|By Jon Box||
|October 7, 2003 11:16 AM EDT||
In recent times, and with good reason - as attacks by worms such as Code Red, Nimbda, and Slammer have shown - security has been pushed to the forefront of the minds of architects and developers. And just as Microsoft has rededicated itself to security through its Trustworthy Computing Initiative, your organization should be sure to design and implement its applications using secure coding practices and principles. Even though .NET Compact Framework applications may at first appear immune to such attacks, their connection to back-end systems and their portability introduce a variety of security risks that must be mitigated.
In this column we'll review what you'll need to consider to implement security at the device, application, and communication layers.
Secure the Device
The first layer of security to consider is that provided by the device itself. In addition to relying on mechanisms provided by the device manufacturer or platform (such as the Pocket PC running on Windows CE), your organization can augment the OS software with third-party solutions. Generally, the types of security that can be used to protect the device fall into the categories of authentication, antivirus protection, and lockdown.
Although this form of authentication can be quite effective, it is based on knowledge of a password that can perhaps be obtained through illegitimate means. To implement authentication based on possession of a physical item like a smart card or a cryptographic certificate located on a removable storage card, or based on user identity through biometric (e.g., fingerprint) or signature identification, third-party products are required. Vendors such as A2000 Distribution, Certicom Corporation, and Cloakware Corporation provide a variety of such solutions.
Secure the Application
The second layer to which security should be applied is the application itself. Typically, such security includes the concepts of authentication, data protection, and user input.
In each of these cases your application must manage the credentials. In the case where multiple sets of credentials are required (for example, for a proxy and Web server in addition to SQL Server) it is a good practice to store the credentials in an encrypted database or file on the device or even on a storage card that is required to be inserted before the application can run.
Secure the Channel
The final aspect to securing an application involves securing the transmission of data across the network. This aspect can involve a wide range of issues, including the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).
On the server side, the IIS server must have a digital certificate installed for the virtual directory in which the resource (the HTML page, for example) resides. The certificate may be either one obtained from a trusted certificate authority such as VeriSign or one generated internally within the organization using Microsoft Certificate Server. In the latter case the root certificate for your organization must also be installed on the device.
Although an initiative called WEP2 was developed to address the issues with WEP, many in the industry felt it too was vulnerable to attack. However, the 802.11i standard, currently in draft form, addresses many of these security issues. While the new specification is being ratified, wireless vendors have agreed on an interim solution called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). WPA support is currently being rolled out in products such as Funk Software's Odyssey Client and Meetinghouse Data Communications' AEGIS Client. In the interim other organizations using server and client software primarily from Funk and Meetinghouse have gone forward and implemented the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) over the competing Tunneled Transport Layer Security (TTLS) protocol developed by Funk and Certicom and the Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) developed by Microsoft and Cisco Systems to allow secure access to WLANs on their corporate campuses. In addition, third parties such as MobileSys, Inc., and Altarus Corporation offer wireless encryption technology.
Security Is Key
We hope this column has given you a framework for thinking about how to secure your .NET Compact Framework applications.
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