SECSYM: Security Symposium II

SECSYM: Security Symposium II

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The moment you plug a live Internet network connection into your computer, you become part of the seediest neighbourhood in the planet. Your neighbours include thieves, con-artists, vandals, criminals and hackers. No wonder our computers are exposed to a very different environment to that of ten years ago!

It only takes one bad guy to take your system down. This is the attacker's advantage and the defender's dilemma:

  • The Defender must defend all points; the Attacker will choose the weakest point.
  • The Defender must be constantly vigilant; the Attacker will strike at will.
  • The Defender can only defend against what he/she knows about; the Attacker will study for vulnerable points.

Worse, there are many conflicts when building software. Choosing security often means a trade-off in other areas. Historically in the industry, software has always been very convenient: easy to use, with services switched on by default and rapid releases. The security pendulum has to a certain extent swung to the other side: reducing the attack surface has made products harder to use - we get more IIS questions now asking "how do I just get stuff done" because many things are switched off. The pendulum is now starting to swing to a more balanced perspective where the attack surface is smaller and security and first-class privacy are first-class features, without turning so much off that the product becomes unusable.

You can't build, design and test code and then check for security - you need a process that fosters secure systems. Internal Microsoft statistics show that this adds perhaps 15% to the schedule, but the net effect of not designing security is a 30% schedule slip.

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