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RE: The Right Approach to Web Developer Education
From: "Yvan Boily" <yboily () seccuris com>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 12:19:47 -0500

Respectfully, why should it be easy?

Making things easy rarely improves security, and generally reinforces a
false sense of security.  Take a look, for example, at modern airport
security.  To test if a piece of electronics works they ask you to turn it
on.  Anyone with a minimal understanding of electronics and machine level
programming could implement a fake system which would be enough to mimic the
power on test.  This practice gives a nice fuzzy blanket to the individual
passenger, and raises the bar for the most limited offenders, but will do
nothing to stop a determined attacker.  

This may not be an apt comparison to most web applications, however a recent
billing system that I worked with could have been compromised and abused in
a fashion that would result in termination of services for non-payment.
Given that some of the clients handled by the billing services reside in
northern communities who rely on the electrical services provided to
generate heat a successful attack in the middle of January at -40C weather
could result in this billing front end affecting a life-critical system.
This was not a fear-uncertainty-doubt vulnerability or risk identified as an
external auditor, but rather a legitimate concern discovered internally that
resulted in an ongoing training and education plan put in place to keep the
organizations software developers aware of security concerns.

Allowing ignorance to be compensated for by technologies which require the
implementor to make subjective decisions about the usage explicitly reduces
the reliability of the application because you now have two unreliable
components where before you had one.  A bad programmer is a bad programmer.
A bad programmer with a security framework, and the responsibility to use it
as they see fit is a recipe for disaster.

I do not mean to imply that creating a security framework that can be
readily used as a basis to implement secure software is a Bad Thing, but it
is can definitely be a step in the wrong direction.  Unless it is a heavily
reviewed, open framework it just adds yet another black box to the process
of implementing security.  In my opinion a toolkit like this at a low level
to 'raise the bar' is a failure in the implementation of security.

Yvan Boily

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Curphey [mailto:mark () curphey com] 
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 10:34 AM
To: webappsec () securityfocus com
Subject: The Right Approach to Web Developer Education

Well said. If you want people to do the right thing, you have 
to make it
easy for them to do the right thing ! 

-----Original Message-----
From: Madsen, Villy [mailto:Villy.Madsen () atcoitek com] 
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 10:19 AM
To: Mads Rasmussen; Mark Curphey
Cc: webappsec () securityfocus com; Jeff Williams
Subject: RE: Finally - Curphey award 2004 to SPI Dynamics

While I do not advocate that Developers be allowed to get lazy about

I also feel that providing a standard tool that they can use 
to filter input
is a bad thing.

Way back a couple of decades ago, I was involved in a Telco project to
rewrite an application used by Long Distance Telephone operators to
manage "Time and Charges" calls.   The application was 
finally shut down
in 2000.

One of the "breakthroughs" that we pioneered was the heavy 
use of what was
we called Table Driven IO.  All data input or output from the 
system was
defined by a set of mapping tables, that defined what the 
data could look
like, how long it was, and where it was mapped to in the 
application data

The "mapping" applications were general purpose, checked for 
proper type
- performing whatever data conversions where necessary, 
guarded against
overflows etc etc.

Sounds very similar to me.

I thought it was a great idea then, and I still do...

One application to vet (the mapping routine), and a bunch of tables to

Easier than validating all of the code snippets that are 
"accepting Input"
from the external world....


Villy Madsen ISP GSEC
Information Security
Bus: (780) 420-5093
Cell: (780) 975-0110
Fax: (780) 420-3916
Mailto:Villy.Madsen () atcoitek com

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-----Original Message-----
From: Mads Rasmussen [mailto:mads () opencs com br]
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 5:47 AM
To: Mark Curphey
Cc: webappsec () securityfocus com; Jeff Williams
Subject: Re: Finally - Curphey award 2004 to SPI Dynamics

Mark Curphey wrote:
Here I am, depressed at the prospect of filling in mountains of 
expense claims from weeks of traveling and approving 
mundane mails to 
webappsec about XSS after XSS and along comes a shining 
light. At last

an "application security" company that gets it ! Hats of to 
the folks 
at SPI and the Curphey Award for 2004 for leading the industry down 
the right path !


Here is another link 

I don't know about you guys but I have a bad feeling about this. I am 
not sure this is the right path.

The article quotes Caleb Sima, founder and chief technology 
officer of 
SPI Dynamics saying "It doesn't require developers to learn about 
security," - "You really just need to validate input to 
eliminate most 
application vulnerabilities."

Shouldn't you at least have a feeling for where the developers makes 
their mistakes to be able to insert the right piece of secure code?

By all means it looks like a cool product, but how much can 
we trust it?

One of its features is, qoute
"Input Validation objects will check incoming data on web forms to
validate user-supplied input against a set of rules and prevent
parameter manipulation exploits, such as SQL Injection attacks."

Can we trust these "set of rules".
If they opened their technology, the OWASP team could 
contribute rules 
to such a database and then we just might get somewhere by 
having a list

of f.ex regular expressions for using the validator classes 
in .Net or 
input validation in general but that would probably not happen.

I am concerned that products like this just leads to lazy developers.

Jeff what do you think about this? You wanted to start an input 
validation project based on filters, a database like described above 
would be quite handy :o)

Just my two bits

Mads Rasmussen, M.Sc.
Open Communications Security
+55 11 3345 2525

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