Visible to the public Biblio

Found 266 results

2020-10-08
Akond Rahman, Effat Farhana, Laurie Williams.  2020.  The ‘as code’ activities: development anti-patterns for infrastructure as code. Empirical Software Engineering . 25(3467)

Context:

The ‘as code’ suffix in infrastructure as code (IaC) refers to applying software engineering activities, such as version control, to maintain IaC scripts. Without the application of these activities, defects that can have serious consequences may be introduced in IaC scripts. A systematic investigation of the development anti-patterns for IaC scripts can guide practitioners in identifying activities to avoid defects in IaC scripts. Development anti-patterns are recurring development activities that relate with defective IaC scripts.

Goal:

The goal of this paper is to help practitioners improve the quality of infrastructure as code (IaC) scripts by identifying development activities that relate with defective IaC scripts.

Methodology:

We identify development anti-patterns by adopting a mixed-methods approach, where we apply quantitative analysis with 2,138 open source IaC scripts and conduct a survey with 51 practitioners.

Findings:

We observe five development activities to be related with defective IaC scripts from our quantitative analysis. We identify five development anti-patterns namely, ‘boss is not around’, ‘many cooks spoil’, ‘minors are spoiler’, ‘silos’, and ‘unfocused contribution’.

Conclusion:

Our identified development anti-patterns suggest the importance of ‘as code’ activities in IaC because these activities are related to quality of IaC scripts.

Akond Rahman, Effat Farhana, Chris Parnin, Laurie Williams.  2020.  Gang of Eight: A Defect Taxonomy for Infrastructure as Code Scripts. International Conference of Softare Engineering (ICSE).

Defects in infrastructure as code (IaC) scripts can have serious
consequences, for example, creating large-scale system outages. A
taxonomy of IaC defects can be useful for understanding the nature
of defects, and identifying activities needed to fix and prevent
defects in IaC scripts. The goal of this paper is to help practitioners
improve the quality of infrastructure as code (IaC) scripts by developing
a defect taxonomy for IaC scripts through qualitative analysis.
We develop a taxonomy of IaC defects by applying qualitative analysis
on 1,448 defect-related commits collected from open source
software (OSS) repositories of the Openstack organization. We conduct
a survey with 66 practitioners to assess if they agree with the
identified defect categories included in our taxonomy. We quantify
the frequency of identified defect categories by analyzing 80,425
commits collected from 291 OSS repositories spanning across 2005
to 2019.


Our defect taxonomy for IaC consists of eight categories, including
a category specific to IaC called idempotency (i.e., defects that
lead to incorrect system provisioning when the same IaC script is
executed multiple times). We observe the surveyed 66 practitioners
to agree most with idempotency. The most frequent defect category
is configuration data i.e., providing erroneous configuration data
in IaC scripts. Our taxonomy and the quantified frequency of the
defect categories may help in advancing the science of IaC script
quality.

2019-01-07
2017-10-24
Yu Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Matthew Hale, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Magnus Egerstedt, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Geir Dullerud, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2017.  Differentially Private Objective Functions in Distributed Cloud-based Optimization. 20th World Congress of the International Federations of Automatic Control (IFAC 2017 World Congress).

Abstract—In this work, we study the problem of keeping the objective functions of individual agents "-differentially private in cloud-based distributed optimization, where agents are subject to global constraints and seek to minimize local objective functions. The communication architecture between agents is cloud-based – instead of communicating directly with each other, they oordinate by sharing states through a trusted cloud computer. In this problem, the difficulty is twofold: the objective functions are used repeatedly in every iteration, and the influence of  erturbing them extends to other agents and lasts over time. To solve the problem, we analyze the propagation of perturbations on objective functions over time, and derive an upper bound on them. With the upper bound, we design a noise-adding mechanism that randomizes the cloudbased distributed optimization algorithm to keep the individual objective functions "-differentially private. In addition, we study the trade-off between the privacy of objective functions and the performance of the new cloud-based distributed optimization algorithm with noise. We present simulation results to numerically verify the theoretical results presented.

