. It found that outsourcing of code development is widespread, and growing in importance. More than 50 per cent of those organisations quizzed outsourced more than 40 per cent of their code development needs.

Hackers are increasingly targeting application rather than operating system vulnerabilities.

TS Ameritrade showed last year what such practises can do when it admitted that a backdoor created by an outsourced programmer was to blame for the loss of 6.3 million customers' details.

The report found that financial services companies are most likely to outsource their code development needs, with 72 per cent reporting that they outsource more than 40 per cent of this work. The majority (84 per cent) of these organisations said code development is either business critical or important.

Public sector organisations are also big outsourcers, with 55 per cent outsourcing more than 40 per cent of their code development.

By contrast, utilities rarely outsource such work - just seven per cent outsource more than eight percent of code development.

"Not enough is being done by organisations to build security into the applications on which their businesses rely," said Fran Howarth, principal analyst at Quocirca and author of the report. "Not only that, but they are entrusting large parts of their application development needs to third parties. This creates an even greater onus for organisations to thoroughly test all code generated for applications — without which they could be playing into the hands of hackers."

The survey also found that exposure to Web 2.0 technologies — among the least understood, but considered to be among the most insecure software development models — is high. It also found that data protection is the key driver behind application security for the majority of organisations polled. ®

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