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| Encryption cannot patch the holes created by insecure software.
If anything, SSL is too well implemented, and people think it covers all their needs, like a giant security blanket. They forget there is much more to security than just using SSL.
Gene Spafford famously once said, "Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench." He's still right today.
Although operating systems are more secure than they were 10 years ago, and we are much better at patching them, that isn't sufficient. Dan Geer recently released an extensive paper on trends in the information security industry. Using data from the National Vulnerability Database, he quantitatively showed what we already had intuited: Attackers have moved to targeting applications with great success, exploiting cross-site scripting and SQL injection vulnerabilities by the boatload.
Despite what we know and what industry leaders like Microsoft and Oracle have done to make their products more secure, the software industry just doesn't seem to get it. While some Web-based applications display badges from services like Hacker Safe, which actually test for vulnerabilities, these sites are few.
| This is why ISVs need to start implementing security into their software development lifecycles and be more transparent as to what they are doing to keep data safe. This is only going to happen if we as security practitioners and customers press vendors to start producing more secure software. And if the past is any indicator, acting as customers will be far more effective. Practitioners can have a deep impact, especially from the angle of driving down support costs, but what really gets the attention of marketing and sales departments is customers demanding features.
Years ago, someone asked Mark Graff, author of Secure Coding, when the company he worked for would stop making "such crappy software." He answered, "When you stop buying it." It was irate customers who pushed Microsoft into starting its Trustworthy Computing initiatives, and it will be irate customers who will push Web application vendors to start taking security seriously. It is up to us to teach those customers not only what they are missing so they know what to ask for, but also that the little lock icon is not enough to keep their data secure.