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Writing Secure Code

12/16/07

Permalink 05:35:07 pm, by lano1106, 365 words, 920 views   English (CA)
Categories: Windows programming, Software security

Writing Secure Code

Writing Secure Code, Michael Howard and David LeBlanc, ISBN: 0735615888


This is a good book as it does a good job covering the different sources of software insecurities:

  • The classical buffer overflows on the stack and on the heap
  • Canonical issues on input
  • The least privilege principle
  • There is a brief overview on how store a secret

On the last point, the authors know well the topic. If you are using cryptography to protect something in your software but just store the private key in a global variable then you are helping tremendously the job of hackers as all they will have to do is look into your executable binary to search for something that looks like a key. A security measure is as strong as its weakest element and no hacker is foolish enough to attack a cryptographic algorithm that is proven strong. Even if you store the key in a secure place, all that is needed to retrieve the key is to perform a memory dump at the right time just before the software use the key. At least, you can make hackers job harder as there is nothing you can do to make your software 100% safe against hacker if the software is valuable enough to motivate them to hack your software. All you can do by improving your software security is to buy you some time before your software is hacked. All that to say that there is no bullet proof solution against hackers but the book gives solid leads to improve software security in that aspect.

In this book, there is a strong emphasis on Microsoft security technologies. The Windows Crypto API and the Microsoft OSes privileges API are described in length. If you develop on Windows and want to make your software more secure then this is an excellent book for you. If you develop on another platform, there is still something for you in this book as there are a lot of code snippets that are platform independent to improve software security such as input validation for file names to protect yourself against canonization bugs.

This is a very good book about software security but I do not recommend it simply because there is a new edition of it.

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