Secure software is a hot topic these days and many people have ideas about what should be done to achieve it. For years, the focus of many software vendors was on security features. Add a firewall. Add SSL to secure data flows. Positive security features are great, but they don’t do much to address every potential security issue that result from insecure code.
At this year’s Cisco SecCon conference, Bryan Sullivan, Microsoft’s Security Program Manager, addressed the issue of writing secure code with a diagram like the following:
His point is that there is much more work to do in securing all the features of a product than simply writing the security features. Writing security features, although important, is only 10% of the workload of creating secure code. The other 90% of the coding work is meant to ensure that all non-security codebase is secure. This includes input validation, output encoding, and overflow defense.
These practices are part of software quality, and they don’t usually appear on a feature list and often fail to appear on customer requirements lists. Customers don’t often ask for things such as:
- This product should be free of cross-site scripting vulnerabilities
- This product shouldn’t have client-side security validation that can be bypassed by a determined attacker
- This product shouldn’t store my passwords or key data in plain text files might be leaked
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Tags: cisco-seccon-2012, SecCon, security
The theme for this year’s SecCon was “Building on a Foundation of Security.” The breadth of topics discussed that are relevant to being a trusted vendor and producing trustworthy products is quite significant. Naturally many of the discussions revolved around the Cisco Secure Development Lifecycle (CSDL), Cisco’s approach to building secure products and solutions. As Graham Holmes mentioned in a recent blog post, CSDL takes a layered approach, with one of the key components being the security of the underlying operating system. As a standard part of the development process, Cisco’s product teams implement a comprehensive set of CSDL requirements to harden the base OS. These requirements were created not only by leveraging Cisco’s significant in-house security expertise, but also drawing from best practices available in the industry.
In keeping with the theme of SecCon 2012, we have decided to publish these foundational OS security requirements to enhance the knowledge of our partner ecosystem, and advance the industry as a whole. As of today, Cisco is releasing two documents that have been an integral part of CSDL: “Linux Hardening Recommendations For Cisco Products” and “Product Security Baseline Linux Distribution Requirements.” Read More »
Tags: cisco-seccon-2012, CSDL, Linux, product security, SecCon, security
Drawing from a recent read of “Case 1: The Seeds of Dysptopia” in the World Economic Forum 2012 Global Risks 2012 Seventh Edition, it’s now more than apparent than ever that the impact of crime and terrorism in the digital world is fast mirroring that of a physical world. We’re living in an era where attempts to build a more secure world may have unintentionally gone astray as evidenced in Ellen Messmer’s Worst Security Snafus of 2012 where such consequences were clearly not imagined or intended by security vendors and businesses alike. We’re indeed dealing with the opposite of Utopia.
Our digital reality can be very fragile when one considers that how heavily we rely on mobile devices and cloud applications not only to conduct business but also in our personal lives. And the data that is transmitted via these devices and to various cloud applications is increasingly a target for scammers, thieves and hactivists.
And, it’s not only government entities, critical infrastructure and key verticals that are the targets of such attacks; in today’s climate every organization is a prime target. Take the very recent case of an Australian healthcare organization that is being held to ransom by hackers to the tune of AU$4,000 who recently hacked into their database and encrypted the data – it seems an extraordinary scenario for a small organization to be facing. Not only has their data been compromised but it has been rendered inaccessible as the organization now has to find a way to decrypt that data, which is proving to be rather challenging.
So what should organizations do to shore up their defenses? Start by treating data as the key asset to be protected versus fortifying your infrastructure. In today’s world data takes on increased significance – bank account statements, personal information, credit card numbers, trade secrets, government documents. Every one has data they need to ensure tight control off and aligning security controls to the CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability ) triad can help ensure the right measures are taken.
When we talk about confidentiality of information, it’s about about protecting information from disclosure to unauthorized parties. In addition to measures like encryption, look to beef up access controls by feeding security decisions and intelligence across various enforcement points in the network rather than only at a single choke point in the data stream. Integrity of information refers to protecting information from being modified by unauthorized parties. Leverage global correlation and threat intelligence with reputation-based feeds to protect against new threat vectors and emerging malware. Availability of information means ensuring that authorized parties are able to access the information when needed. Think of the network as a data enforcement layer and link that to a strategy that identifies users based on contextual attributes (where, when, how and business need to know) when accessing critical of confidential information assets. So, what I have outlined is a starting point towards moving one step at a time towards a Utopian Digital Future. What are your strategies? We’d love to hear from you.
Tags: data center security, malware, security decisions and intelligence
Cisco SecCon 2012 brought together hundreds of engineers, live and virtually, from Cisco offices around the globe with one common goal: to share their knowledge and learn best practices about how to increase the overall security posture of Cisco products.
It is amazing to see how many definitions the word “hack” has out on the Internet. Just look at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hack. In short, the word “hack” does not always mean a “bad” or “malicious” action.
I’ve had the opportunity and honor to present at SecCon several times, 2012 being my fourth year. My session this year was titled “Cisco PSIRT Vulnerability Analysis: What Has Changed Since Last SecCon”. As you probably already know (or might have guessed), I’m part of Cisco’s Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT). During my talk I went over an analysis of the vulnerabilities that were discovered, driven to resolution, and disclosed during this past year, as well as lessons learned from them. I also highlighted several key accomplishments Cisco has achieved during the last few years. For example, Cisco now has the ability to correlate and patch third-party software vulnerabilities. Additionally, we have grown Cisco’s Secure Development Lifecycle (CSDL) into a robust, repeatable and measurable process. As Graham Holmes mentioned in a recent blog post:
Our development processes leverage product security baseline requirements, threat modeling in design or static analysis and fuzzing in validation, and registration of third-party software to better address vulnerabilities when they are disclosed. In the innermost layer of our products, security is built-in to devices in both silicon and software. The use of runtime assurance and protection capabilities such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Object Size Checking, and execution space protections coupled with secure boot, image signing, and common crypto modules are leading to even more resilient products in an increasingly threatening environment. Read More »
Tags: Cisco Security, cisco-seccon-2012, CSDL, intellishield, product security, psirt, SecCon, security, third party software
Having recently wrapped up the 5th Annual Cisco SecCon Conference, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you what Cisco SecCon is and the benefits to our products and you, our customers. With that, let’s start with a brief overview!
What is Cisco SecCon?
SecCon is a security conference for Cisco engineers that focuses on two critical elements for a healthy corporate Security intelligence: 1) expansion of knowledge for all and 2) building a sense of community. We allocate two days for intensive hands-on security training, and then we provide two general session days to discuss a variety of security topics including:
- Cisco Secure Development Lifecycle
- Best practices for security test suites
- Cutting-edge cryptography
- Implementation challenges
- Current threat landscape
- Vulnerability trends
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Tags: Cisco Secure Development Lifecycle, Cisco Security, cisco-seccon-2012, CSDL, product security, SecCon, security