[WEB SECURITY] WebScurity ->was-> Application Security Hacking Videos

Brent Johnson brent at fsebg.com
Thu Jun 1 15:47:11 EDT 2006


I'd like to chime in on this as a user of the WebScurity firewall.

>From my observations, it appears that this list is dominated by web
application developers.  For the developer community, it is obvious that the
of focus of web application security would be on writing secure code,
however...
There is a massive population of business', of which I am part, that have
"legacy" web applications that were developed in-house.  Three of our apps
were developed by a now retired bank employee, two others developed by
outside developers with the get-er-done attitude and little focus on
application security.  Granted, when these apps were written, there wasn't
much awareness of these security issues, at least not like there is today.

Our bank was faced with going back to the drawing board on all these web
apps, or looking into an app firewall.  We estimated the cost of re-writing
the applications as being 2-3 times more than the cost of putting an
application firewall in front of them, which I think wound up being around
$30 grand for 5 servers.

Per their recommendations, we had the web server listen on 127.0.0.1:8080,
and put the firewall app on the network interface on port 80.  The software
installed quick, and its doing its job.  It has been installed for a few
months and we haven't had to touch it.

If we had internal developers that could take the time to decipher
undocumented or semi-documented code, It would have been a no-brainer to fix
the apps.  With our circumstances, this was a no-brainer of a decision to go
with the app firewall.

Its kinda silly to expect developers to seriously discuss application
firewalls, especially when we use this firewall and my experience with it,
compared to what the dev's on this list say about it don't match.  I can't
imagine that they've used it. 

When I originally inquired on the list, I was told that what I was looking
for wasn't possible (easy to install, easy to configure, set & forget, BWA
HA HA HA!)...  well, that's what I got, exactly what I wanted...


Regards,
Brent Johnson, CIO
First Southeast Banc Group

-----Original Message-----
From: arian.evans [mailto:arian.evans at anachronic.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 12:54 PM
To: 'Paul Schmehl'; websecurity at webappsec.org
Subject: [WEB SECURITY] WebScurity ->was-> Application Security Hacking
Videos

Paul, I really liked and agreed with your post.

Two things, one, the widget Joel is pushing is not
one of the appliance-based solutions in the WAF
space, but a little Java app, and doesn't come close
to the enterprise class WAFs in terms of handling
encoding attacks, database correlation, etc. (from
testing this thing twice in my lab, we had about
nine WAF appliances in the lab last year). Though
it could have changed recently, YMMV, blah.

Two: I love the "remove the tick" WAFs. Poor Sarah
O'Grady, too be seen no more.

And three: I missed Joel's restart of this old thread.
I hope no one confuses me with the product advocacy
crowd that pushes bandaids that hide the problem.

I've gotten a few strange responses sent to me from
several lists, and I can't figure out if people are
mistaking me for someone else, or I simply am not
using Outlook 2k3 correctly with multiple accounts.

And four: I can't count,

-ae

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Schmehl [mailto:pauls at utdallas.edu] 
> Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:52 AM
> To: arian.evans at anachronic.com
> Cc: websecurity at webappsec.org
> Subject: Re: [WEB SECURITY] Application Security Hacking Videos
> 
> Joel R. Helgeson wrote:
> > I'd like some feedback from the community here on this...
> > 
> > I tend to take a very pragmatic approach to security, I 
> evaluate options, costs, 
> and I go for the most cost effective option.  Now, I know that in an 
> ideal world, all
> software would be written secure and bug free, but we don't 
> live in that 
> world.
> > 
> > I have been smitten by the Application Firewall, 
> webScurity's applicaiton firewall 
> webApp.Secure.  Has anyone else out there played with it? 
> Installed it? 
>   I'm finding
> this thing so cool that I'm trying to figure out if I just found a 
> really cool hammer,
> and all problems are looking like nails, or what.
> > 
> > Be honest with me, what do you think of application 
> firewalls?  Have you used 
> them?  I wan't to talk about webScurity's product but I'm 
> concerned that 
> it will
> come off like I'm pushing a product... the thing is that I 
> think this is 
> the coolest
> thing I've seen in a long time.
> > 
> > The customers where I have installed them have said that to 
> do an application 
> re-write would conservatively take 20 years (that would be to 
> re-write 
> all the apps
> that they've developed over the past 10 years) and that when 
> considering 
> options,
> the app firewall was a no-brainer.  This has resulted in a 
> rather large 
> sale for me, and
> I'm seeing a lot of movement in this field, especially with 
> this company 
> and I'm just
> starting to wonder if I'm the only one seeing it or if I've 
> just gotten 
> drunk on the kool-aid.
> > 
> > Yeah, I'm rambling and I know it... but I'm still 
> interested in what the community has to say.
> > 
> First of all, we're all professionals here, and I'm pretty 
> sure everyone 
> knows how to read list traffic, so there's no need to cc everybody on 
> God's green earth.
> 
> Responding to your request, from a "user" POV, I've been using 
> mod_security on Apache for some time, on a webserver sitting 
> "naked" on 
> the internet, and it appears to work as advertised.  Having 
> said that, I 
> chose to use it not to protect a specific application but to 
> protect the 
> web server in general.  So, obviously I see some value in 
> these products.
> 
> However, I'm not convinced that the appliance based solutions 
> to which 
> you refer are worth the cost.  Yes, your demonstration video is 
> dramatic, but good lord, the example you use is so 
> fundamentally flawed 
> that one has to wonder if it was a setup.
> 
> As to it taking 20 years to correct an input-verification 
> problem.......I'd say they need to hire some new programmers. 
>  ISTM this 
> problem is eminently solvable by simply writing a module that accepts 
> all user input, washes it, rinses it, repeats and then 
> returns it to the 
> calling function.  So, even in legacy apps, one new function 
> would need 
> to be written (or library, if you will), and then every input 
> function 
> would need one additional line - to wash the data before 
> working with it.
> 
> Something like this:
> 
> whitewash(data-in, data-type,data-size) {
>      do some things here to purify the data
>      return data-in-purified
> }
> 
> So, then, the calling function would do this:
> 
> get_some_input(input) {
>      input=whitewash(input,input-type,input-size)
>      do my thing with the data without worrying about it
>      return some value to the web page
> }
> 
> This type of function/library could clean all sorts of data 
> as well as 
> eliminate buffer overflows, without requiring the writer of the input 
> function to even know about data sanity or even worry about data size.
> 
> Here's what bothers me about application firewalls - they mask a 
> fundamental problem - poor programming practices - and they 
> *encourage* 
> people not to address that fundamental problem.  If the 
> appliance blocks 
> it, why do we need to fix it is not an attitude one wants to 
> encourage 
> in programming staff.
> 
> Yes, it's a quick and easy fix, but it's not a solution and 
> even if you 
> think it is, it's not the *right* solution.
> 
> Now, as a consultant, I can see the strong attraction that it has for 
> you, because you can be a "hero" very quickly.  But have you really 
> improved security for the customer?  I don't think so.  Not 
> in the grand 
> scheme of things.  In fact, one could argue that you've done them a 
> disservice by making them *think* they're more secure when in 
> fact, if 
> the appliance fails or is taken offline, the fundamental 
> problem still 
> remains.  *And* you've encouraged them to repeat the same 
> mistakes again 
> and again.
> 
> At a minimum, when you sell this solution, you should be appending it 
> with big red flags that say, THIS DOES NOT FIX THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM 
> YOU HAVE.
> 
> -- 
> Paul Schmehl (pauls at utdallas.edu)
> Adjunct Information Security Officer
> The University of Texas at Dallas
> http://www.utdallas.edu/ir/security/
> 


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