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Breaking News: SOA, Web services security hinge on XML gateways!

Bloody Hell!

The article below is dated today, but perhaps this was just the TechTarget AutoBlogCronPoster gone awry from 2004? 

Besides the fact that this revelation garners another vote for the RationalSecurity "Captain Obvious" (see right) award, the simple fact that XML gateways as a stand-alone market are being highlighted here is laughable — especially since the article clearly shows the XML Security Gateways are being consolidated and bundled with application delivery controllers and WAF solutions by vendors such as IBM and Cisco.

XML is, and will be everywhere.  SOA/Web Services is only one element in a greater ecosystem impacted by XML.

Of course the functionality provided by XML security gateways are critical to the secure deployment of SOA environments; they should be considered table stakes, just like secure coding…but of course we know how consistently-applied compensating controls are painted onto network and application architectures. 

The dirty little secret is that while they are very useful and ultimately an excellent tool in the arsenal, these solutions are disruptive, difficult to configure and maintain, performance pigs and add complexity to an already complex model.  In many cases, asking a security team to manage this sort of problem introduces more operational risk than it mitigates. 

Can you imagine security, network and developers actually having to talk to one another?!  *gasp*

Here is the link to the entire story.  I’ve snipped pieces out for relevant mockery.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Enterprises are moving forward with service
oriented architecture (SOA) projects to reduce complexity and increase
flexibility between systems and applications, but some security pros
fear they’re being left behind and must scramble to learn new ways to
protect those systems from Web-based attacks.


"Most network firewalls aren’t designed to handle the latest
Web services standards, resulting in new avenues of attack for digital
miscreants, said Tim Bond, a senior security engineer at webMethods
Inc. In his presentation at the Infosec World Conference and Expo, Bond
said a growing number of vendors are selling XML security gateways,
appliances that can be plugged into a network and act as an
intermediary, decrypting and encrypting Web services data to determine
the authenticity and lock out attackers.

"It’s not just passing a message through, it’s actually taking
action," Bond said. "It needs to be customized for each deployment, but
it can be very effective in protecting from many attacks."

Bond said that most SOA layouts further expose applications by
placing them just behind an outer layer of defense, rather than placing
them within the inner walls of a company’s security defenses along with
other critical applications and systems. Those applications are
vulnerable, because they’re being exposed to partners, customer
relationship management and supply chain management systems. Attackers
can scan Web services description language (WSDL) — the XML language
used in Web service calls — to find out where vulnerabilities lie,
Bond said.


A whole market has grown around protecting WSDL, Bond said.
Canada-based Layer 7 Technologies Inc. and UK-based Vordel are
producing gateway appliances to protect XML and SOAP language in Web
service calls. Reactivity, which was recently acquired by Cisco Systems
Inc. and DataPower, now a division of IBM, also address Web services

Transaction values will be much higher and traditional SSL,
security communications protocol for point-to-point communications,
won’t be enough to protect transactions, Bond said.


In addition to SQL-injection attacks, XML is potentially
vulnerable to schema poisoning — a method of attack in which the XML
schema can be manipulated to alter processing information. A
sophisticated attacker can also conduct an XML routing detour,
redirecting sensitive data within the XML path, Bond said.

Security becomes complicated with distributed systems in an
SOA environment, said Dindo Roberts, an application security manager at
New York City-based MetLife Inc. Web services with active interfaces
allow the usage of applications that were previously restricted to
using conventional custom authentication. Security pros need new
methods, such as an XML security gateway to protect those applications,
Roberts said.


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