Patching Vulnerabilities

Making sure everything is up to date and secured properly is our daily bread and butter. Great care is given towards making sure updates are deployed regularly and their behavior is monitored to make sure they do not break anything along the way. It might be a boring and consumes a good deal of time, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Most security holes are patched by these updates, which leaves only a few for us to have an actual look at. What is left is to make sure we actually take advantage of new security measures and implement them into our system.

Unfortunately with security comes inconvenience. Carefully designing security measures as to not impede the ease-of-use of the systems we create is a skill not easily learned. Over time a lot of different approaches to common security issues have sprung up, so there is an array of ones to choose from. Some are highly secure, but very cumbersome to use. Some can be very elegant, but have critical flaws in their design. Our approach is to gradually increase the level of security as to allow our customers and users to adapt and make themselves familiar with the workflow of these measures. This has worked very well in the past, but lately the pace seems to have picked up quite a bit.

Going off the usual blog-writing here to actually address an issue directly. Recently one of our bigger customers has been “attacked” by what can only be described as a “movie-style hacking for leet haxor pros”, ahem. To be more precise, an “attack” was launched towards the user management system, which resulted in a mess of data being entered into one of the databases. The origin of this “attack” was a piece of software distributed by Acunetix , a company specializing in vulnerability testing of websites. According to them, their software has been stolen and is now used without license or consent to stir up all sorts of trouble. While this software offers a great way for website-administrators to test their work and make sure their site is save, it apparently lacks safety of its own. Most companies offering these services make sure that these tests are ran with the consent of the websites owner. Unfortunately their software lacks the capability to make sure this is the case. To us this shows a distinctive lack of care toward security on the web and proper practice of such. What is most disturbing about this, is a lack of transparency and information from their side. Specifically after being promised more information regarding their software and how to deal with the “attacks” it generates.

At this point the damage has been done and we were forced to proceed with implementing additional measures to deal with this sort of thing. We would have liked to evaluate and build a system less intrusive and easier to use. Specifically, we have implemented a Captcha system to prevent automated registrations and injections from automated software. As it is just one click on the Captcha button is not too complex to use yet very effective. We also implemented checks towards making sure registrations come from a legitimate source and use proper credentials. We will continue to increase the security of our systems and, as this case shows, pick up the pace doing so.

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