Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance? I must disagree

I like the spin that Pete Lindstrom gives to some classical security discussions, but I think he is completely missing the point here:"If finding vulnerabilities makes software more secure, why do we assert that software with the highest vulnerability count is less secure (than, e.g., a competitor)?"If we agree with him we could also say that cities where more criminals are caught and sent to jail are more secure than those that catch less criminals. I could then argue that in order to become more secure a city should stop putting criminals into jail.There are two separate problems. One is to avoid new criminals (or to avoid adding vulnerabilities to code). The other is to deal with those that are already there (finding bugs). Dealing with the first problem is the best approach as you will spend less with the second, but you cannot just let the current criminals "working" until they "retire".With crime we can know how effective the measures to prevent the creation of new criminals without necessarily working to put the current ones into jail. You just need to keep numbers on crime occurrences. But for vulnerabilities we need discover them in order to know if the developer is doing a good job on avoiding them. We can accept the fact that an unknown vulnerability has no risk, but I don't think it's a good idea to wait until people with malicious intent start finding holes in the software I use to know if that developer is good on writing secure code or not. At that time, it's too late.

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