Security expert Howard Schmidt wants coders to be held responsible for vulnerabilities in their code, but others say their employers should be held to account

Software developers should be held personally accountable for the security of the code they write, said Howard Schmidt, former White House cybersecurity advisor, on Tuesday.

Speaking at Secure London 2005, Schmidt, who is now the president and chief executive of R&H Security Consulting, also called for better training for software developers, many of who he believes don’t have the skills needed to write secure code.

“In software development, we need to have personal quality assurances from developers that the code they write is secure,” said Schmidt, who cited the example of some developers he recently met who had created a Web application to talk to a back-end database using SSL.

“They had strong authentication, strong passwords, an encrypted tunnel. The stored data was encrypted. But, when that data was sent to the purchasing office, it was sent as a plain text file. This was not an end-to-end solution. We need individual accountability from developers for end-to-end solutions so we can go to them and say: ‘Is this completely secure?’,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also referred to a recent survey from Microsoft which found that 64 percent of software developers were not confident they could write secure applications. For him, better training is the way forward.

“Most university courses traditionally focused on usability, scalability, and manageability, not security. Now a lot of universities are focusing on information assurance and security, but traditionally Web application development has been measured in mouse clicks — how to make users click through,” said Schmidt.

By Tom Espiner

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