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Network World - The Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. isn't taking any chances when protecting its network from application-layer attacks. The company's 450 software developers use an automated scanning tool to make sure that security holes are plugged during the software development life cycle, not after an application has been deployed.
Baking security into the software development process isn't necessarily easy. Experts say using assessment and scanning tools slows down development, thereby increasing the cost of bringing new applications into production. Also, not all developers react positively to the changes.
Analysts say the benefits of writing secure code in the first place, rather than conducting vulnerability scans after the software has been deployed and having to patch holes, far outweighs the extra effort required.
Before James Routh, chief information security officer at DTCC, which handles more than $1 quadrillion in securities transactions annually, integrated Secure Software's CodeAssure static code scanner into the software-development process, several of the company's top developers were invited to a four-week security training boot camp.
After the first week, one developer went back to a fairly recent application-development project he'd worked on and turned CodeAssure loose. He was surprised when it turned up significant gaps and vulnerabilities that neither he nor anyone else had spotted.
"When developers take time out to walk through code line by line, it becomes a very labor-intensive and costly effort. Using scanning technology, the vulnerability scans are now done automatically," Routh says. He adds that tools like CodeAssure are important, because over time they help developers become better at writing secure code. "Our experience with CodeAssure has taught us that the better the contextual help is at explaining the vulnerability, the more valuable it becomes as an education tool that developers will understand and incorporate going forward," he says.
According to Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald, a variety of application software-scanning and -assessment tools now help make applications more secure. These include both static and dynamic tools (see graphic "Application-level security toolkit"). Typically, these tools analyze the state of uncompiled code or a compiled application and produce detailed reports that identify the types of security threats found in the application, while advising about ways to prevent or correct the threat.