2017-10-12
Ryan Wagner, Matthew Fredrikson, David Garlan.  2017.  An Advanced Persistent Threat Exemplar.

Security researchers do not have sufficient example systems for conducting research on advanced persistent threats, and companies and agencies that experience attacks in the wild are reluctant to release detailed information that can be examined. In this paper, we describe an Advanced Persistent Threat Exemplar that is intended to provide a real-world attack scenario with sufficient complexity for reasoning about defensive system adaptation, while not containing so much information as to be too complex. It draws from actual published attacks and experiences as a security engineer by the authors.

2017-10-09
Karthik Sheshadari, Nirav Ajmeri, Jessica Staddon.  2017.  No (Privacy) News is Good News: An Analysis of New York Times and Guardian Privacy News from 2010 to 2016. Proceedings of 15th Annual Conference on Privacy, Security and Trust (PST). :1-12.
2017-10-02
Kim, Donghoon, Schaffer, Henry E., Vouk. Mladen A.  2017.  About PaaS Security. Int. J. of Cloud Computing.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides middleware resources to cloud customers. As demand for PaaS services increases, so do concerns about the security of PaaS. This paper discusses principal PaaS security and integrity requirements, and vulnerabilities and the corresponding countermeasures. We consider three core cloud elements—multi-tenancy, isolation, and virtualization and how they relate to PaaS services and security trends and concerns such as user and resource isolation, side-channel vulnerabilities in multi-tenant environments, and protection of sensitive data.

Venkatakrishnan, Roopak, Vouk, Mladen A..  2016.  Using Redundancy to Detect Security Anomalies: Towards IoT security attack detectors. ACM Ubiquity. 2016(January):1-19.

Cyber-attacks and breaches are often detected too late to avoid damage. While "classical" reactive cyber defenses usually work only if we have some prior knowledge about the attack methods and "allowable" patterns, properly constructed redundancy-based anomaly detectors can be more robust and often able to detect even zero day attacks. They are a step toward an oracle that uses knowable behavior of a healthy system to identify abnormalities. In the world of Internet of Things (IoT), security, and anomalous behavior of sensors and other IoT components, will be orders of magnitude more difficult unless we make those elements security aware from the start. In this article we examine the ability of redundancy-based anomaly detectors to recognize some high-risk and difficult to detect attacks on web servers---a likely management interface for many IoT stand-alone elements. In real life, it has taken long, a number of years in some cases, to identify some of the vulnerabilities and related attacks. We discuss practical relevance of the approach in the context of providing high-assurance Web-services that may belong to autonomous IoT applications and devices.

Kim, Donghoon, Ning, Peng, Vouk, Mladen A..  2014.  A survey of common security vulnerabilities and corresponding countermeasures for SaaS. IEEE Globecom Workshop on Cloud Computing Systems, Networks and Applications (CCSNA 2014). :59-63.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is the most prevalent service delivery mode for cloud systems. This paper surveys common security vulnerabilities and corresponding countermeasures for SaaS. It is primarily focused on the work published in the last five years. We observe current SaaS security trends and a lack of sufficiently broad and robust countermeasures in some of the SaaS security area such as Identity and Access management due to the growth of SaaS applications.

Kim, Donghoon, Vouk, Mladen A..  2016.  Assessing Run-time Overhead of Securing Kepler. The International Conference on Computational Science, ICCS 2016. 80:2281-2286.

We have developed a model for securing data-flow based application chains. We have imple- mented the model in the form of an add-on package for the scientific workflow system called Kepler. Our Security Analysis Package (SAP) leverages Kepler's Provenance Recorder (PR). SAP secures data flows from external input-based attacks, from access to unauthorized exter- nal sites, and from data integrity issues. It is not a surprise that cost of real-time security is a certain amount of run-time overhead. About half of the overhead appears to come from the use of the Kepler PR and the other half from security function added by SAP.

