How Is Securing Itself and Its Users With Open Source

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2014-07-04 Print this article Print

Finding and fixing bugs is a lot easier when the bug-finding process is crowdsourced and the underlying technology is open source.

Finding and fixing bugs is always a challenging task, but it's a task that prepaid card vendor is making easier by leveraging crowdsourcing for its bug-funding efforts. Part of the platform is built on top of open-source technology, including the Drupal content management system, which is a key component in enabling to more easily fix bugs that are found.

Greg Knaddison,'s director of engineering, explained to eWEEK that his company has been using the Bugcrowd security vulnerability crowdsourcing technology in a bid to accelerate its efforts at finding bugs. Bugcrowd is a managed service that helps organizations crowdsource their bug-finding efforts. Knaddison said that before engaging with Bugcrowd, was not getting as many bugs reported to it by security researchers as it had hoped.

With Bugcrowd, Knaddison said that has been able to get an increase in both the volume and quality of bug reports that it receives. The way it works is that Bugcrowd has its own community of security researchers that reaches a wider audience than could reach on its own. While Bugcrowd manages the bug-tracking platform, currently is responsible for understanding, validating and fixing the reported security issues, according to Knaddison. Bugcrowd does have a service to help organizations validate issues, though Knaddison said it's not something that is currently using.

Some organizations choose to use Web Application Firewall (WAF) technology to implement network layer protections for application vulnerabilities, but that's not the path that is taking. Bug fixes for could well have a much broader impact than just the site, since the open-source Drupal content management is used as the content management system.

"We're heavily involved in Drupal. I'm a member of the Drupal security team and the former lead of the team for over two years," Knaddison said. "So it's an area where we have a fair amount of expertise and depth, and we feel that our situation is best served by fixing vulnerabilities directly in the software itself."

Knaddison noted that there have been situations where his team has made security fixes to the site that also had relevance to the main Drupal platform. In those situations, has contributed the patches upstream to the Drupal security team.

When it comes to data breaches, the most often cited vulnerability of the past decade has been SQL injection vulnerabilities. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the larger Drupal community, SQL injection is not something that has seen lately.

"SQL injection vulnerabilities were one of the top vulnerabilities in Drupal back in 2005," Knaddison said. "Since then, there have been some significant improvements in the Drupal database API with the release of Drupal 7."

Drupal 7 was first released back in 2010 and is the version that is used by Knaddison said that in Drupal 7 it's a lot harder for a site to introduce an SQL injection vulnerability.

"Just by leveraging Drupal 7 we haven't seen any SQL injection vulnerabilities in our codebase," he said.

Looking beyond just the open-source base and leveraging Bugcrowd for crowdsourcing bugs, there is at least one other key challenge that Knaddison is aiming to solve­—the challenge of passwords.

"I feel like passwords are often the consistent weak link in IT security," he said. "So we're now working on deploying two-factor authentication internally, and we're looking at deploying it on our consumer-facing site in the future."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


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