Famed Security Researcher ‘Mudge’ Creates New Algorithm For Measuring Code Security

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko and his wife, Sarah, a former NSA mathematician, have started a nonprofit in the basement of their home “for testing and scoring the security of software… He says vendors are going to hate it.” Slashdot reader mspohr shares an article from The Intercept:

“Things like address space layout randomization [ASLR] and having a nonexecutable stack and heap and stuff like that, those are all determined by how you compiled [the source code],” says Sarah. “Those are the technologies that are really the equivalent of airbags or anti-lock brakes [in cars]…” The lab’s initial research has found that Microsoft’s Office suite for OS X, for example, is missing fundamental security settings because the company is using a decade-old development environment to build it, despite using a modern and secure one to build its own operating system, Mudge says. Industrial control system software, used in critical infrastructure environments like power plants and water treatment facilities, is also primarily compiled on “ancient compilers” that either don’t have modern protective measures or don’t have them turned on by default…

The process they use to evaluate software allows them to easily compare and contrast similar programs. Looking at three browsers, for example — Chrome, Safari, and Firefox — Chrome came out on top, with Firefox on the bottom. Google’s Chrome developers not only used a modern build environment and enabled all the default security settings they could, Mudge says, they went “above and beyond in making things even more robust.” Firefox, by contrast, “had turned off [ASLR], one of the fundamental safety features in their compilation.”
The nonprofit was funded with $600,000 in funding from DARPA, the Ford Foundation, and Consumers Union, and also looks at the number of external libraries called, the number of branches in a program and the presence of high-complexity algorithms.


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