Kim, Donghoon, Vouk, Mladen A..  2016.  Securing Software Application Chains in a Cloud. 2nd International Conference on Information Science and Security (ICISS) 2015. :1-4.

This paper presents an approach for securing software application chains in cloud environments. We use the concept of workflow management systems to explain the model. Our prototype is based on the Kepler scientific workflow system enhanced with security analytics package.

2017-09-06
C. Theisen, K. Herzig, B. Murphy, L. Williams.  2017.  Risk-based attack surface approximation: how much data is enough? 2017 IEEE/ACM 39th International Conference on Software Engineering: Software Engineering in Practice Track (ICSE-SEIP). :273-282.

Proactive security reviews and test efforts are a necessary component of the software development lifecycle. Resource limitations often preclude reviewing the entire code base. Making informed decisions on what code to review can improve a team's ability to find and remove vulnerabilities. Risk-based attack surface approximation (RASA) is a technique that uses crash dump stack traces to predict what code may contain exploitable vulnerabilities. The goal of this research is to help software development teams prioritize security efforts by the efficient development of a risk-based attack surface approximation. We explore the use of RASA using Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Windows stack traces from crash dumps. We create RASA at the file level for Firefox, in which the 15.8% of the files that were part of the approximation contained 73.6% of the vulnerabilities seen for the product. We also explore the effect of random sampling of crashes on the approximation, as it may be impractical for organizations to store and process every crash received. We find that 10-fold random sampling of crashes at a rate of 10% resulted in 3% less vulnerabilities identified than using the entire set of stack traces for Mozilla Firefox. Sampling crashes in Windows 8.1 at a rate of 40% resulted in insignificant differences in vulnerability and file coverage as compared to a rate of 100%.

C. Theisen, L. Williams, K. Oliver, E. Murphy-Hill.  2016.  Software Security Education at Scale. 2016 IEEE/ACM 38th International Conference on Software Engineering Companion (ICSE-C). :346-355.

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide a unique opportunity to reach out to students who would not normally be reached by alleviating the need to be physically present in the classroom. However, teaching software security coursework outside of a classroom setting can be challenging. What are the challenges when converting security material from an on-campus course to the MOOC format? The goal of this research is to assist educators in constructing software security coursework by providing a comparison of classroom courses and MOOCs. In this work, we compare demographic information, student motivations, and student results from an on-campus software security course and a MOOC version of the same course. We found that the two populations of students differed, with the MOOC reaching a more diverse set of students than the on-campus course. We found that students in the on-campus course had higher quiz scores, on average, than students in the MOOC. Finally, we document our experience running the courses and what we would do differently to assist future educators constructing similar MOOC's.

Theisen, Christopher.  2016.  Reusing Stack Traces: Automated Attack Surface Approximation. Proceedings of the 38th International Conference on Software Engineering Companion. :859–862.

Security requirements around software systems have become more stringent as society becomes more interconnected via the Internet. New ways of prioritizing security efforts are needed so security professionals can use their time effectively to find security vulnerabilities or prevent them from occurring in the first place. The goal of this work is to help software development teams prioritize security efforts by approximating the attack surface of a software system via stack trace analysis. Automated attack surface approximation is a technique that uses crash dump stack traces to predict what code may contain exploitable vulnerabilities. If a code entity (a binary, file or function) appears on stack traces, then Attack Surface Approximation (ASA) considers that code entity is on the attack surface of the software system. We also explore whether number of appearances of code on stack traces correlates with where security vulnerabilities are found. To date, feasibility studies of ASA have been performed on Windows 8 and 8.1, and Mozilla Firefox. The results from these studies indicate that ASA may be useful for practitioners trying to secure their software systems. We are now working towards establishing the ground truth of what the attack surface of software systems is, along with looking at how ASA could change over time, among other metrics.

Rahman, Akond, Partho, Asif, Meder, David, Williams, Laurie.  2017.  Which Factors Influence Practitioners' Usage of Build Automation Tools? Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Rapid Continuous Software Engineering. :20–26.

