Feeds

No secret to stopping XSS and SQL injection attacks

Read, test, communicate, repeat

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

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.

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

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
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
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.