Feeds

No secret to stopping XSS and SQL injection attacks

Read, test, communicate, repeat

The essential guide to IT transformation

Sanitized for your protection

Protecting against this type of attack isn't simply a case of "sanitizing" the single-quotes, as this excludes valid names such as "Brer O'Hare", in which a quote is a perfectly valid character.

Depending on which language/platform/database you're using, there are plenty of libraries whose creators have thought through all the possible combinations of "problem characters". You just have to make sure you use one — and, of course, make sure you have an integration test that confirms this protection is working.

In fact, an often-neglected aspect of security awareness is integration testing — that is, ensuring that the disparate parts of the system fit together without any glaring (or subtle) security holes.

The trouble is, testing a system for security weaknesses after it's developed is like building a warship and only then thinking about water-level hatches where enemy frogmen might potentially be able to sneak in. Security testing really needs to be incorporated into the development process, not just as an "after-the-event" phase; the mantra "test early" is espoused in The Art of Software Testing by Glenford Myers, for example.

But herein lies another problem: you'd think an "utterly" test-driven process would help improve security — yet with the advent of Test Driven Development (TDD), programmer-led testing has become a case of "does this minute software function work while I feed it simulated inputs and fence off external calls using mock objects?" rather than "does this system work correctly when the pieces are joined together?"

There's a difference between zooming in on individual components and testing those, or kick-starting the whole Rube Goldbergesque end-to-end interaction and confirming that the results displayed on the user's screen are as expected. Integration testing across system boundaries such as firewalls or third-party components is a good way to reveal security flaws.

That leads us to the next problem: the insular nature of modern multi-tier architectures has produced a territorial approach to software testing. DBAs are writing and testing their stored procs, middleware developers writing and testing their entities and session beans, and front-end developers coding up the web interface, immersed in PHP and JavaScript libraries. The developers in each of these territories need to talk to each other more — and, of course, they need to get their tests talking to each other more.

Developers should also be keeping an eye on the SANS top cyber security risks page, and OWASP, and XSSed, and thinking about automated tests they can write — which can usually be shared among projects or components — to verify that the system isn't vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

Otherwise, high-profile attacks and exploits won't just not die, they'll pop up with increasing regularity. ®

Matt Stephens is the founder of independent book publisher Fingerpress, and co-author of the upcoming book Design Driven Testing from Apress.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain
Told to cough up more details as antitrust probe goes deeper
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.