Even though build automation tools help to reduce errors and rapid releases of software changes, use of build automation tools is not widespread amongst software practitioners. Software practitioners perceive build automation tools as complex, which can hinder the adoption of these tools. How well founded such perception is, can be determined by systematic exploration of adoption factors that influence usage of build automation tools. The goal of this paper is to aid software practitioners in increasing their usage of build automation tools by identifying the adoption factors that influence usage of these tools. We conducted a survey to empirically identify the adoption factors that influence usage of build automation tools. We obtained survey responses from 268 software professionals who work at NestedApps, Red Hat, as well as contribute to open source software. We observe that adoption factors related to complexity do not have the strongest influence on usage of build automation tools. Instead, we observe compatibility-related adoption factors, such as adjustment with existing tools, and adjustment with practitioner's existing workflow, to have influence on usage of build automation tools with greater importance. Findings from our paper suggest that usage of build automation tools might increase if: build automation tools fit well with practitioners' existing workflow and tool usage; and usage of build automation tools are made more visible among practitioners' peers.

Rahman, Akond, Pradhan, Priysha, Partho, Asif, Williams, Laurie.  2017.  Predicting Android Application Security and Privacy Risk with Static Code Metrics. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Mobile Software Engineering and Systems. :149–153.

Android applications pose security and privacy risks for end-users. These risks are often quantified by performing dynamic analysis and permission analysis of the Android applications after release. Prediction of security and privacy risks associated with Android applications at early stages of application development, e.g. when the developer (s) are writing the code of the application, might help Android application developers in releasing applications to end-users that have less security and privacy risk. The goal of this paper is to aid Android application developers in assessing the security and privacy risk associated with Android applications by using static code metrics as predictors. In our paper, we consider security and privacy risk of Android application as how susceptible the application is to leaking private information of end-users and to releasing vulnerabilities. We investigate how effectively static code metrics that are extracted from the source code of Android applications, can be used to predict security and privacy risk of Android applications. We collected 21 static code metrics of 1,407 Android applications, and use the collected static code metrics to predict security and privacy risk of the applications. As the oracle of security and privacy risk, we used Androrisk, a tool that quantifies the amount of security and privacy risk of an Android application using analysis of Android permissions and dynamic analysis. To accomplish our goal, we used statistical learners such as, radial-based support vector machine (r-SVM). For r-SVM, we observe a precision of 0.83. Findings from our paper suggest that with proper selection of static code metrics, r-SVM can be used effectively to predict security and privacy risk of Android applications.

Jin, Richeng, He, Xiaofan, Dai, Huaiyu.  2017.  On the Tradeoff Between Privacy and Utility in Collaborative Intrusion Detection Systems-A Game Theoretical Approach. Proceedings of the Hot Topics in Science of Security: Symposium and Bootcamp. :45–51.

Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs) are crucial security mechanisms widely deployed for critical network protection. However, conventional IDSs become incompetent due to the rapid growth in network size and the sophistication of large scale attacks. To mitigate this problem, Collaborative IDSs (CIDSs) have been proposed in literature. In CIDSs, a number of IDSs exchange their intrusion alerts and other relevant data so as to achieve better intrusion detection performance. Nevertheless, the required information exchange may result in privacy leakage, especially when these IDSs belong to different self-interested organizations. In order to obtain a quantitative understanding of the fundamental tradeoff between the intrusion detection accuracy and the organizations' privacy, a repeated two-layer single-leader multi-follower game is proposed in this work. Based on our game-theoretic analysis, we are able to derive the expected behaviors of both the attacker and the IDSs and obtain the utility-privacy tradeoff curve. In addition, the existence of Nash equilibrium (NE) is proved and an asynchronous dynamic update algorithm is proposed to compute the optimal collaboration strategies of IDSs. Finally, simulation results are shown to validate the analysis.

2017-09-01
Santhosh Prabhu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ali Kheradmand, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Brighten Godfrey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Matthew Caesar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2017.  Predicting Network Futures with Plankton. 1st Asia-Pacific Workshop on Networking (APNet).

