Software security is like medicine

People don’t get software security. Between the legends around hackers, the scaremongering by salesmen and the technical level needed to practice it, you won’t even try to understand. It is hard to get a high level view of how it works, and how you can protect yourself. But there’s a nice little metaphore to understand security: it’s like medicine!

Medicine is about taking care of your body, fighting off illness, healing injuries. The body is a big machine that can fail in a lot of ways, depending on a lot of parameters. It is the same for software security: you want to prevent and repair any disruption that could fail at any time. Security, like medicine, is a very technical domain, and takes a lot of time to learn. Even after learning, you still don’t know everything, and you must keep up to date with recent research.

But basic body maintenance is easy. And protecting your software against basic attacks is easy too. You don’t need to study for 11 years to prevent basic SQL injections. Most of the time, the diseases and bugs that will affect you are common, and you don’t need Dr House to prevent them.

Bodies and software are problematic because they both decay through time, and are very sensitive to their environment. Change the environment, and you could catch something new. The world is full of germs and criminals. Is that a good reason to always stay at home? Obviously not. You must accept that you can get sick at any time. So, take steps to protect yourself. Wash your hands and sanitize your inputs. And beware of snake oil.

Feel free to extend on the metaphore in the comments, and use it to explain software security around you!

By the way, if you need someone to auscultate your applications, you can contact me at geoffroycouprie.com

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2 thoughts on “Software security is like medicine

  1. The Hygienic Programmer | The soft nature of software

  2. Despite my career in the technology industry, my parents are fairly new to using a home computer. They don’t seem to understand the importance of software security and their new laptop is already slowing down. I like the analogy to going outside and facing germs. It’s all about protection.

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