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FW: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk
From: "Craig Wright" <cwright () bdosyd com au>
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 10:10:40 +1100


Al,
Strange that you should pick on architecture. We have the fall of a piece of major architecture today which as killed a 
large number of people. The 2nd by the same person. The twin towers failed due to structural deficiencies more than the 
planes. Do you wish for me to quote the statistics on architectural failure? They are greater than you may think.

You seem to make the simplification that all code can be written correctly and tested. That no matter how long and 
complex there is a way of determining the error rate - this is wrong and I shall get to this in the post. I will even 
help you develop an argument that you may use to dispute me.

The majority of libraries used in development (excluding open source eg Linux) are complied object code. Are you 
expecting that the world stop using all code unless they have the source? That all source be checked?

Dijkstra developed the method "correct by construction". He also did extensive work on the mathematical proof of 
algorithms. Please read the works below.

Kert Godel, Alan Turning and Alonzo Church (GTC) did work which resulted in "Computability Theory". They discovered 
that certain basic problems cannot be solved by computers. Cohen, Hollingworth and Dijkstra all developed this theory 
further.

Now I stated I would get to error determination. GTC demonstrated in computational theory that it is not possible to 
create a machine that can determine wether a mathematical statement is true or false. All code and programming is a 
mathematical statement or algorithm. The determination of the codes function is a mathematical proof (see Cohen and 
Dijkstra).

As it is not possible for either an automata or turning machine to determine the correctness of the programme, it is 
not possible to determine the effects of code.

Dijkstra's started work on formal verification (what you are calling for) in the 1970's. Formal verification was the 
prevailing opinion at the time. This was that one should first write a program and then provide a mathematical proof of 
correctness.

"The Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science" (Dijkstra, 1988) saw Dijkstra trying to push computable correctness. 
This missed the need for engineers to compromise on the one hand with the physical world and on the other with cost 
control.

This is the issue. To move ahead and develop code that people want we can not complete mathematical software 
verifications. No machine (at least yet known) can verify code. The term machine refers to the computer science idea of 
a machine - not a physical item.

To state that all code should be verified would be great for myself. I am a mathematician. Computers can not verify 
code (see the theory of computation). This would make my mathematical skills in greater demand and help next time I go 
for a raise.

I seem to be adding facts to the discussion. Dijkstra, Turing et al are the people who created  the foundations of 
computer science.

Please feel free to add comment on the use of finite state machines, labelled transition systems, Petri nets, timed 
automata, hybrid automata, process algebra, formal semantics of programming languages such as operational semantics, 
denotation semantics, Hoare's logic or any other existing method of computational verification.

I have attached a paper of Dijkstra's. This paper could act as a foundation for your argument. Dijkstra argues for 
formal verification against software engineering. Please feel free to build on the argument - if you manage to come up 
with something that is verifiably valid not only will you get to have one up on me you may be remembered in years to 
come in the computer science discipline.

Regards,
Craig

<attachment stripped, see http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/EWD/ewd10xx/EWD1036.PDF>

Cohen, Fred, "Protection Testing", http://www.sdmagazine.com/documents/s=818/sdm9809c/, September 1998

Cohen, Fred, 1997, "Managing Network Security, Penetration Testing?", Available from 
http://all.net/journal/netsec/1997-08.html

Cohen, Fred, 1996, "National Info-Sec Technical Baseline, Intrusion Detection and Response" Lawrence Livermore National 
Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories December, 1996

Cohen, Fred, 1992, "Operating System Protection, Through Program Evolution" research for ASP, PO Box 81270, Pittsburgh, 
PA 15217, USA

Dijkstra, Edsger W. (1976). A Discipline of Programming. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Hollingworth, D., S. Glaseman and M. Hopwood, "Security Test and Evaluation Tools: an Approach to Operating System 
Security Analysis," P-5298, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA., September 1974.

-----Original Message-----
From: Al Sutton [mailto:asutton () argosytelcrest com]
Sent: 24 February 2006 8:33
To: Craig Wright; 'dave kleiman'; 'Darren W Miller'
Cc: 'defendingthenet'
Subject: RE: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk

Hi,

I too am very open to being proven wrong, but as a scientist I need solid proof which involves cold hard facts, not 
statements such as "I can't go into all the details for various reasons.".

