Jan 10

Static Source Code Analysis for Web Applications, the Case

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Over the last couple of years, we have actually determined a number of common functions and trends in system security, malicious attacks, and basic web application testing. Of these, a number of the security screening problems are of some interest and can be dealt with gradually through a targeted technique.

In the last 18 months we have actually performed occurrence reaction and incident management for a relatively substantial number of large customers. Through this, it is apparent that roughly 50% of the compromises that have happened have actually done so through application level attacks. In general terms, the root cause of the attacks were:

1. Supplier supplied software (consisting of both off the rack and customized) having a number of insecurities and software application vulnerabilities which the consumer was unaware of

2. A single misconfiguration resulting in a full compromise suggesting an absence of a defence in depth strategy and implementation

Other points we have actually observed are that:

There were relatively couple of “zero-day” attacks; most attacks were the outcome of automated tool scanning attacks.

Server and Os level attacks are tending to plateau, with bigger companies significantly even worse than smaller sized companies in managing both vulnerabilities and insecurities.

The detection of attacks was in the main abysmal, with the compromises just being found as a result of aberrant behaviour by systems.


We have also carried out a substantial quantity of network and application invasion screening (penetration screening) over the last couple of years, with a variety of emerging patterns:

A web application implementation by a fresh (brand-new) customer is most likely to have a considerable variety of web application security problems, with whatever from exposed databases through to SQL injection level attacks being possible. Additional testing gradually suggests that a relationship with a security business for source security testing functions leads to a reduction of insecurities in the web applications.

” The larger they are, the more difficult they fall”. There seems a defined trend towards the bigger business having a greater number of insecurities, especially in the web application area. The source of this is unclear; however there is a relationship with outsourcing, and the need for a large organization to “secure whatever”. This also applies to smaller business; however the smaller companies tend to have substantially less infrastructure to stress over.

From the vulnerability research and analysis that we have actually been performing, it is apparent that application development is still poor in regards to security. Not all of this can be blamed directly on the developers; with so much pressure to get product out the door, security is often provided a back seat. We also need to concentrate on training our software designers to code securely but we are presently doing an abysmal task at it. A number of the application layer security vulnerabilities we are seeing in both off the shelf and open source systems are simply brand-new instances already popular vulnerabilities. Assistance from Prolifogy Source Code Review Services can be taken online. For how long have we known about buffer overflows and SQL injection problems? So why are we still seeing them? For additional conversation around some of this, see Brett Moore’s Ruxcon presentation on “same bug, different app”.Image result for coding coding

As a last note for this section, as an organisation we are really excellent at application screening and source code analysis, however truly dislike being the ones that break a system 2 days before it is scheduled to go live. The statistics are there; design security in at early stages of the job, and the expense and effect of remediation is much less than trying to repair it when you are just about to roll it out, and drastically cheaper than attempting to repair it as soon as in production. We are beginning to see a pattern towards compliance and security assurance climbing up the systems development life process value chain. Long may it continue …!

We have actually seen vulnerability management and analysis starting to be used within companies; nevertheless it is just actually the network, running system, and server levels that are being worked on by a lot of business. This is largely based around the notion that vulnerability scanning and remediation services and products are developing in this space. Definitely while there are maturing tools in the application security screening area, they are still rather reactive, and will take a variety of years to be both mature and mainstream.

Infrastructure level screening is seeing a decrease in insecurities, mostly due to enhanced patterns around vulnerability management.


We have actually seen the good and the bad in this space. In a number of cases we have tested and broken web applications that remain in extensive usage around the globe, and have found them seriously doing not have. This is not always just a plug for how great we are; it is more an indictment on the absence of application security testing carried out by other business that have purchased and implemented these items. Truly men, a few of the attacks and exploits were simply plain fundamental …

The message actually is to at least do a source code review where possible, or an application invasion test where you can. COTS systems are not automatically protected simply as a result of how commonly they are released. If you are worried about the security of a product, get the designers to release the source code to you for guarantee and testing. Based upon our findings, at least 20-30% of web applications (either COTS supplied or contracted out) have significant vulnerabilities.

What about your outsourced application advancement? Obviously you do recognize that you are liable for bad software security and are performing source code audits appropriately when code is provided? Seriously though, there is a real absence of due diligence in reviewing provided systems at either the application or source code level, for which we believe the primary reason is a lack of used accountability, and (up till recently) this things hasn’t always been cheap to test. The other huge issue that we discover is a basic absence of security screening standards, and security requirements in application advancement.

