Feeds

Mozilla security chief: Apple should open up

Security through transparency

Website security in corporate America

Mozilla's security chief said Apple should disclose more information about the steps it takes to protect customers from malware and other computer-born threats.

At a security conference on Monday, Window Snyder said open communication about recently reported vulnerabilities and ongoing processes for locking down products is a core responsibility of security departments at every software organization. The head of security for Mozilla's Firefox browser then singled out Apple as a vendor with room for improvement.

"I'm big Apple fan - I've got a Mac right here," Snyder said as she gripped her MacBook while speaking at the MIS Training Institute's IT Security World conference in San Francisco. "But one of my big problems with Apple is we don't get to hear what they're doing with security. I'd have a lot more confidence if they would communicate that stuff."

Among developers of mainstream software, Apple's security department is one of the most tight-lipped. Unlike Microsoft, Mozilla and Google, it has no blog devoted to security, and the company rarely responds to reports about vulnerabilities found in its products. As we've pointed out on more than one occasion, the company frequently fails to clearly warn end users of the necessity of promptly installing updates when patching critical security holes.

While Snyder praised much of the behind-the-scenes work of Apple's security professionals, she said it's not enough that the work is carried out in secret.

"Being able to demonstrate that you're doing reasonable things and letting other people evaluate whether or not that's a reasonable process helps us as a security industry develop confidence in them [and] helps consumers recognize that those vendors are doing reasonable things," Snyder said. Referring to software organizations generally, she added: "It's painful if we have to rely on marketing to figure out whether or not something is secure."

Examples of the type of information Snyder said should be more forthcoming is whether Apple's security team is investigating reported vulnerabilities, whether patches to reported vulnerabilities are in the works, and the types of internal processes used to improve the security of major products. She held out Microsoft, her former employer, as an example.

"The security industry developed a lot more confidence in what Microsoft was doing in security because Microsoft started communicating about it and sharing some of the work that they're doing," she said. Holding up Windows Vista, which was developed under Microsoft's secure development lifecycle, she said, "We get to hear from Microsoft about the work they put into it and all the people they engaged to do consulting work and their secure development lifecycle."

She said that's a lost opportunity.

"They have a real opportunity there to show the rest of the security industry what they're doing because I think they are doing good work."

Apple's public relations team didn't respond to a request to comment for this story.

Snyder's comments came during a keynote titled Building Multi-Layer Defenses to Mitigate Threats Attackers Haven't Thought of Yet. In it, she focused on specific steps security professionals can take to proactively protect their users against vulnerabilities and other threats.

While the use of fuzzers, threat modeling, and code review were all mentioned, Snyder's overall theme seemed to be that security teams from various organizations need to work together, especially considering the interconnecting relationship between so many products. She held out last year's vulnerabilities in a so-called URI, or uniform resource identifier as a case in point. Microsoft for months insisted that third-party applications such as Firefox - not its Internet Explorer browser - were responsible for a vulnerability that allowed malicious websites to install malware on end-users' machines.

After much discussion and some criticism of that position, Redmond finally acknowledged IE needed to do a better job preventing malformed data from being passed to applications and patched the browser. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.