Security Team 2.0

I’m currently catching up on a lot of papers and presentation from the Usenix Security Symposium in order to finish the blog post series I started last week (summarizing WOOT and LEET). One presentation, which unfortunately is  not available online [edit: see also update, videos are available now], included several particularly relevant messages that I want to share in this dedicated post. Chris Evans, the head of the Google Chrome security team (herein short: GCST), described some new approaches they employed for their security team operations, some lessons learned, and how others can benefit from it as well (actually the potential of these messages to make the world a safer place was my motivation to write this post, even though I got teased for supposedly being a Google fanboy 😉 ):

Fix it yourself

The efficient security work carried out by the GCST could not be achieved if not all members of the team would also have a background as software developer/engineer/architect or in operations. This changes the character of the GCST work from “consulting” to “engineering” and enables the team to commit actual code changes instead of just consulting the developers on how to fix open issues (refer also to the next item). For the consultant work I do (and for assessment anyways 😉 ), I also follow this approach: When facing a certain problem set, have a look at the technological basics. Reading {code|ACLs|the stack|packets} helps in most cases to get a better understanding of the big picture as well.

Remove the middle man

The Google security work is carried out in a very straight way: All interaction is performed directly in a (publicly accessible, see later items) bug tracking system. This reduces management overhead and ensures direct interaction with the community as well. The associated process is very streamlined: Each reported bug is assigned to a member of the GCST which is then responsible for fixing it ASAP.

Be transparent

The bug tracking system is used for externally reported bugs as well as for internally discovered ones. This ensures a high level of transparency of Google’s security work and increases the level of trust users put into Chrome (transparency is also an important factor in the trust model we use). In addition, the practice of keeping found vulnerabilities secret and patching silently should be outdated anyways…

Go the extra mile

The subtext of this item basically was “live your marketing statements”. As ERNW is a highly spirit-driven environment, we can fully emphasize this point. Without our spirit (a big thx to the whole team at this point!), the “extra mile” (or push-up, pound, exploit, poc, …) would not be possible. Yet, this spirit must be supported and lived by the whole company: starting at the management level that supports and approves this spirit, down to every single employee who loves her/his profession (and can truly believe in making the world a safe place). As for Google, Chris described a rather impressive war story on how they combined some very sophisticated details of a PoC youtube video of a Chrome exploit without further details in order to find the relevant bug. (Nice quote in that context: “Release the Tavis” 😉 )

Celebrate the community

… and don’t sue them 😉 I don’t think there’s much to say on this item as you apparently are a reader of this blog. However, you have now an official resource when it comes to discussions whether you can disclose certain details about a security topic.
I think the messages listed above are worth to be incorporated in daily security management and operations and there is even some proof that they apparently worked for Google and hence may also improve your work.

Have a good one,


Quick Update: All videos, including this talk, are now available.