Monday, September 30, 2019

Spotlight on Software Assurance and Secure Coding

Bart & Elisa at Cal-Poly Pomona, 09/27/19
Software assurance is the secure design,coding, and assessment of software to ensure it is free from vulnerabilities and works as intended. Since its inception, Trusted CI has dedicated a portion of its engagements and community outreach to software assurance. Much of this work has been led by Profs. Barton P. Miller and Elisa Heymann from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Through conducting engagements, training events, presenting talks, and building curricula, Bart and Elisa strive to teach programmers, analysts, and managers how to design and program secure software, and how to assess  software to find  flaws and make the software more difficult to be hacked.

Bart and Elisa have conducted numerous engagements for Trusted CI and other organizations. During one engagement for Trusted CI they conducted an in-depth vulnerability assessment of Singularity, an open source container platform optimized for high-performance computing (HPC) and scientific environments. The Open Science Grid engagement involved a vulnerability assessment of OSG's installment of HTCondor, a program that manages jobs submitted to the batch system. In another collaboration outside of Trusted CI, they evaluated Total Soft Bank's (TSB) Terminal Operating System, a system for managing maritime freight shipping, including that manages about 40 percent of container terminals in the world. That work resulted in significant improvements in the security of international shipping, reported in a paper published in Port Technology International.

The pair has conducted workshops for Internet2, Supercomputing, Science Gateways Community Institute (SGCI), IEEE, O’Reilly, the New Jersey FAA; and have traveled to Australia, Germany, South America, and India to give trainings. Much of their work is publicly accessible to broadcast it out to the widest audience possible. And their course, “Introduction to Software Security,” has recently been added to UW-Madison’s Spring 2020 undergrad curriculum. A pilot version of the course had 120 students enrolled, they are optimistic the spring course will be well attended. These training resources focus on real scenarios and hands-on learning to make a lasting impact on students. The training exercises have evolved over time to include different languages and operating systems. It should be noted that, depending on the language, some security problems can be reduced, but they don’t entirely go away.

The future of secure coding relies on as much education as possible. The number of people writing programs has increased at a breathtaking rate. The resources available to them must scale to meet these demands.

Updates about upcoming Trusted CI trainings are regularly posted on our home page. Applications for an engagement with Trusted CI during the early 2020 session are due October 2nd.