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Using argumentation to evaluate software assurance standards

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Publication details

JournalInformation and Software Technology
DatePublished - Sep 2013
Issue number9
Volume55
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)1551-1562
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

AbstractContext Many people and organisations rely upon software safety and security standards to provide confidence in software intensive systems. For example, people rely upon the Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation to establish justified and sufficient confidence that an evaluated information technology product’s contributions to security threats and threat management are acceptable. Is this standard suitable for this purpose? Objective We propose a method for assessing whether conformance with a software safety or security standard is sufficient to support a conclusion such as adequate safety or security. We hypothesise that our method is feasible and capable of revealing interesting issues with the proposed use of the assessed standard. Method The software safety and security standards with which we are concerned require evidence and discuss the objectives of that evidence. Our method is to capture a standard’s evidence and objectives as an argument supporting the desired conclusion and to subject this argument to logical criticism. We have evaluated our method by case study application to the Common Criteria standard. Results We were able to capture and criticise an argument from the Common Criteria standard. Review revealed 121 issues with the analysed use of the standard. These range from vagueness in its text to failure to require evidence that would substantially increase confidence in the security of evaluated software. Conclusion Our method was feasible and revealed interesting issues with using a Common Criteria evaluation to support a conclusion of adequate software security. Considering the structure of similar assurance standards, we see no reason to believe that our method will not prove similarly valuable in other applications.

    Research areas

  • Assessing standards, Common Criteria, Assurance arguments, Safety standards, Security standards

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