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Securing the 'Net -- at what price?

Taylor Armerding | July 3, 2015
There is unanimous agreement that 100 percent security is not possible. But at least one expert says it could come close to that, for US$4 billion. Others say it could cost less, but would require a lot more than money.

Stanislav said frameworks still have bugs, which he said could be fixed for a price in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not billions, but he contends the bigger problem is a lack of education of developers, who, "need to know why what they are doing is wrong and not just be expected to implement code a certain way, by rote."

Indeed, he said if every organization correctly implemented, "two-factor authentication, at-rest and in-transit data encryption, and rigid network segmentation, you'd see data-loss statistics drop like a ton of bricks."

Anthony Di Bello, director of strategic partnerships at Guidance Software, also agreed that significant improvement is possible, but said it is not just a matter of money. "The willpower and cooperation across major software players will be more difficult to secure than any dollar figure," he said, adding that if he had $4 billion to address Internet security, he would not spend it on improving software.

"I would focus spending on secure infrastructure, re-architecting the Internet to support secure yet rapid communications, and building security minded controls into networking hardware, firmware, routers, switches etc.," he said.

John Pirc, chief strategy officer at Bricata, agreed with Di Bello that it is more than a matter of money. But he believes it is about more than will power as well. "It will take changing the mindset of individuals, and education in secure software development," he said, noting that in the hyper-competitive world of software development, the pressure is to get products to the market.

Developers and vendors, "don't intentionally let insecure code go to market, but the main focus is time to market which equates to money, and it's a fine balance of risk to the consumer or enterprise that is decided upon from the software vendor," he said.

Manico said he thinks it is possible to improve security even without a wholesale change of mindset from developers, because they tend to use the building blocks that are available. If the most popular open-source software frameworks and web languages become more secure, that will make applications more secure, he said.

He conceded that such an effort would take years to accomplish, comparing it to a government initiative to improve building construction that would, "create both better building code standards and, more importantly, provide technical support, including hands-on support, to manufacturers who are building construction equipment and other construction building blocks to achieve those standards."

"Much of software is built by grabbing a free copy of a 'pre-fab home,' and then modifying it," he said. "If we got pre-fab manufacturers to integrate better security into their offerings, it would go a long way to providing better security across many industries."


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