I've been involved in many development projects, and at the end of the day a product ships with bugs from a library 
then it's the developer who is responsible for their choice of libraries.  The attitudes Darren describes are typical 
in Development, the "If it ain't in my code it ain't my problem"
is one of the most fundamental problems of current development mentality.
How many architects do you know that would design for the side of a hill without making sure the hill could support 
their design?, or design an extension to a house without ensuring the house was sound?, the same is true of code, if 
you're writing software you need to make sure your libraries support it securely, if not, then you're not doing your 
job. Developers can add verification code before they send code to libraries, and if they have concerns of a library 
this is what they should be doing (after all why rewrite a string copy routine when you just need to check that the 
length of your copy is less than the length of your destination buffer?).

My view is that the original paper was FUD, intended or not, that's how it appeared, that's how it read, and it it 
walks like a chicked and clucks like a chicken people are going to call it a chicken.

Al.


-----Original Message-----
From: Craig Wright [mailto:cwright () bdosyd com au]
Sent: 23 February 2006 21:10
To: dave kleiman; Darren W Miller
Cc: Al Sutton; defendingthenet
Subject: RE: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk



Hello,

Dave stated; "Craig.. And be gentle Craig will pick apart opinions and bring back factual information without batting 
an eye."

True and I am always open to being proved wrong. The thing is that I have to be PROVED Wrong. Opinion and anecdotal 
evidence is not proof. Validated points and correctly collected statistical data are.

As much as many people find this difficult to believe (even my wife) I enjoy being proved wrong. It is both a learning  
opportunity for my self and a demonstration that others are engaging in serious peer review processes outside of 
academe.

In the past 20 years I have performed close to 5,000 engagements. At the moment I am conducting one of the largest 
vulnerability and risk assessments ever conducted in Australia in association with the Attorney Generals CNVA programme.

The first issue to address is yes you found a vulnerability and it was exploitable. What is the risk? The impact threat 
vectors and other analysis factors need to be considered. Vulnerabilities do not matter by themselves.
They create a risk potential. When you understand this you will both serve your clients more effectively and also add 
value in a manner they will understand. You need to sell to management. They understand finance and risk. 
Vulnerabilities are FUD. They do not help.

As for engineering something not to fail. This is where I have an issue with people who think they are engineers. 
Engineering is the process of building something to a set specification. An example is giving a 95% Confidence Internal 
of a 5 year expected life. It involves the analysis and design of hazard functions and survival processes.

Regards,
Craig

PS this is about as nice as I get unless people actually seek to open their minds and learn.


-----Original Message-----
From: dave kleiman [mailto:dave () davekleiman com]

Sent: 23 February 2006 4:25
To: 'Darren W Miller'
Cc: Craig Wright; 'Al Sutton'; 'defendingthenet'
Subject: RE: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk

Darren,

I am going to explain this to you, since you are new here on this forum, or at least I have only saw one or two of your 
posts go by recently. I am not the form moderator, nor do I have any influence over the posts that make the forum.

First, I wanted to give you a friendly heads-up, because you are throwing "articles" out to this forum and they are 
your opinion.

Secondly, I am a nice guy :), maybe you are taking this personally, but you need to read through the archives, this s 
what we do here debate!!


"""I don't have the time to keep this discussion (if that I what we are actually having) going for an infinite amount 
of time""" You posted this to a Security Discussion board, that is what we do here.

Do not get me wrong you have the right to post almost anything you want pertaining to security, but if throw your 
opinion out here, expect to have to defend it, and back it by fact. Because it is going to get torn up by the 
professionals.

I have seen threads, that is what you started a thread, go for 20-30 days.
See "Forensic/Cyber Crime Investigator" in the archives, it went from mid-Jan until Feb 15th, and I thought Craig was 
going to kill me on that one, but that is how this forum goes, you make a statement expect educated 
well-informed/experienced responses, a lot of them you will not agree with, but will not be able to tap dance away from.

Craig.. And be gentle Craig will pick apart opinions and bring back factual information without batting an eye. He and 
I have gone toe-to-toe on many a subject on this and other discussion forms.

Darren, I know you are used to posting articles at CastleCops were the home user is the basic audience and nobody is 
retorting, but when you step into this arena you will see some serious professionals in varying fields and they will 
not let misinformation slide. You of course do not have to respond to the responses, but expect even heavier discussion 
when you post and disappear.

By the way if you were to post this at a higher level forum such as pen-test, they would eat your below write-up for 
breakfast. But since you left it off post, I did the same....however I know Craig loves pen-testing so he may not.




