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Building Secure Software: How to Avoid Security Problems the Right Way Hardcover – October 4, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0201721522 ISBN-10: 020172152X Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"This book is useful, practical, understandable, and comprehensive. The fact that you have this book in your hands is a step in the right direction. Read it, learn from it. And then put its lessons into practice." --From the Foreword by Bruce Schneier, CTO, Counterpane, and author of Secrets and Lies "A must-read for anyone writing software for the Internet." --Jeremy Epstein, Director, Product Security and Performance, webMethods "This book tackles complex application security problems like buffer overflows, race conditions, and applied cryptography in a manner that is straightforward and easy to understand. This is a must for any application developer or security professional." --Paul Raines, Global Head of Information Risk Management, Barclays Capital

Most organizations have a firewall, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems, all of which are intended to keep attackers out. So why is computer security a bigger problem today than ever before? The answer is simple--bad software lies at the heart of all computer security problems. Traditional solutions simply treat the symptoms, not the problem, and usually do so in a reactive way. This book teaches you how to take a proactive approach to computer security.

Building Secure Software cuts to the heart of computer security to help you get security right the first time. If you are serious about computer security, you need to read this book, which includes essential lessons for both security professionals who have come to realize that software is the problem, and software developers who intend to make their code behave. Written for anyone involved in software development and use--from managers to coders--this book is your first step toward building more secure software. Building Secure Software provides expert perspectives and techniques to help you ensure the security of essential software. If you consider threats and vulnerabilities early in the devel-opment cycle you can build security into your system. With this book you will learn how to determine an acceptable level of risk, develop security tests, and plug security holes before software is even shipped.

Inside you'll find the ten guiding principles for software security, as well as detailed coverage of:

  • Software risk management for security
  • Selecting technologies to make your code more secure
  • Security implications of open source and proprietary software
  • How to audit software
  • The dreaded buffer overflow
  • Access control and password authentication
  • Random number generation
  • Applying cryptography
  • Trust management and input
  • Client-side security
  • Dealing with firewalls

    Only by building secure software can you defend yourself against security breaches and gain the confidence that comes with knowing you won't have to play the "penetrate and patch" game anymore. Get it right the first time. Let these expert authors show you how to properly design your system; save time, money, and credibility; and preserve your customers' trust.

  • About the Author

    John Viega is the CTO of Secure Software Solutions ( and a noted expert in the area of software security. He is responsible for numerous tools in this area, including code scanners (ITS4 and RATS), random number suites (EGADS), automated repair tools, and secure programming libraries. He is also the original author of Mailman, the GNU mailing list manager.

    Gary McGraw, Cigital's CTO, is a leading authority on software security. Dr. McGraw is coauthor of the groundbreaking books Building Secure Software and Exploiting Software (both from Addison-Wesley). While consulting for major software producers and consumers, he has published over ninety peer-reviewed technical publications, and functions as principal investigator on grants from DARPA, the National Science Foundation, and NIST's Advanced Technology Program. He serves on the advisory boards of Authentica, Counterpane, and Fortify Software. He is also an advisor to the computer science departments at University of California, Davis, and the University of Virginia, as well as the School of Informatics at Indiana University.


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    Product Details

    • Hardcover: 528 pages
    • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (October 4, 2001)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 020172152X
    • ISBN-13: 978-0201721522
    • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
    • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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    Customer Reviews

    The book is very well written.
    Lam Nguyen
    Their risk management approach to security is a central theme throughout the book.
    Avi Rubin
    'Building Secure Software' (BSS) is an excellent book.
    Richard Bejtlich

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mike Tarrani HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on April 10, 2002
    Format: Hardcover
    What makes this book so important is that the authors provide an analysis of the major problems with all software, and give a collection of techniques with which to address the recurring problems, such as buffer overflows, access control exposures, randomness flaws and other security-related defects. They do not attempt to provide specific solutions. Instead they raise an awareness of the common problems, discuss the underlying causes, and give a framework with which developers can use as the basis for developing secure software.
    Key points of this book that I found especially useful include:
    (1) Even treatment of commercial and open source software. I found this refreshing because there are two camps, Microsoft developers and open source advocates, each of which criticize the other. Yes, Microsoft has a bad reputation for security, but the open source faction has its own challenges, and the authors show the strengths and weaknesses of each in an objective manner.
    (2)Surprises, such as documented cases of peer reviews that failed. I am an advocate of this technique, yet a case where a flawed, two-line piece of code that was extensively reviewed by literally thousands of reviewers and readers of a technical publication slipped by without notice for a long time.
    (3) The ten guiding principles for software security encapsulate the essence of building secure software. This list and the discussion of each principle should be required reading for every architect, developed and QA engineer.Chapter 1 (Introduction to Software Security) and Chapter 6 (Auditing Software) give a framework for security and a methodical approach to quality assurance. These, in my opinion, are the heart of the book.
    Read more ›
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    43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Schneier on October 15, 2001
    Format: Hardcover
    As I say in the Preface of this book, "We wouldn't have to spend so much time, money, and effort on network security if we didn't have such bad software security." We all know that security is risk management. _Building Secure Software_ takes the same risk-management approach to security that I espouse in _Secrets and Lies_. But while my recent focus is on detection and response, this book focuses on prevention. Most importantly, it focuses on prevention where it should occur: during software design.
    _Building Secure Software_ is a critical tool in the understanding of secure software. Viega and McGraw have done an excellent job of laying out both the theory and practice of secure software design. Their book is useful, practical, understandable, and comprehensive. It won't magically turn you into a software security expert, but it will make you more sensitive to software security. And the more sensitive you are to the problem, the more likely you are to work toward a solution.
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    21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 3, 2002
    Format: Hardcover
    Even IT professionals are not completely aware of how much our society relies on the effective use of computers. For if they did, security issues would always be foremost in our minds. Nearly all of us lock the doors to our houses when we leave and yet there are problems with computers that are equivalent to leaving the door open and posting a large sign as to where the valuables are located. I am just as guilty as most others in this area, but the heavy object has finally hit me over the head, so I am now deeply involved in learning all aspects of computer security.
    One of the best books that I have found that explains details rather than fluffy generalities is this one. In looking through books, there were so many that used the soapbox approach, proclaiming long and loud about the need for security, but never reaching the level of the designer in showing the specific ways in which security features can be implemented. This book does that. The specific code examples illustrating many of the security features show quite clearly how it is possible to include security in the basic structure of your programs.
    There are those who complain that publishing details of security flaws gives people information that will allow them to become an effective black hat hacker. This is an argument that is ridiculous. A malicious user is someone with a specific state of mind, and a bit of information does not make one a criminal, just makes it slightly easier for them to engage in their criminal acts. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that to prevent crime you have to learn the many ways crimes are committed. The authors of this book show you how the black hats do their cracking.
    As a consequence of reading this book, I was motivated to create a series of security lessons and write a proposal for a class in computer security for the next academic year. That class recently received overwhelming departmental approval and right now, this is the text that I will use.
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    18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Epstein on October 5, 2001
    Format: Hardcover
    For more than 20 years security professionals have bemoaned the abysmal state of software, and why it doesn't get any better. Viega and McGraw have put together a wonderful handbook that takes a big step in helping developers build more secure and reliable software. It addresses the tough practical problems that lead to technical disasters like Nimda and Code Red. Readers learn how vulnerabilities are exploited and how to avoid having the vulnerabilities. Key topics include buffer overflows, avoiding malicious input, proper random number selection, and many more.
    If there were only one security book I could make required reading for every programmer in the world, this would be it.
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