Having recently conducted a security audit of several free/open source software programs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Chris Palmer and Dan Auerbach have published some guidelines for improving security in free/open software:
Avoid giving the user options that could compromise security, in the form of modes, dialogs, preferences, or tweaks of any sort. As security expert Ian Grigg puts it, there is “only one Mode, and it is Secure.” Ask yourself if that checkbox to toggle secure connections is really necessary? When would a user really want to weaken security? To the extent you must allow such user preferences, make sure that the default is always secure.
Last February, Lenovo shocked its security-conscious customers by pre-installing its own, self-signed root certificates on the machines it sold. These certificates, provided by a spyware advertising company called Superfish, made it possible for attackers create “secure” connections to undetectable fake versions of banking sites, corporate intranets, webmail providers, etc.
Ted Koppel’s new book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath warns of an impending disaster when America’s critical infrastructure will be destroyed by cyberattackers, plunging the nation into a literal dark age.
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