Cyber-Security Chief Voices Concerns About Software Quality

Amit Yoran, director of the National Cyber Security Division at the Department of Homeland Security, urges software vendors to devise better ways to examine code for flaws before it is released.

NEW YORK—Software security is in a sorry state right now and vendors, the government and industry organizations need to pull together to make some major changes in the near future, the countrys top cyber-security official said Monday.

In a keynote speech at the Information Security Decisions conference here, Amit Yoran, director of the National Cyber Security Division at the Department of Homeland Security, said that the time when common errors such as buffer overruns were acceptable in production software is over.

"Its inexcusable today to produce software that suffers from buffer overruns," he said to an audience of several hundred security managers and network operators. "We need to focus on software assurance in the development cycle and in real-world deployments."

Yoran called on vendors and researchers to come up with better methods and tools for examining code for flaws and security risks before it is released. He also voiced concerns about the amount of software development that is being done offshore, saying that using code from developers who are unknown to the vendors can be risky.

"As more of this software is developed and written offshore, we need to better understand the risks," he said. "We need to know where the flaws exist and find out whether there are back doors or control and communications functions in the code that are unknown to the vendor."

Yorans concerns about software quality and security echo the sentiments in the report released Monday by a National Cyber Security Partnership task force. The document recommends that the government allocate some funding for research into code scanning tools capable of weeding out common programming errors during development.

However, Yoran said that even if new development methods were adopted tomorrow, the amount of work that needs to be done coupled with the slow pace of change in corporate America likely would conspire to keep more secure products out of wide use for several years.

"We have to be realistic in how long it will take for the game to change," Yoran said. "The threats were facing will get worse. These technology refreshes will take a long time."