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RE: Web sites compromised by IIS attack
From: Gilbert Pilz <gilbert.pilz () e2open com>
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 2004 18:52:12 -0700

It's all well and fine to say "we need this" and "we need that" but none of
it is going to happen without financial and/or legal incentives to make it
happen. The reason that software ships with so many bugs (including,
obviously, security flaws) is that current financial and legal conditions
create an environment in which it is advantageous for the vendors to do so.
Like anyone or anything else, software vendors have adapted to their
environment. If there was any way that doing any of the things you suggested
resulted in a signficantly better bottom line for the software vendors some
of them would be doing it by now and the rest would be copying them soon
thereafter. Read a EULA or two! It's right there in front of your face:
"This product is not actually guaranteed to do *anything*".

I personally think the problem stems from the entire "software as a product"
model. When marketing, buying and selling software as a product the focus
always tends to be on the things that are easy to talk about and verify
(i.e. features) and rarely ever on things that are hard to talk about and
verify (i.e. quality or security). With a "software as a service model"
*combined* *with* measurable and verifiable service level agreements (where
breaching the agreement results in refunds or other financial penalties) I
think you would find that the service providers would be much more focused
on quality and security because they have a direct financial interest in
making sure the service remains up and operating correctly.

- gilbert

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Schmehl [mailto:pauls () utdallas edu] 
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 7:08 PM
To: FULL-DISCLOSURE () lists netsys com
Subject: Re: [Full-disclosure] Web sites compromised by IIS attack

--On Wednesday, June 30, 2004 6:27 PM -0500 Frank Knobbe <frank () knobbe us> 

Instead of requiring the consumer to install patches, Microsoft should 
be required to fix their own, broken products. That means that they 
should send their army of engineers (a lot of which are now carrying 
the CISSP certification) to the consumers and have their engineers 
correct the flaws in their products. They sold flawed products, they 
should fix it.

I'm right there with you, Frank, on one condition.  You hold *every* 
software vendor to the same standard.  IOW, "Apache should be required to 
fix their own, broken products"..."RedHat Linux should be 
required"......"Oracle should be 
required"....."sendmail"....."wuftpd"....."php"..."mysql"...etc., etc., 
etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Be careful what you wish for.  You may actually get it.

I just upgraded my workstation from RedHat 9.0 to Fedora Core 1.  I then 
ran up2date and found that there were 142 software packages that needed to 
be updated.  Just before I did that, I run portupgrade on one of my FreeBSD 
boxes.  It had 17 programs that had to be updated.

If we're going to require that software vendors produce flawless products, 
we're not going to have many software products.  Even Postfix, which *to my 
knowledge* has never had a security issue, has had numerous bug fixes. 
(And I think so highly of Postfix that the first thing I do when I install 
a new OS is replace sendmail with Postfix.)

I attended a presentation yesterday for a security product in the 
application firewall field.  During the presentation, the CISSP stated that 
"in every 1000 lines of code there will be 15 errors".  I don't know if I'd 
agree with that - I suspect most coders are a bit better than that - but I 
had to chuckle, because, of course, I immediately thought, "So you admit 
that your code is riddled with holes!"

We need better methodologies for finding bugs in software.  We need better 
training of programmers.  We need established standards for coding that 
would define things like bounds checking.  We need a *lot* of improvements 
in software development, and those improvements need to be *industry-wide*, 
not just Microsoft.

Every time I read about a security vendor with a remote hole in their 
products, I think, "How in the world can they identify attacks, if they 
can't even see them in their own code?"

Clearly the problem is a *lot* bigger than Microsoft alone.

Paul Schmehl (pauls () utdallas edu)
Adjunct Information Security Officer
The University of Texas at Dallas
AVIEN Founding Member

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