Dave



     -----Original Message-----
     From: Darren W Miller [mailto:Darren.Miller () paralogic net]

     Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 20:06
     To: Craig Wright; dave kleiman
     Cc: Darren W Miller
     Subject: RE: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk
   

     Gentlemen,
   

     I don't have the time to keep this discussion (if that I

     what we are actually having) going for an infinite amount

     of time. But let me give you a couple high-level examples

     of what I am talking about here. The key word is

     high-level, I can't go into all the details for various reasons.
   

     In the last 3 months I have performed 5 assessments. Phase

     I of these assessments involved penetration testing of

     external public facing systems. Out of the 5, we achieved

     total systems penetration / compromise of 4. All 4 of

     these systems were web based services. All 4 of these

     systems were compromised by exploiting "custom" code or

     modules. During post-assessment meetings the developers

     (who were independents) were present. When they were shown

     what modules were used to achieve the compromise everyone

     one them blamed it on other external modules they used (or

     re-usable code / modules,) and that they had no idea these

     bugs existed. They further explained that some of the

     source code, at least the ones they had access to, were so

     extensive and complex that they probably would never had

     found the bugs. One gentleman even stated that it was not

     up to him to make sure code developed by others is secure

     even if he is using that code. That did not go over well

     in the meeting, trust me
   

     AS far as "engineering something not to fail", I don't

     even think that is possible at this point in time. Or ever

     will be. Quite frankly, if someone were to tell me that a

     particular system, any system, was fail-proof, I'd say

     that they were off the wall. Let me just include a couple

     bullet point items that may fall into this category of

     "complex systems" and security:
   

     1) Compromise of internal network systems using citrix as

     an entry point. End users thought that the citrix remote

     desktop profiles were secure because of how they were

     setup but never realized that flaws in something as simple

     (or complex) as ms-word would allow an isolated compromise

     to lead to additional systems compromise.
     2) System A interacts with System B which interacts with

     system C. End users are aware, to an extent, about the

     flaws in system A & B and their interaction, but not aware

     of much regarding system C. In fact, they were not even

     aware there was a system C. That interaction with system C

     resulted in a security breach. In this case, complex

     systems interacting with other complex systems, some of

     which were unknowns, leading to security breaches.

     3) IT department decides to increase the over all security

     of authentication methods so increase complexity rules and

     other related items such as aging.... However, they have

     poor auditing measures internally and have know idea that

     there are 150 user accounts for people who no longer work

     for the company. Even though authentication measures /

     procedures have been changed on the system, these

     particular accounts will not have them applied until the

     next time they are used. Several of these accounts are

     compromised because they don't meet even basic complexity

     rules for passwords. However, the end user thought that

     the system would take care of this and force all accounts

     to abide by the same rules immediately. Did not happen.
   

     Here is the bottom line. Either I did a really poor job at

     trying to get my message across in a high-level way, or I

     am just being totally misunderstood. I would suggest it's

     a little of both based on this dialoged.
   

     Note: One final point. I would rather you not make the

     statement that I am using FUD as a selling tool. The fact

     is that is not true and is not my intention. If either of

     you new me personally you would know that. I would never,

     and have never, made that kind of assumption without

     knowing for sure. Quite frankly, I'm not sure I would make

     that kind of statement about anyone, even if I knew for

     sure that is what they were all about.
   

     Regards,
   

     Darren W. Miller
   

     -----Original Message-----
     From: Craig Wright [mailto:cwright () bdosyd com au]
     Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 5:41 PM
     To: dave kleiman; security-basics () securityfocus com
     Cc: Darren W Miller; defendingthenet
     Subject: RE: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk
   

   

     Hello
   

     Here I have to state that I agree 100% and categorically with Dave.
   

     FUD - Fear Uncertainty and Doubt is a common tool used by

     vendors to sell security. It is also one of the greatest

     threats to security today.
   

     It makes people inured to security in the long run (i.e.

     cry wolf) and in the short term results in a lot of

     technical solutions that generally fail to address the issue.
   

     NASA uses hazard and survivability models to determine

     risk. They do not engineer to not fail - they just reduce

     the probability of an incident. What needs to be

     remembered that is that 1 in a million occurrence happens

     all the time in the real world. Even a 1 in a billion

     occurrence will happen daily somewhere in the world.

     Welcome to the world of risk.
   

     So as to the original post, how would complex software

     make you less risk prone?
   

     Regards,
     Craig
   

   

     -----Original Message-----
     From: dave kleiman [mailto:dave () davekleiman com]
   

     Sent: 23 February 2006 2:23
     To: security-basics () securityfocus com
     Cc: Darren.Miller () defendingthenet com; 'defendingthenet'
     Subject: RE: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk
   

     Inline....  

