Cybersecurity Awareness Month: advice for tech companies.
N2K logoOct 2, 2023

What developers and those who employ them can do to help make users safer.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: advice for tech companies.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has advice for tech companies during Cybersecurity Awareness Month. “Tech manufacturers: Tech companies can do their part by implementing security features built-in by design. Default settings should have the highest security measures implemented, and individuals can manually bypass security features if they don’t want them. Users should not have to opt-in to necessary security measures.”

A call for clean code.

Olivier Gaudin, Co-CEO & Founder of Sonar, interpreted this part of CISA’s message as a call for clean code:

“This Cybersecurity Awareness Month (CAM), a message to business leaders and technical folks alike: Software is immensely pervasive and foundational to innovation and market leadership. And if software starts with code, then secure or insecure code starts in development, which means organizations should be looking critically at how their code is developed. Only when code is clean (i.e. consistent, intentional, adaptable, responsible) can security, reliability, and maintainability of software be ensured.  

“Yes, there has been increased attention to AppSec/software security and impressive developments in this arena. But still, these efforts are being done after the fact, i.e. after the code is produced. Failing to do this as part of the coding phase will not produce the radical change that our industry needs. Bad code is the biggest business liability that organizations face, whether they know it or not. And chances are they don't know it. Under their noses, there is technical debt accumulating, leading to developers wasting time on remediation, paying some small interest for any change they make, and applications being largely insecure and unreliable, making them a liability to the business. With AI-generated code increasing the volume and speed of output without an eye toward code quality, this problem will only worsen. The world needs Clean Code.

“During CAM, we urge organizations to take the time to understand and adopt a ‘Clean as You Code’ approach. In turn, this will stop the technical debt leak, but also remediate existing debt whenever changing code, reducing drastically the cybersecurity risks, which is absolutely necessary for businesses to compete and win -- especially in the age of AI.”

Better defaults help make better users.

Richard Caralli, Senior Cybersecurity Advisor at Axio, thinks that better default make for better users:

“For 20 years, Cybersecurity Awareness Month has been raising awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, but creating a cyber-aware culture is only getting worse. Technology users are on the front line for cybersecurity, but this responsibility is not taken seriously either because it’s a lower priority (average consumers place preference on product features over security), or they don’t fundamentally understand it (cybersecurity technologies at the consumer level are not entirely intuitive).

“There are approximately 12 million lines of code on a typical smartphone operating system, and on those devices, thousands of configurable settings that affect security and privacy. If an organization issues a device like an iPhone, they can centrally ensure the security and privacy settings fall in line with organizational policy. But, in an increasingly bring-your-own-device world, and especially for retail consumers, all bets are off. 

“With configurability being a key desirable feature of applications, users unfortunately put little effort into ensuring they are protected from not only attackers, but also from legitimate attempts to use their data in ways that may over-expose them. It isn’t sufficient to fall in line with the standard security recommendations anymore—such as implementing MFA. Users must initiate their own security and privacy review of the software and devices they use, instead of focusing only on configuring features and applications that are important to them. 

“Until fixed, consumers will continue to be a rich target—and attackers know it. To create a more cyber-aware culture, users should review all default settings on new software and devices and make changes as appropriate. And while not an easy task, several guides being produced—Consumer Reports, for example, publishes a Guide to Digital Security and Privacy—can help users configure important settings, or at least give them the option to decide on the balance between functionality and security/privacy.”