There have been multiple attacks in recent years, where attackers were able to compromise a software developer's system and then deliver malware inside of software updates. That's a situation that Justin Cappos, founder of The Update Framework (TUF) open-source project, has been working hard to help solve.
Cappos is an assistant professor at New York University (NYU) and started TUF nearly a decade ago. TUF is now implemented by multiple software projects, including the Docker Notary project for secure container application updates and has implementations that are being purpose-built to help secure automotive software as well.
In a video interview with eWEEK, Cappos explains why TUF is important in the modern threat landscape and how it is continuing to evolve.
"TUF helps to make sure that the software your organization has decided it should sign, gets securely to (end-user) parties," Cappos said.
TUF defines a setup whereby software delivery updates are cryptographically signed and secured in a validated way that aims to help minimize the risk of software tampering. There have been multiple incidents in recent years, including one involving cCleaner, where attackers have been able to infiltrate development systems and send malicious updates to users.
TUF became a Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project in October 2017, alongside the Notary project. The CNCF is a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project and is home to multiple technology projects including the Kubernetes container orchestration system. Cappos said that being part of the CNCF has helped to advance the TUF project, in terms of having proper governance and validation. The CNCF also helps to promote TUF and the work that the project is doing.
Cappos strongly believes that having a secure updating mechanism for software should be a requirement for security compliance. He emphasized that having secure updates is about more than just digitally signing updates, but having a mechanism, like TUF, that validates the signatures and the integrity of the software that is being delivered.
Of particular concern for software updates right now to Cappos are Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, notably medical devices and the power grid, which could have a critical impact if malicious updates are able to be delivered to systems.
"If these issues are not fixed in these domains (IoT), people will die," Cappos said.
Watch the full video with Justin Cappos above.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.