   

   

   

          -----Original Message-----
          From: defendingthenet [mailto:mlapidus () ccim net]
          Sent: 20 February 2006 14:35
          To: security-basics () securityfocus com
          Subject: Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk
       

   

       

   

       

   

          Title
          -----
          Why Easy To Use Software Is Putting You At Risk
       

   

          Can Easy To Use Software Also Be Secure
          ----------------------------
          Anyone who has been working with computers for a long time
   

          will have noticed
          that mainstream operating systems and applications have
   

          become easier to use
          over the years (supposedly). Tasks that use to be complex
   

          procedures and
          required experienced professional to do can now be done at
   

          the push of a
          button. For instance, setting up an Active Directory
   

          domain in Windows 2000
          or higher can now be done by a wizard leading even the
   

          most novice technical
          person to believe they can "securely" setup the operating
   

          environment.
   

     Where does it claim that it is "securely" setting up AD in

     the wizard?
   

          This
          is actually quite far from the truth. Half the time this
   

          procedure fails
          because DNS does not configure properly or security
   

          permissions are relaxed
          because the end user cannot perform a specific function.
   

     Sounds like you have had this problem a few times, maybe

     you should not use the wizard, or attempt AD setups.
   

     Do you understand how to "securely" setup AD, for your

     comments here, I would say no.
   

     Instead of using the "sky is falling routine" suggest how

     to do these things securely instead of syaing "look how

     terrible this is"
   

   

   

       

   

          If It's Easy To Develop, Is It Also Secure
          --------------------------------------------------
          One of the reasons why operating systems and applications
   

          "appear" to be
          easier to work with then they use to is developers have
   

          created procedures
          and reusable objects to take care of all the complex tasks
   

          for you.
   

      

   

     Are you referring to shared code? In case you do not know

     what that is, it is code that is shared by apps for the

     same routines.
   

   

          For instance, back in the old days when I started as a
   

          developer using assembly
          language and c/c++, I had to write pretty much all the
   

          code myself.
   

   

     Are you suggesting your code was more secure back in the

     "old" days, when security was not a concern in coding?
   

   

          Now everything is visually driven, with millions of lines of
   

          code already
          written for you.  All you have to do is create the
   

          framework for your
          application and the development environment and compiler
   

          adds all the other
          complex stuff for you. Who wrote this other code? How can
   

          you be sure it is
          secure. Basically, you have no idea and there is no easy
   

          way to answer this
          question.

   

       

   

          Secure Environments Don't Exist Well With Complexity
          ----------------------------
          The reality is it may look easier on the surface but the
   

          complexity of the
          backend software can be incredible. And guess what, secure
   

          environments do
          not coexist well with complexity. This is one of the
   

          reasons there are so
          many opportunities for hackers, viruses, and malware

     to attack your
          computers. How many bugs are in the Microsoft Operating
   

          System? I can almost
          guarantee that no one really knows for sure, not even
   

          Microsoft developers.
          However, I can tell you that there are thousands, if not
   

          hundreds of
          thousands of bugs, holes, and security weaknesses in
   

          mainstream systems and
          applications just waiting to be uncovered and maliciously
   

          exploited.
       

   

          How Reliable and Secure are Complex Systems?
          ----------------------------------------------------------
          Let's draw a comparison between the world of software and
   

          security with that
          of the space program. Scientists at NASA have know for
   

          years that the space
          shuttle is one of the most complex systems in the world.
   

          With miles of
          wiring, incredible mechanical functions, millions of lines
   

          of operating
          system and application code, and failsafe systems to
   

          protect failsafe
          systems, and even more failsafe systems to protect other
   

          systems. Systems
          like the space shuttle need to perform consistently, cost
   

          effectively, and
          have high Mean-Time-Between-Failure(MTBF).
   

       

   

          *All in all the space shuttle has a good record.*
   

   

   

          One thing
   

          it is not though
          is cost effective and consistent. Every time there is a
   

          launch different
          issues crop up that cause delays. In a few circumstances,
   

          even the most
          basic components of this complex system, like "O" rings,
   

          have sadly resulted
          in a fatal outcome. Why are things like this missed? Are
   

          they just not on
          the radar screen because all the other complexities of the
   

          system demand so
          much attention? There are million different variables I'm
   

          sure. The fact is,
          NASA scientists know they need to work on developing less
   

          complex systems to
          achieve their objectives.
   

