I'd like to open a discussion based on this quote from Marcus Ranum's ACM Queue article entitled "Security: The root of the problem":

"We're stuck in an endless loop on the education concept. We've been trying to educate programmers about writing secure code for at least a decade and it flat-out hasn't worked. While I'm the first to agree that beating one's head against the wall shows dedication, I am starting to wonder if we've chosen the wrong wall. What's Plan B?"

From my perspective, security education is only beginning to climb an initial upward curve. While classes in security topics are becoming more common in undergraduate computer science course catalogs, their presence is far from universal. I don't know of any university that requires such a class for an undergraduate CS degree; if any such programs exist, they're not common.

While there are non-university classes and workshops that teach software security, I doubt that a majority of developers have attended even one such class. Software security has to be integrated into the CS curriculum before we can expect a majority of developers to have the appropriate skills, and then there will still be the issue of applying them under deadline pressure.

That said, I agree with most of the article. We can't wait for years to software security to become a standard part of the curriculum, and most of his suggestions, such as turning C compiler warnings into errors, are good ideas no matter what the current status of security education. I also second his enthusiasm for perl's taint mode.

James Walden, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of EECS
The University of Toledo @ LCCC

Reply via email to