Cloud Shifts the Burden of Security to Development
The application remains your last line of defense
By: Cynthia Dunlop
Dec. 15, 2013 01:00 PM
New Risks, Same Vulnerability
The fact of the matter is that with or without the cloud, failure to secure the application always is-and always has been-a dangerous proposition. Even when the bulk of the network security rested under the organization's direct control, attackers still managed to successfully launch attacks via the application layer. From the 2002 breach at the Australian Taxation office where a hacker accessed tax details on 17,000 businesses to the 2006 incident where Russian hackers stole credit card information from Rhode Island government systems, to the recent attack that brought down the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) vulnerability database, it's clear that a deficiency in the application layer can the be one and only entry point an attacker needs.
Public cloud, private cloud, or no cloud at all, the application is your last line of defense and if you don't properly secure the application, you're putting the organization at risk/ Nevertheless, the move to the cloud does bring some significant changes to the application security front:
With the move to the cloud placing more at stake, it's now more critical than ever to make application security a primary concern. The industry has long recognized that development can and should play a significant role in securing the application. This is underscored by the DoD's directive for certifications in the area of software development security (e.g., via CISSP). Select organizations that have successfully adopted a secure application development initiative have achieved promising results. However, such success stories still remain the exception rather than the rule.
Should Development Be Responsible for Application Security?
In the following sections, we explore how strategies related to penetration testing, service virtualization, and policy-driven development can better prepare engineers to bear the heavy burden of security that accompanies the shift to the cloud.
Moving Beyond Penetration Testing: Divide and Conquer
The common reaction to a reported penetration failure is to have engineers patch the vulnerability as soon as possible, then move on. In some situations, taking the path of least resistance to eliminating a particular known vulnerability is a necessary evil. However, relying solely on a "whack a mole" strategy for application security leaves a considerable amount of valuable information on the table-information that could be critical for averting the next security crisis.
Switching to a non-software example for a moment, consider what happened when the US Army realized how susceptible Humvees were to roadside bombs in the early 2000s. After initial ad-hoc attempts to improve security with one-off fixes (such as adding sandbags to floorboards and bolting miscellaneous metal to the sides of the vehicles), the Army devised add-on armor kits to address structural vulnerabilities and deployed them across the existing fleet . In parallel with this effort, they also took steps to ensure that additional protection was built into new vehicles that were requisitioned from that point forward.
How does such as strategy play out in terms of software? The first step is recognizing that successful attacks-actual or simulated-are a valuable weapon in determining what parts of your application are the most susceptible to attack. For example, if the penetration tests run this week succeed in an area of the application where penetration tests have failed before-and this is also an area that you've already had to patch twice in response to actual attacks-this module is clearly suffering from some underlying security issues that probably won't be solved by yet another patch...
Want to read more? You can access the complete article here.
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