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Secure Coding: Principles and Practices Paperback – Jun 1 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (June 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596002424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596002428
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,365,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"This is an extremely useful little book in best O'Reilly tradition and I recommend it not only to programmers but also to security architects who work with programmers. It gives you a lot of insights that you don't often come across." Information Security Bulletin, September

About the Author

Kenneth R. van Wyk is an internationally recognized information security expert and author of the O'Reilly Media books, Incident Response and Secure Coding. In addition to providing consulting and training services through his company, KRvW Associates, LLC, he currently holds numerous positions: as a monthly columnist for on-line security portal, eSecurityPlanet, and a Visiting Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute.

Ken has 20+ years experience as an IT Security practitioner in the academic, military, and commercial sectors. He has held senior and executive technologist positions at Tekmark, Para-Protect, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), in addition to the U.S. Department of Defense and Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh Universities.

Ken also served a two-year elected position as a member of the Steering Committee, and a one-year elected position as the Chairman of the Steering Committee, for the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) organization. At the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, Ken was one of the founders of the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT(tm)). He holds an engineering degree from Lehigh University and is a frequent speaker at technical conferences, and has presented papers and speeches for CSI, ISF, USENIX, FIRST, AusCERT, and others. Ken is also a CERT(tm) Certified Computer Security Incident Handler.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the movie Seabiscuit, the titular racehorse doesn't appear on screen until almost an hour into the movie. Nevertheless, the wait is worth it, and the movie was a blockbuster. While no one would confuse this uplifting Depression-era tale with a book on computer code, Secure Coding shares a basic similarity with Seabiscuit: The former doesn't trot out its subject--an actual piece of software code--until page 76, and the result is outstanding nonetheless.
The similarity ends there. While moviegoers eagerly awaited Seabiscuit's appearance, security professionals might well dread the first appearance of code. Refreshingly, the book contains only seven pages of software code.
Similarly themed books spend most of their time in the nitty-gritty of actual code. This one is a horse of a different color, dealing with what needs to be done before the first line of software code is actually written. With the goal of helping developers create applications that are resilient against attacks, the authors develop the book around three categories of software development: architecture and design, implementation, and operations.
Above and beyond technical aspects of software development, the authors describe how serious security vulnerabilities leak into the software-development process. These include ignorance, psychological issues, and the short time spans allotted to the development process.
This book is a sure bet to help developers and project managers create secure software applications without bogging down in specific code.
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Format: Paperback
In the 11th century, Moses Maimonides taught us that the highest form of charity is to teach a man to fish. If you give him a fish, he can eat today. If you teach him to fish he can eat forever.
In the same way, Mark G. Graff and Kenneth R. van Wyk have provided an excellent book that gives us a framework for thinking about security rather than trying to give specific rules that might have been invalid before the book came off the press. "Secure Coding" gives the reader the ability to envision, architect, design, code, and implement a security framework that truly meets the needs of its stakeholders.
The authors don't provide a cookbook. In their own words: "When you picked up this book, perhaps you thought that we could provide certain security? Sadly, no one can."
Instead, they deliver a robust mental model and a framework to understand security and to architect, design, develop, and operate secure systems. They present best practices in the field of security, the reasons for using them, and suggestions on deciding which practices are appropriate in your particular case.
Their approach is to realize that the objective is not to make a system totally secure, but to make it just secure enough. Deciding what is "just secure enough" is a business and not a technical decision. It is based on weighing risk versus cost.
There are substantial references throughout the book as well as an appendix of resources. The book is filled with examples of security failures and, more importantly, an excellent post mortem on each to show what could have been done to avoid the problem. The authors are extremely familiar with UNIX environments and this comes through in the examples. However, you don't need to be a UNIX guru to glean valuable lessons from the examples.
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Format: Paperback
You may have a hi-tech lock on your door, 100% unpickable. If I can just slam my shoulder against the door and jerk it loose from the frame, the fancy lock is irrelevant.
Passwords, encryption, and all the rest are the lock. This book is more about making the door and frame strong. Remember the Blaster worm? That wasn't a 'security' problem. It exploited bugs in Windows that supposedly had nothing to do with security.
This book is about building programs that resist attack. That doesn't mean copying a safe code fragment into your program and declaring it safe - that idea is ludicrous. Instead, this book is about the process that designs and implements strong programs. It starts with architecture and design documents, then follows through to design and maintenance.
The weakness of this book is lack of detail - how to build fail-safe code, what needs to be on design and inspection checklists, etc. There's good reason for that: each sub-topic needs books, if not whole libraries of its own. Take fault tolerance, for example. It may not sound like security, but an attack is meant to cause system failures, and fault tolerance is design to withstand failures. Fault tolerance is a huge topic, with journals and literature all its own. This book can barely mention the idea, while still giving other topics their due. It's a start, though.
Much of the advice may sound drearily familiar: code reviews, security audits, configuration control, error checking, and all the other things that take the 'fun' out of programming. If people want that kind of 'fun', then stop calling them software engineers. They're not ready for adult responsibilities.
Before anything else, software security requires correct behavior from a program. I really hope I don't hear objections to that as a basic design goal.
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