We rely on a lot of software in this highly connected world. We have things such as The Internet of Things, BYOD, Shadow IT. All of these trendy phrases mean we have a lot more riding on the software vendors that provide our connected world, but what are their views on security? By taking a look at some recent press you can start to paint a picture on some of the different perspectives that vendors have on security.
First, let’s take a look at Microsoft. Microsoft has a large following around Patch Tuesday and there is a lot of press and awareness about their security updates. They provide strong recommendations that updates should be applied on a regular basis. Microsoft also has a series of advisories they put out regarding issues that exist when no update has yet to be released. This proactive approach, and open disclosure about the risks to their customers, has been applauded by many, but also brings Microsoft under the gun when things go sour. This year, there have been a few patches that were either pulled or postponed due to quality issues.
For example, a recent Secure Channel (Schannel) update resolved a critical issue that experts say would be an enticing target for hackers. The update, however, has some known issues and has caused problems when applied to some systems. Despite these problems, Microsoft urged the update be applied as soon as possible. This article discusses the update and the impact of the known issues. What is the key take-away from this? That Microsoft prefers full disclosure when it comes to security issues.
Apple, on the other hand, has typically had a very closed-mouth take on security. Updates are typically released without much fanfare. When asked directly about security-related issues, they tend to deny an issue, or play it down, until a fix is available. They tend to lean more towards security by obscurity, or play down issues to be less than they are. While saying less, and preventing as many facts from being released as possible, may prevent some hackers from finding leads to where and what they can exploit, it has brought some scrutiny on Apple.
In this article, Apple addresses the ‘Masque Attack’ and plays it down, saying customers are safe. While Apple’s statement about the risk of exploit coming from third party sources may be true, the majority of exploits on any platform have some form of social engineering involved. The user is the weakest link in many exploits that occur. The Team at FireEye definitely stress a lot more concern than Apple regarding this form of exploit.
A third perspective is the vendor who is providing an application that is used by millions and is quite popular. Many other vendors fall into this category as well. The social media apps that are such an addiction for today’s culture often overlook security. The promises made by these vendors are taken at face value, but are they being met?
Snapchat recently had some issues that were in the news. ‘The Snappening’ was an attack dubbed by 4chan users, which ended up with over 100,000 pictures being captured and shared across the web. This included many questionable photos of a lot of minors. Snapchat has been criticized for misleading users about personal information privacy. The way Snapchat is designed has allowed third party developers to enhance the Snapchat experience, but the design also allowed account information and photos to be stolen. Snapchat’s response? Ban any accounts that utilize a third party app.
So what is the hypothetical result? An account is created by a hacker, the hacker gets x amount of hours exploiting the weaknesses in the Snapchat API, gets some amount of data (accountpersonal info, pictures), then is banned. The hacker then starts the process over again. They create software to replicate the process of creating an account and going through the process over and over. How well do we think this will play out? Kids, nothing ever really goes away. Conduct yourself in all things on the Internet as if you were standing in front of a crowd. You never know where it may end up.
So we have three perspectives on software security. You can argue the benefits and deficits to each (and there are continuing arguments). Which do you feel is right? Which do you feel is effective? Let us know.