Feeds

Time to dismount the hamster security wheel of pain

Quit patching, build a library

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

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.

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Whoah! How many Google Play apps want to read your texts?
Google's app permissions far too lax – security firm survey
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
OpenWRT gets native IPv6 slurping in major refresh
Also faster init and a new packages system
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.