Feeds

Time to dismount the hamster security wheel of pain

Quit patching, build a library

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Enterprises are spending a huge amount of effort scanning for vulnerabilities that they already know are in their applications. Here's a little secret: there's no point in scanning if you haven't at least tried to put in a basic set of defenses. You already know you're vulnerable.

So what kinds of defenses does the average web application need? Here's a good way to figure it out. Take a look at the common application security vulnerabilities and then list the security controls that developers need to prevent those holes.

You'll end up with a list that includes authentication, session management, access control, input validation, canonicalization, output encoding, parameterized interfaces, encryption, hashing, random numbers, logging and error handling.

It's not reasonable to expect developers to build a secure application without a decent set of security controls for them to use. So how can you make them available? Here's what you could and what you probably should do.

Build your own security controls in each application

This is a bad idea. Writing security controls is both time consuming and extremely prone to mistakes. MITRE's CWE project lists more than 600 different types of security mistakes you can make, and most of them are not at all obvious. Most people recognize developers should not build their own encryption mechanisms; the same argument applies to all the security controls.

Use security libraries directly

Another bad idea. There are plenty of libraries and frameworks out there that provide various security functions - Log4j, Java Cryptographic Extension (JCE), Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS), Spring Security, and dozens more. Some of them are even pretty good at what they do. But there are several reasons why enterprise developers should not use them directly.

Most importantly, these libraries are too powerful. Most developers need just a very limited set of security functions and don't require a complex interface. Further, many of these libraries contain security holes themselves - such as encoding libraries that don't canonicalize or authentication libraries that don't use strong cryptographic functions. Many security controls use features from other controls, and using security libraries that aren't integrated is a problem waiting to happen.

Establish an organization-wide standard security API

Now you're talking. Organizations that have institutionalized a standard application security control tend to have less vulnerabilities. And organizations that have standardized on a cryptographic library, and especially the ones that have wrapped that library in a standard encryption component, have significantly less problems in building and securing applications.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.