SMB - Veracode pitches backdoor apps security

Veracode launched a new version of its binary code analysis service that helps software engineers find potential backdoor vulnerabilities in their programs.

Veracode launched a new version of its binary code analysis service on Monday that focuses specifically on helping software engineers find potential backdoor vulnerabilities in their programs.

While some applications security companies scour source code for flaws, such as Fortify, and others specialize in testing programs already running in production, such as Cenzic, Veracode is spinning itself as an alternative by channeling its efforts into looking for vulnerabilities in binary code and offering the capabilities as a fully-hosted service.

Officials with the applications security startup -- which was originally spun out of Symantec and launched its initial analysis service in Feb. 2007 -- claim that the company's unique ability to find backdoors could be one of the differentiators that allow Veracode to grow its presence in the applications security sector.

With backdoor vulnerabilities in particular, said company officials, the use of binary code analysis is ideal for finding potential flaws that are hard to predict or address in other stages of development.

"There are a lot of advantages to looking at binaries versus looking at source code, and it turns out that finding backdoors is one of those, and there hasn't been anything on the market that really addresses the problem in general," said Chris Wysopal, CTO at Veracode. "Some static analysis tools may look for static passwords, but if the code is even slightly obfuscated, they can't, and they don't, look for hidden keys or rootkit behavior, so this is truly something new that we're offering."

Along with special credentials, which are most often embedded in applications code by developers as a means to get back into the programs, Veracode is also promising to chase down any hidden functionality, or secret sets of commands left inside many software systems by their authors.

The service also promises to look for warning signs of malicious code behavior, such as evidence of any rootkits built into a program, and unusual network activity, such as functionality that causes an application to mail out data to a predestined recipient.

As more companies outsource elements development of their applications, it will be vital for them to run such scans against their programs to look for the potential weak points, the CTO said.

Leaving backdoors in code is one of the oldest tricks on the book for developers looking for easy ways to get back into their programs to either fix them or carry out malicious schemes, Wysopal contends.

"Sometimes it's just something that is meant to be left in for debugging purposes, other times its code that was meant to be removed but simply slipped through the cracks, either way these are vulnerabilities that need to be addressed," said Wysopal. "Most customers want a third-party review in this day, and we can offer that as a hosted service, so we think there's a lot of potential for how much interest backdoor scans can drive uptake of our services."

Veracodetargets financial services, commercial software markets

Financial services firms in particular are very concerned that outsourced code developers may be leaving backdoors in place to sell to malware code writers or use to break into applications on their own for the purpose of stealing data, said the expert.

While some industry watchers have questioned how many firms will be willing to hand over their proprietary code to Veracode for testing, the CTO said that with businesses outsourcing more software development than ever, most large companies are already conditioned to working with third parties on that level -- and willing to give someone a chance to examine their software for security purposes.

Commercial software vendors represent another significant opportunity for Veracode, and it has already run scans for three or four of the largest ISVs in the world, Wysopal said. The executive claims that the company is also currently serving four of the world's top ten financial services companies with its vulnerability discovery services.

The increasing popularity of open-source software in the business setting is another reason why Veracode's services make sense, he said. However, the problem is even more acute for proprietary programs.

"When we did our research, we found that if a backdoor was placed in an open-source project, the lifetime was typically weeks, but for commercial products, the backdoors lived for years," said Wysopal. "Maybe you could find these problems if you did manual code reviews, but we know that is becoming harder than ever with shared libraries and outsourcing; we think that by becoming the leading experts in backdoors, we can grow our business even faster."

Industry analysts downplayed the notion that binary analysis is the best way to look for backdoors, pointing out that source code scanning specialists like Ounce Labs and Fortify have just as good an opportunity to find the flaws.

However, the industry watchers said that Veracode might have an advantage in the process of finding the backdoor bugs compared to so-called "black box" vendors, including Cenzic.

"I don't think it is as large of an advantage as they might claim, but it does help them differentiate over the black box crowd," said Dr. Chenxi Wang, analyst with Forrester Research. "But with the issue of people being afraid to hand over their code to Veracode, I don't think that's as big of a deal as some have made it out to be either."

The analyst said that Veracode is winning interesting deals with banks like Barclay's -- which is using the company's scanning services to test the applications of its business partners that want to link to its own software systems.

Binary analysis and the ability to utilize Veracode's hosted model in such a fashion may in fact help the company grow the applications security space in general, she said.

"Their approach so far has been pretty smart, you can see how the model being used with the banks may drive great interest in applications scanning, it's not that the market is flat but there's a lot of room for growth," Wang said. "We'll have to wait to see if Veracode can draw more customers, and see the size of those deals, but they do have an opportunity to shake things up."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Hines

Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?