Government ranks last in fixing software security holes

Three-quarters of all government Web and mobile applications fail their initial security reviews, making it the worst-performing vertical -- and government agencies are also the slowest at fixing vulnerabilities, according to a new report released today by Veracode.

The report covers more than 200,000 applications analyzed over the past 18 months by the company. According to Chris Wysopal, CTO and CISO at Veracode, the application could be newly-written software, or legacy applications being sent to Veracode for the first time.

The applications are scanned for the most common security flaws, such as SQL injections, cross-site scripting, weak cryptography, using components with known vulnerabilities, missing access controls and broken authorization.

But the initial testing is only the first step of the process. Veracode also looks at what percentage of these vulnerabilities were fixed as of March, Wysopal said, based on a follow-up assessment of the same code.

"We see that government is way down on the list," he said. "They're only fixing 27 percent of the issues we're telling them about."

[ ALSO ON CSO: Government security workers have a big data problem ]

The financial sector does the best in the initial testing, with 42 percent of applications passing on the first round, following by manufacturing at 35 percent.

Financial services companies also do a good job with remediation, fixing 65 percent of the security flaws. But manufacturing does even better, fixing 81 percent of the problems.

"Manufacturing comes out as the industry that's taking security most seriously," said Wysopal.

A possible reason could be that manufacturing has adopted processing improvement methodologies earlier than other industries as part of their business culture. This sector has also been a leader in implementing supply chain controls for its critical suppliers.

The latter is particularly important when it comes to software vulnerabilities because, according to Veracode's security scans, third-party software scores significantly worse than software developed in-house.

"The software you're purchasing from your commercial vendor is as bad as the software the government is producing for its own use," said Wysopal. "And that should scare people."

On average, 37 percent of internally-developed code passed the initial review, compared to 28 percent of commercial code.

"The top commercial vendors are actually pretty good," he said. "But when you look at the hundreds and hundreds of small software providers, a lot of them aren't doing anything when it comes to testing for security flaws."

In addition to grading applications on a pass-fail basis, Veracode also calculated the average flaw density of applications, in terms of number of flaws per line of code.

Flaw density has more to do with the choice of programming language, said Wysopal.

"We tend to see higher vulnerabilities in older languages," he said.

Here, manufacturing scored the worst, with four times the flaw density of the next-highest vertical, technology.

"Manufacturing is skewed by the older code base," he said.

This is the fifth year that Veracode has produced this report, but the first year in which the report was organized by industry vertical, so historical trend data isn't yet available.

However, the overall trend is that things are slowly getting better, said Wysopal. "But not dramatically."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityapplication securityVeracodeAccess control and authenticationCSOthree

More about CSO

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Maria Korolov

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place