I completely agree with your final statement Karen, but I see a lot more of the words aiming at the 100% mark and I think that is ultimately a bad focus since it is unachievable and therefore will waste focus and effort.

While on paper we can "prove" programs are bug free (security-related or not), it doesn't work in practice. I may be biased by my experience, but you won't be able to design a perfect program anymore than you can design a "flawless" piece of handmade furniture. Flaws happen. They focus should be on minimizing them and reducing the risk that any flaws that make it through will cripple the end product, whether it be a wood table or a software program.

A recent CERT podcast implied that we could reach your 100% as we matured and that has just stuck in my craw. I don't think it really is achievable, though making the case is going to take more than a quick reply on this list.

--

Brad Andrews
RBA Communications
CISM, CSSLP, SANS/GIAC GSEC, GCFW, GCIH, GPCI


Quoting "Goertzel, Karen [USA]" <goertzel_ka...@bah.com>:

Interesting. My definition of "secure" is for software is "dependable, trustworthy, and survivable (or, if you prefer, resilient)", i.e.,

(1) It's got to behave correctly and predictably;

(2) It's got to behave non-maliciously and also not be subvertible (i.e., no weaknesses that can be exploited as vulnerabilities);

(3) When it comes under attack, 1 & 2 need to hold true for as long as possible before the software's execution gracefully degrades and ultimately fails; when it does fail, it must do so in a manner that doesn't make it, its data, or its resources vulnerable to further compromise, and it must recover to an acceptable level of operation (which, obviously, needs to be specified) as quickly as possible, with as little damage as possible (and having minimised the extent of that damage).

Obviously, there's very little software that can satisfy all three of these criteria 100%. But even 50% is better than 0%.

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