Category Archives: Software Security

Blockchain: Only As Good As Its Data

Blockchain has without a doubt created a lot of discussion as the next big thing, especially in supply chain. Before blockchain can become the next tech blockbuster, there are several

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Cryptocurrency Mining Malware Hits Over 1 Million Computers in China

By Julia Sowells Senior Information Security Specialist at Hacker Combat, Over one million computers in China have been infected by cryptocurrency mining malware resulting in hackers earning over $2 million in

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Taken by Ransomware? Certain Skills Required

Skull and crossbones adorning a pair of Alexander McQueen boots, um yes, please. Skull and crossbones flashing across my PC, uh no, thanks. While the former speaks of swashbuckling ready-to-wear,

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Are security professionals moving fast enough?

Anthony O’Mara, from Malwarebytes, explains to Information Age why security professionals need to move much faster to beat cyber criminals. With the increase in threats the cybersecurity industry faces, alongside

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Eight Weak Links that Make Cryptocurrency Exchanges Vulnerable

Cryptocurrency is all the rage right now. There are currently over 1,600 different cryptocurrencies in circulation with a combined value approaching $350 billion.The top three cryptocurrencies alone—Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple—are worth more

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Five Steps to Security Automation

Two weeks ago, Volvo, the Swedish automaker, announced plans for a Level 4 self-driving car by 2021. In the progression of automation levels for cars, as outlined by the National Highway Traffic

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Digital transformation – why your whole approach to security has to change

Darron Gibbard, Managing Director EMEA North of Qualys, explains to Information Age why organisations must overhaul their approach to security in order to achieve success in digital transformation. By making security

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What is the Tor Browser? How it works and how it can help you protect your identity online

Move over “dark web,” the Tor Browser will keep you safe from snoops. The Tor Browser is a web broswer that anonymizes your web traffic using the Tor network, making it

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File-Based Malware: Considering A Different And Specific Security Approach

The cybersecurity solutions landscape has evolved from simple but effective signature-based scanning solutions to sandboxing—the isolating layer of security between your system and malware—and, most recently, to sophisticated detection methods.

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SWAMP, the Software Assurance Marketplace


I recently took a fresh look at the “SWAMP”, the Software Assurance Marketplace- it is a great idea and a valuable resource.  The short and incomplete story is that SWAMP is a suite of software analysis tools integrated into a centralized, cloud-based software testing environment- and it is available to software developers, software tool developers, and researchers- for free.

From their website:

“Software is a crucial component of daily living, affecting worldwide economic structures and the services we depend on every day. With the increasing rate of security breaches, it is clear that conventional network security solutions are no longer able to defend our privacy, corporate data, and critical banking information. Today’s applications need to be built more securely at the code level, and that code needs to be tested regularly.

The SWAMP was developed to make it much easier to regularly test the security of these applications and to provide an online laboratory for software assessment tool inventors to build stronger tools. Testing is often complicated and challenging, because comprehensive testing requires the use of several disparate tools with no central means of managing the process. The SWAMP is a no-cost, high-performance, centralized cloud computing platform that includes an array of  open-source and commercial software security testing tools, as well as a comprehensive results viewer to simplify vulnerability remediation. A first in the industry, the SWAMP also offers a library of applications with known vulnerabilities, enabling tool developers to improve the effectiveness of their own static and dynamic testing tools. Created to advance the state of cybersecurity, protect critical infrastructures, and improve the resilience of open-source software, the SWAMP integrates security into the software development life cycle and keeps all user activities completely confidential.”

The current test environment is able to test software written in C/C++, Java (including Java on Android), Ruby and Python- with JavaScript and PHP in development.  SWAMP will support eight languages by the end of the year.  There are currently sixteen tools in the suite with more being added, and numerous commercial companies are participating- including Veracode, CodeDX, Goanna, GrammaTech, and Parasoft.

The Marketplace team includes some serious academic centers for technology, the Morgridge Institute and the Department of Computer Sciences at U of Wisconsin-Madison, the Pervasive Technology Institute at Indiana University, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at U of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  In my conversation with Bart Miller and Miron Livny of SWAMP it was clear that this project was built for practical use in the real-world, it is not an academic exercise- this is immensely practical and useful stuff.