Recent years have seen significant advancement in the field of formal network verification. Tools have been proposed for offline data plane verification, real-time data plane verification and configuration verification under arbitrary, but static sets of failures. However, due to the fundamental limitation of not treating the network as an evolving system, current verification platforms have significant constraints in terms of scope. In real-world networks, correctness policies may be violated only through a particular combination of environment events and protocol actions, possibly in a non-deterministic sequence. Moreover, correctness specifications themselves may often correlate multiple data plane states, particularly when dynamic data plane elements are present. Tools in existence today are not capable of reasoning about all the possible network events, and all the subsequent execution paths that are enabled by those events. We propose Plankton, a verification platform for identifying undesirable evolutions of networks. By combining symbolic modeling of data plane and control plane with explicit state exploration, Plankton
performs a goal-directed search on a finite-state transition system that captures the behavior of the network as well as the various events that can influence it. In this way, Plankton can automatically find policy violations that can occur due to a sequence of network events, starting from the current state. Initial experiments have successfully predicted scenarios like BGP Wedgies.

2017-08-01
Daniel M. Best, Jaspreet Bhatia, Elena Peterson, Travis Breaux.  2017.  Improved cyber threat indicator sharing by scoring privacy risk. 2017 IEEE International Symposium on Technologies for Homeland Security (HST).

Information security can benefit from real-time cyber threat indicator sharing, in which companies and government agencies share their knowledge of emerging cyberattacks to benefit their sector and society at large. As attacks become increasingly sophisticated by exploiting behavioral dimensions of human computer operators, there is an increased risk to systems that store personal information. In addition, risk increases as individuals blur the boundaries between workplace and home computing (e.g., using workplace computers for personal reasons). This paper describes an architecture to leverage individual perceptions of privacy risk to compute privacy risk scores over cyber threat indicator data. Unlike security risk, which is a risk to a particular system, privacy risk concerns an individual's personal information being accessed and exploited. The architecture integrates tools to extract information entities from textual threat reports expressed in the STIX format and privacy risk estimates computed using factorial vignettes to survey individual risk perceptions. The architecture aims to optimize for scalability and adaptability to achieve real-time risk scoring.

2017-07-12
Raman Goyal, Gabriel Ferreira, Christian Kästner, James Herbsleb.  2017.  Identifying Unusual Commits on GitHub. JOURNAL OF SOFTWARE: EVOLUTION AND PROCESS.

Transparent environments and social-coding platforms as GitHub help developers to stay abreast of changes during the development and maintenance phase of a project. Especially, notification feeds can help developers to learn about relevant changes in other projects. Unfortunately, transparent environments can quickly overwhelm developers with too many notifications, such that they loose the important ones in a sea of noise. Complementing existing prioritization and filtering strategies based on binary compatibility and code ownership, we develop an anomaly-detection mechanism to identify unusual commits in a repository, that stand out with respect to other changes in the same repository or by the same developer. Among others, we detect exceptionally large commits, commits at unusual times, and commits touching rarely changed file types given the characteristics of a particular repository or developer. We automatically flag unusual commits on GitHub through a browser plugin. In an interactive survey with 173 active GitHub users, rating commits in a project of their interest, we found that, though our unusual score is only a weak predictor of whether developers want to be notified about a commit, information about unusual characteristics of a commit change how developers regard commits. Our anomaly-detection mechanism is a building block for scaling transparent environments.

Gabriel Ferreira.  2017.  Software certification in practice: how are standards being applied? ICSE-C '17 Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Software Engineering Companion.

Certification schemes exist to regulate software systems and prevent them from being deployed before they are judged fit to use. However, practitioners are often unsatisfied with the efficiency of certification standards and processes. In this study, we analyzed two certification standards, Common Criteria and DO-178C, and collected insights from literature and from interviews with subject-matter experts to identify concepts affecting the efficiency of certification processes. Our results show that evaluation time, reusability of evaluation artifacts, and composition of systems and certified artifacts are barriers to achieve efficient certification.