      

   

   

     Ok now you have stepped out of bounds, first of all I love

     NASA and have the utmost respect for them and all the

     astronauts who have braved the frontier.
     However, the record of the shuttle is 110+ scrubbed

     launches. That is more than the number of launches. You

     can do the math for the rest, but it does not add up to a

     good record, you might have to use one of those "complex

     systems" though to run calc.
   

   

     So your saying a more simplistic system would create a

     better record, maybe they should try fly the Kitty Hawk to

     the moon.
   

   

     I am just going to stop here and say Hogwash.
   

     My advice to you is stop selling fear and your opinion,

     and start selling solutions to problems. Next time tell us

     how to fix your proposed problems.
   

   

   

   

   

     Respectfully,
   

     ______________________________________________________
     Dave Kleiman, CAS,CCE,CIFI,CISM,CISSP,ISSAP,ISSMP,MCSE
   

     www.SecurityBreachResponse.com
      
   

   

   

   

   

          This same principal of reducing complexity to

     increase security,
          performance, and decrease failures really does apply to
   

          the world of
          computers and networking. Ever time I here associates of
   

          mine talk about
          incredibly complex systems they design for clients and how
   

          hard they were to
          implement I cringe. How in the world are people suppose to
   

          cost effectively
          and reliably manage such things. In some cases it's almost
   

          impossible. Just
          ask any organization how many versions or different brands
   

          of intrusion
          detection systems they have been through. As them how many
   

          times the have
          had infections by virus and malware because of poorly
   

          developed software or
          applications. Or, if they have ever had a breach in
   

          security because the
          developer of a specific system was driven by ease of use
   

          and inadvertently
          put in place a piece of helpful code that was also helpful
   

          to a hacker.
       

   

          Can I Write A Document Without A Potential Security

     Problem Please
          -----------------------------------------------
          Just a few days ago I was thinking about something as
   

          simple as Microsoft
          Word. I use MS-Word all the time, every day in fact. Do
   

          you know how
          powerful this application really is? Microsoft Word can do
   

          all kinds of
          complex tasks like math, algorithms, graphing, trend
   

          analysis, crazy font
          and graphic effects, link to external data including
   

          databases, and execute
          web based functions.
   

       

   

          Do you know what I use it for, to write documents. nothing
   

          crazy or complex,
          at least most of the time. Wouldn't it be interesting that
   

          when you first
          installed or configured Microsoft Word, there was an
   

          option for installing
          only a bare bones version of the core product. I mean,
   

          really stripped down
          so there was not much to it. You can do this to a degree,
   

          but all the shared
          application components are still there. Almost every
   

          computer I have
          compromised during security assessments has had MS-Word
   

          installed on it. I
          can't tell you how many times I have used this
   

          applications ability to do
          all kinds of complex tasks to compromise the system and
   

          other systems
          further. We'll leave the details of this for another
   

          article though.
       

   

          Conclusion
          ----------
          Here's the bottom line. The more complex systems get,
   

          typically in the name
          of ease of use for end users, the more opportunity for
   

          failure, compromise,
          and infection increases. There are ways of making things
   

          easy to use,
          perform well, and provide a wide variety of function and
   

          still decrease
          complexity and maintain security. It just takes a little
   

          longer to develop
          and more thought of security. You might think that a large
   

          part of the blame
          for complex insecure software should fall on the

     shoulders of the
          developers. But the reality is it is us, the end users and
   

          consumers that
          are partially to blame. We want software that is bigger,
   

          faster, can do just
          about everything, and we want it fast. We don't have time
   

          to wait for it to
          be developed in a secure manner, do we?
   

       

   

          You may reprint or publish this article free of charge as
   

          long as the
          bylines are included.

   

       

   

          Original URL (The Web version of the article)
          ------------
          http://www.defendingthenet.com/NewsLetters/WhyEasyToUseSoft
          wareIsPuttingYouA
          tRisk.htm
       

   

          About The Author
          ----------------
          Darren Miller is an Information Security Consultant with
   

          over seventeen
          years experience. He has written many technology &
   

          security articles, some
          of which have been published in nationally circulated

     magazines &
          periodicals.  If you would like to contact Darren you can
   

          e-mail him at
          Darren.Miller () defendingthenet com  If you would like to
   

          know more about
          computer security please visit us at
   

          http://www.defendingthenet.com.
       

   

      

   

   

   

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must not use or disclose the information. If you have received this email in error, please inform us promptly by reply 
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