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The Latest Research in Software Engineering and Cybersecurity

A widely cited study for the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) reports that inadequate testing methods and tools annually cost the U.S. economy between $22.2 and $59.5 billion, with roughly half of these costs borne by software developers in the form of extra testing and half by software users in the form of failure avoidance and mitigation efforts. The same study notes that between 25 and 90 percent of software development budgets are often spent on testing. This posting, the first in a two-part series, highlights results of an analysis that documents problems that commonly occur during testing. Specifically, this series of posts identifies and describes 77 testing problems organized into 14 categories, lists potential symptoms by which each can be recognized, potential negative consequences, potential causes, and makes recommendations for preventing them or mitigating their effects.

In launching the SEI blog two years ago, one of our top priorities was to advance the scope and impact of SEI research and development projects, while increasing the visibility of the work by SEI technologists who staff these projects. After 114 posts, and 72,608 visits from readers of our blog, this post reflects on some highlights from the last two years and gives our readers a preview of posts to come.

This blog post describes a research initiative aimed at eliminating vulnerabilities resulting from memory management problems in C and C++. Memory problems in C and C++ can lead to serious software vulnerabilities including difficulty fixing bugs, performance impediments, program crashes (including null pointer deference and out-of-memory errors), and remote code execution.

The adoption of new practices, such as agile or any new practice for that matter, is a task that is best undertaken with both eyes open. There are often disconnects between the adopting organization's current practice and culture and the new practices being adopted. This posting is the second installment in a series on Readiness & Fit Analysis (RFA), which is a model and method for understanding risks when contemplating or embarking on the adoption of new practices, in this case agile methods.

When a system fails, engineers too often focus on the physical components, but pay scant attention to the software. In software-reliant systems ignoring or deemphasizing the importance of software failures can be a recipe for disaster. This blog post is the first in a series on recent developments with the Architecture Analysis Design Language (AADL) standard. Future posts will explore recent tools and projects associated with AADL, which provides formal modeling concepts for the description and analysis of application systems architecture in terms of distinct components and their interactions. As this series will demonstrate, the use of AADL helps alleviate mismatched assumptions between the hardware, software, and their interactions that can lead to system failures.

In 2011, Col. Timothy Hill, director of the Futures Directorate within the Army Intelligence and Security Command, urged industry to take a more open-standards approach to cloud computing. "Interoperability between clouds, as well as the portability of files from one cloud to another, has been a sticking point in general adoption of cloud computing," Hill said during a panel at the AFCEA International 2011 Joint Warfighting Conference. Hill's view has been echoed by many in the cloud computing community, who believe that the absence of interoperability has become a barrier to adoption. This posting reports on recent researchexploring the role of standards in cloud computing and offers recommendations for future standardization efforts.

Some of the principal challenges faced by developers, managers, and researchers in software engineering and cybersecurity involve measurement and evaluation. In two previous blog posts, I summarized some features of the overall SEI Technology Strategy. This post focuses on how the SEI measures and evaluates its research program to help ensure these activities address the most significant and pervasive problems for the Department of Defense (DoD). Our goal is to conduct projects that are technically challenging and whose solution will make a significant difference in the development and operation of software-reliant systems. In this post we'll describe the process used to measure and evaluate the progress of initiated projects at the SEI to help maximum their potential for success.

Knowing what assets are on a network, particularly which assets are visible to outsiders, is an important step in achieving network situational awareness. This awareness is particularly important for large, enterprise-class networks, such as those of telephone, mobile, and internet providers. These providers find it hard to track hosts, servers, data sets, and other vulnerable assets in the network.