So who tests vendor items (Typical Off The Shelf) for web application security issues prior to they are rolled into production environments? Especially where it has previously been deployed into other customer sites? Really? How many of you review source code security in code established by your outsourcer and/ or advancement team?

Products and tools are specifying where it is possible now to carry out sensible compliance checks and security audits versus vendor/ outsourcer supplied systems without the fundamental costs associated with manual source code audits. Determine their efficiency! Responsibility is not something that can be outsourced quickly, and affordable practice is to guarantee that your agreement with your vendor/ outsourcer a minimum of includes your expectactions of web coding requirements and practices (or a minimum of evaluation and inspect theirs), and to carry out some type of compliance monitoring of these requirements versus the provided code. How otherwise do you understand whether the provided application is protected? Blind trust and faith?

Open Source

A couple of really interesting concerns occur from the use of Open Source applications. While it is a crucial method to place beneficial applications into the online space, it is apparent that the degree of security scrutiny placed on the web applications is insufficient. In the main, factors to these projects are focused on the application functionality and functions, and security problems do not get the level of attention or audit that is called for. A part of cause for this has been a lack of compliance or automated tools that can supply a fast return on the problem; that was one of the driving forces behind our developing CodeScan for our own use in automating a few of the source code analysis.

The other actually intriguing concern that emerges from the Open Source neighborhood is that a high proportion of development teams globally use “cut and paste” methods to include functionality into their own application development. This has the advantage of allowing relatively quick software application/ web application advancements to occur, but the other edge of the sword is that it may likewise duplicate possibly insecure code. How many individuals really carry out source code audits versus the code they are importing to figure out that they are not actually importing vulnerabilities into their application at the same time as they generate performance?

Throughout Open Source applications that we have checked with CodeScan, we are discovering all of the typical suspects; Cross Site Scripting is widespread, and SQL Injection is still there to degrees that are sort of intriguing. And these systems are deployed and made use of internationally. We will be releasing advisories and statistics versus our vulnerability findings in open source web applications, especially in the ASP and PHP space shortly, so enjoy this area!

There has been some considerable debate over the security of either closed or open source systems and it is clear that, in the web application security space particularly, there does not appear to be any considerable differences. From our code evaluates using CodeScan, the numbers of problems discovered in COTS products and Open Source appear on the surface to be similar.

Tools and Trends

Security policy driven testing is likewise emerging as a requirement pattern. We are continuously seeing chauffeurs in having the ability to evaluate easily for basic and customized security policy in web application development. Why should customers endure code that doesn’t even adhere to either their own or their developers’ policies for safe and secure development?

” It is about 40-100 times more expensive to repair problems in the maintenance phase of a program than in the design stage.”

There is likewise a big trend away from fixed application testing prior to production toward integrating security screening and compliance measurement throughout the software application advancement lifecycle. There have been a variety of research studies done that determine this particularly, and the expense for repair work of bad code in production systems has been proven as high.

Proactive vs. reactive; bugs need to be compressed in advancement. There are a variety of suppliers, including ourselves, that are moving far from the more traditional reduction of exposures and concerns and more into the avoidance of vulnerabilities being established in systems in the first place. Application vulnerability testing can be applied to production applications, and extra tools implemented to manage the presence and exploitation of software vulnerabilities (intrusion detection/ prevention, application aware firewall programs, spot management systems, etc), but these are all still reactive in nature. If you are trying to repair software security problems, why not develop it to be safe in the first place? Security At The Source is the just real proactive step that is going to result in protected systems in time. Dealing with security at the source code level with fixed assemble time code examination systems is likely to be among the huge emerging patterns over the next 2-3 years.

There is likewise a strong tendency now to take a look at how security can be developed in, and evaluated as a part of the overall software application test environment. Why not start testing code security at the model stage? Issues and problems connected with the style are a lot easier to pick up and rectify at that phase. We have actually seen (anecdotally) significant reductions in the cost of early security testing vs. testing at the “all set to go live” state. All frequently the screening at the end will anyway result in a “we will fix the security in the next variation” or comparable lame reason, with the security issues either not being addressed, or being made use of in the production state. Not excellent, but the situation certainly is enhancing.

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