Security apps full of common software flaws, report finds

Developers still not taking security seriously, Veracode finds

Security developers are one of the two software sectors most likely to write insecure code, an analysis of applications submitted to code-testing outfit Veracode has found.

According to the company's State of Software Security (SOSS) Report volume three, 72 per cent of security software and services applications seen by the company were deemed 'unacceptable' on the first analysis of their code, a result that was ahead of only one sector, customer support, which failed 82 per cent of the time.

For comparison, the financial sector failed only 52 per cent of the time, with the score across all development sectors, including internal, bespoke and commercial developers, being a mediocre 58 per cent.

Veracode first published the SOSS in mid-2009, since when it has updated the analysis every six months based on the accumulated number of applications submitted by its customers. That total now stands at 4,385, of which 13 per cent are security-related.

On a positive note, security vendors were the best sector at fixing the flaws, with an average remediation time of only three days.

The findings might count as surprising if it weren't for a recent spate of security woes suffered by companies in the sector, including RSA Security, HBGary Federal, Comodo, and Barracuda Networks, the report's authors note.

Two security flaws that can commonly afflict web applications remain about as common as they were in the two previous SOSS reports, which suggests a deeper complacency in the developer community.

60 per cent of web applications are affected by easily-fixed cross-site scripting (XSS) flaws, a number that has remained static since Q1 2009. SQL injection flaws have improved somewhat over time, but are still currently around the 30 per cent mark.

"When you consider these statistics in the context of the ever strengthening threat environment these application security weaknesses translate into real and present danger for the risk-free operation of your software infrastructure," say the authors.

Where the services offered by Veracode and companies like it first into this environment is interesting. The company sells its ability to detect security problems in code, mainly using an automated mixture of 'static' and 'dynamic' analysis. It is clear, however, that many of the problems it detects would not be there at all were developers to adopt better security review during the stage applications are planned and written.

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John E Dunn

Techworld
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