I wrote back in 2013 about my shock at discovering that the companies are now publicly calling to stop the investment in security and avoid fixing security bugs in my article Brainwashing in security. There, we witnessed the head of Adobe security, Brad Arkin, tell us that the companies should not be wasting their precious resources on “fixing every little bug”, agreeing to the comment made by another participant, John Viega from SilverSky, that:
“For most companies it’s going to be far cheaper and serve their customers a lot better if they don’t do anything [about security bugs] until something happens.”
All right, fast forward three years and Adobe becomes a showcase. Here is what Google senior security engineer Darren Bilby, speaking at the Kiwicon, has to tell us about the security of the contemporary software:
“We are giving people systems that are not safe for the internet and we are blaming the user,” Bilby says.
He illustrated his point by referring to the 314 remote code execution holes disclosed in Adobe Flash last year alone, saying the strategy to patch those holes is like a car yard which sells vehicles that catch on fire every other week.
The security strategy at Adobe is clearly paying its dividends. Way to go, Adobe, way to go…
The article “Password denied: when will Apple get serious about security?” in The Verge talks about Apple’s insecurity and blames Apple’s badly organized security and the absence of any visible security strategy and effort. Moreover, it seems like Apple is not taking security sufficiently seriously even.
“The reality is that the Apple way values usability over all else, including security,” Echoworx’s Robby Gulri told Ars.
It is good that Apple gets a bit of bashing but are they really all that different? If you look around and read about all other companies you quickly realize it is not just Apple, it is a common, too common, problem: most companies do not take security seriously. And they have a good reason: security investment cannot be justified in short-term, it cannot be sold, and it cannot be turned into bonuses and raises for the management. And the risks are typically ignored as I already talked about previously.
So in this respect Apple simply follows in the footsteps of all other software companies out there. They invest in features, in customer experience, in brand management but they ignore the security. Even the recent scandal with Mat Honan’s life wipe-out that got a lot of publicity did not change much if anything. The company did not suffer sufficient damage to start thinking of security seriously. The damage was done to a private individual and did not translate into any impact on sales. So it demonstrated once again that security problems do not damage the bottom line. Why else would a company care?
We need the damage done to external parties to be internalized and absorbed by the companies. As long as it stays external they will not care. The same thing exactly as the ecology – ecological cost is external to the company so it would not care unless there is regulation that makes those costs internal. We need a mechanism for internalizing the security costs.