There are many more details on their background page, including some impressive tech specs (at least I consider 700 cores, 5 TB of RAM, and 104 TB of HDD impressive).

We are going to try to get folks from SWAMP on the Security Weekly Podcast to discuss the marketplace in depth.  Stay tuned for more on that.



Software Security – Hackable Even When It’s Secure

On a recent call, one of the smartest technical folks I can name said something that made me reach for a notepad, to take the idea down for further development later. He was talking about why some of the systems enterprises believe are secure really aren't, even if they've managed to avoid some of the key issues.

Let me explain this a little deeper, because this thought merits such a discussion.

Think about what you go through if you're testing a web application. I can speak to this type of activity since it was something I focused on for a significant portion of my professional career. Essentially the whole of the problem breaks down to being able to define what the word secure means. Many organizations that I've first-hand witnessed stand up a software security program over the years follow the standard OWASP Top 10. It's relatively easy to understand, it's fairly well maintained, and it's relatively easy to test software against. It's hard to argue with the notion that the OWASP Top 10 is not the standard for determining whether a piece of software is secure or not.

Herein lies the problem. As many of you who do software security testing can testify to, without at least a structured framework (aka checklist) to go against, the testing process becomes never-ending. I don't know about you, but I've never had the luxury of taking all the time I needed, everything always needed to go live yesterday and I or my team was always the speed bump on the way to production readiness. So we first settled on making sure none of the OWASP Top 10 were present in software/applications we tested. Since this created an unreal amount of bugs, we narrowed scope down to just the OWASP Top 2. If we could eliminate injection and cross-site scripting the applications would be significantly more secure, and everything would be better.

Another issue, then. After all that testing, and box-checking, when we were fairly sure the application didn't have remote file includes, cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL Injection or any of that other critical stuff - we allowed the app to go live and it quickly got hacked. The issue this caused for us was not only one of credibility, but also of confusion. How could the app not have any of those critical vulnerabilities but still get easily hacked?!

Now back to the issue at hand.

The fact is that even when you've managed to avoid all the common programming mistakes, and well-known vulnerabilities you can still produce a vulnerable application. Look at what EBay is going through right now. Fact is, even though there may not be any XSS or SQLi in their code - they still have issues allowing people to take over accounts. Why? It's because there is more to securing an application than making sure there aren't any coding mistakes. Fully removing the OWASP Top 10 (good luck with that!) from all your code bases may make your applications more safe than they are now - but it won't make them secure. And therein lies the problem.

When you hand your application over to someone who is going to test it for code issues like the OWASP Top 10, and only that, you're going to miss massive bugs that may still lurk in your code. Heartbleed anyone? Maybe there is a logic flaw in your code. Maybe there is a procedural mistake that allows for someone to bypass a critical security mechanism. Maybe you've forgotten to remove your QA testing user from your production code. Thing is, you may not actually know if you just test it for app security issues with traditional or even emerging tools. Static analysis? Nope. Dynamic analysis? Nope. Manual code review? Maybe.

The ugly truth is that unless you have someone who not only understands what the code should do under normal conditions - but also what it should never do, you will continue to have applications with security issues. This is why automated scanners fail. This is why static analysis tools fail. This is why penetration testers can still fail - unless they're thinking outside the code and thinking in terms of application functionality and performance.

The reality is that for those applications that simply can't easily fail - you not only need to get it tested by some brilliant security and development minds, but also by someone who understands that beautiful combination of software development, security, and application business processes and design. Someone who looks at your application and says: "You know what would be interesting?"...

In my mind this goes a great deal to explaining why there are so many failing software security programs out there in the enterprise. We seem to be checking all the right boxes, testing for all the right things, and still coming up short. Maybe it's because the structural integrity hasn't been validated by the demolitions expert.

Test your applications and software. Go beyond what everyone tells you to check and look deep into the business processes to understand how entire mechanisms can be abused or entirely bypassed. That's how we're going to get a step closer to having better, more safe and secure code.