2017-07-11
Alireza Sadeghi, Naeem Esfahani, Sam Malek.  2017.  Ensuring the Consistency of Adaptation through Inter- and Intra-Component Dependency Analysis. ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM). 26(1)

Dynamic adaptation should not leave a software system in an inconsistent state, as it could lead to failure. Prior research has used inter-component dependency models of a system to determine a safe interval for the adaptation of its components, where the most important tradeoff is between disruption in the operations of the system and reachability of safe intervals. This article presents Savasana, which automatically analyzes a software system’s code to extract both inter- and intra-component dependencies. In this way, Savasana is able to obtain more fine-grained models compared to previous approaches. Savasana then uses the detailed models to find safe adaptation intervals that cannot be determined using techniques from prior research. This allows Savasana to achieve a better tradeoff between disruption and reachability. The article demonstrates how Savasana infers safe adaptation intervals for components of a software system under various use cases and conditions.

Alireza Sadeghi, Hamid Bagheri, Joshua Garcia, Sam Malek.  2017.  A Taxonomy and Qualitative Comparison of Program Analysis Techniques for Security Assessment of Android Software. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. 43(6)

In parallel with the meteoric rise of mobile software, we are witnessing an alarming escalation in the number and sophistication of the security threats targeted at mobile platforms, particularly Android, as the dominant platform. While existing research has made significant progress towards detection and mitigation of Android security, gaps and challenges remain. This paper contributes a comprehensive taxonomy to classify and characterize the state-of-the-art research in this area. We have carefully followed the systematic literature review process, and analyzed the results of more than 300 research papers, resulting in the most comprehensive and elaborate investigation of the literature in this area of research. The systematic analysis of the research literature has revealed patterns, trends, and gaps in the existing literature, and underlined key challenges and opportunities that will shape the focus of future research efforts.

Mahmoud Hammad, Hamid Bagheri, Sam Malek.  2017.  DELDroid: Determination and Enforcement of Least-Privilege Architecture in Android. 2017 IEEE International Conference on Software Architecture.

Modern mobile platforms rely on a permission model to guard the system's resources and apps. In Android, since the permissions are granted at the granularity of apps, and all components belonging to an app inherit those permissions, an app's components are typically over-privileged, i.e., components are granted more privileges than they need to complete their tasks. Systematic violation of least-privilege principle in Android has shown to be the root cause of many security vulnerabilities. To mitigate this issue, we have developed DELDROID, an automated system for determination of least privilege architecture in Android and its enforcement at runtime. A key contribution of our approach is the ability to limit the privileges granted to apps without the need to modify them. DELDROID utilizes static program analysis techniques to extract the exact privileges each component needs for providing its functionality. A Multiple-Domain Matrix representation of the system's architecture is then used to automatically analyze the security posture of the system and derive its least-privilege architecture. Our experiments on hundreds of real world apps corroborate DELDROID's ability in effectively establishing the least-privilege architecture and its benefits in alleviating the security threats.

Joshua Tan, Lujo Bauer, Joseph Bonneau, Lorrie Cranor, Jeremy Thomas, Blase Ur.  2017.  Can Unicorns Help Users Compare Crypto Key Fingerprints? CHI '17 Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Many authentication schemes ask users to manually compare compact representations of cryptographic keys, known as fingerprints. If the fingerprints do not match, that may signal a man-in-the-middle attack. An adversary performing an attack may use a fingerprint that is similar to the target fingerprint, but not an exact match, to try to fool inattentive users. Fingerprint representations should thus be both usable and secure. We tested the usability and security of eight fingerprint representations under different configurations. In a 661-participant between-subjects experiment, participants compared fingerprints under realistic conditions and were subjected to a simulated attack. The best configuration allowed attacks to succeed 6% of the time; the worst 72%. We find the seemingly effective compare-and-select approach performs poorly for key fingerprints and that graphical fingerprint representations, while intuitive and fast, vary in performance. We identify some fingerprint representations as particularly promising.