Hyperguarding your Web Applications

Why is Cross-site Scripting Still a Problem?

Posted by hyperguard on September 24, 2009

We had some great feedback from developers in LinkedIn about this issue. Some thoughts worth sharing below.

Brian Hidgen chimed in with his thoughts:

“I perform security code reviews of internally written and commercial packages every day. It is stunning how many problems I see. Why does XSS still happen? For one, time pressure. Developers are under time constraints to deliver so they cut corners and push things out. Management for the most part does not take security seriously or they adopt a see no evil mindset and ignore the problem until they get bitten down the road. Lack of understanding is a big one too. I have been a developer for a long time and I was not trained or even sensitized to the issue until relatively recently. I know a lot of my colleagues past and present are in the same boat. We aren’t doing Cobol on a mainframe either, we are all Java/.Net/Ajax/Web 2.0 developers. The problem simply isn’t well understood and not enough attention is paid to it.”

Milton Smith shared a little more with us:

“The problem with XSS, and cyber security in general, is awareness. People don’t see security as a problem until it impacts them. Next, highly secure software is a consumer EXPECTATION. It’s not generally a feature consumers are willing to pay extra to include in their products.

Building secure solutions takes: education, training, tools, process improvements, etc. As such, it’s all too easy for commercial software vendors to bargain away the features consumers cannot see, like security. Other areas of non-functional requirements suffer as well: performance, scalability, reliability, and diagnostics.

The causes for XSS are well known. Poor cyber security is like showering in a glass bathroom blissfully unaware everyone is watching.”

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