Archive: 2014-12

Over the years, software architects and developers have designed many methods and metrics to evaluate software complexity and its impact on quality attributes, such as maintainability, quality, and performance. Existing studies and experiences have shown that highly complex systems are harder to understand, maintain, and upgrade. Managing software complexity is therefore useful, especially for software that must be maintained for many years.

Occasionally this blog will highlight different posts from the SEI blogosphere. Today we are highlighting a recent post by Will Dormann, a senior member of the technical staff in the SEI's CERT Division, from the CERT/CC Blog. This post describes a few of the more interesting cases that Dormann has encountered in his work investigating attack vectors for potential vulnerabilities. An attack vector is the method that malicious code uses to propagate itself or infect a computer to deliver a payload or harmful outcome by exploiting system vulnerabilities.

A zero-day vulnerability refers to a software security vulnerability that has been exploited before any patch is published. In the past, vulnerabilities were widely exploited even when a patch was available, which means they were not zero-day. Today, zero-day vulnerabilities are common. Notorious examples include the recent Stuxnet and Operation Aurora exploits. Vulnerabilities may arise from a variety of sources, but most vulnerabilities are the result of simple coding errors. Consequently, developers need to understand common traps and pitfalls in the programming language, libraries, and platform to produce code that is free of vulnerabilities.

Software development teams often view software security as an afterthought, something that can be added on after the product is fully functional. Although this approach may have made some sense in the past, today it's largely seen as a mistake since it can lead to unanticipated vulnerabilities in released code. DevOps provides a mechanism for change and enforcement when it comes to security. DevOps practitioners should find it natural to integrate a security focus into development iterations by adding security tests to their continuous integrationprocess. Continuous integration is the practice of merging all development versions of a code base several times a day. This practice provides the same level of automated enforcement for security attributes as for other functional and non-functional attributes, ultimately leading to more secure, robust software systems.

As part of an ongoing effort to keep you informed about our latest work, I would like to let you know about some recently published SEI technical reports and notes. These reports highlight the latest work of SEI technologists in malware analysis, acquisition strategies, network situational awareness, resilience management (with three reports from this research area), incident management, and future architectures. This post includes a listing of each report, author(s), and links where the published reports can be accessed on the SEI website.