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[ISN] Software should defend itself: Oracle CSO
By Munir Kotadia
23 May 2007
Applications will have to defend themselves from attack in the future,
according to Oracle's chief security officer Mary Ann Davidson.
At the opening keynote of the AusCERT 2007 conference this morning,
Davidson said applications should be more like US Marines.
"Every Marine fights -- whether you are a clerk or a medic, every Marine
is first and foremost a Marine, which means they know how to defend
themselves. This is an ethos I really think we are going to need in this
"Realistically, why do we need all these [security] products in the
first place -- because software can't defend itself," said Davidson.
Davidson also suggested that vendors should state the methods they have
used to try and keep their code as bug free as possible.
"Maybe you can't prove that this product is free of defects but at least
prove to me that you use these [tools] in its development. You are going
to have to have some kind of proof that you paid attention in
development -- even to the level of training people and what kind of
software lifecycle you have," said Davidson.
Poor understanding of security and sloppy coding practises can also play
a part in creating vulnerabilities but "part of it needs to be that
products know how to protect themselves, they know what to expect", she
Developers should create software for a specific purpose and not try
account for every future possibility, according to Davisdon.
"Developers are very creative and often think about usages way in the
future ... but by allowing every possible future they are also allow a
lot more attack vectors," she said.
Databases are the "Holy Grail" for hackers
Before introducing Davidson to the stage, the general manager of AusCERT
Graham Ingram pointed out how important it was that database
applications are not breached.
"The databases that you hold, with names, with addresses and in some
cases with credit card details, are a very rich target for the people
who want to obtain that information in their attacks.
"We cannot leave behind the thinking that the databases and the database
applications are, in many cases, the Holy Grail for the attackers," said
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