Cisco Blogs


Cisco Blog > Security

Security Features vs. Securing Features

December 21, 2012 at 7:08 am PST

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:

Security Features vs Securing Features

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

Read More »

Tags: , ,

Securing Linux Based Products With CSDL

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: , , , , ,

Let’s Hack Some Cisco Gear at SecCon!

December 18, 2012 at 8:54 am PST

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 Wraps Up 5th Annual SecCon Conference

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

Read More »

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Power of Mobility & Learning

December 11, 2012 at 11:18 am PST

The mobility trend holds great promise for improved productivity and new engagement models. These are most powerful in a learning effort—imagine learning anywhere and anytime. I just wish I had the Internet and the mobility that students have today when I went to school. Yet, mobility is an IT tsunami that will not recede. One of the most damaging aspects of this storm is the possibility of numerous personal devices that are entering organizations, accessing the network and eventually critical assets, and stealing sensitive data or mistakenly bringing malware. Many people know this policy as BYOD or bring your own device. This is not a new phrase but it is still quite prevalent. Inventory and provisioning of personal mobile devices is just the tip of this wave. Organizations want to control mobile devices to ensure acceptable usage and minimize security incidents.

Read More »

Tags: , , , ,