Security Seal company sued by FTC

Lets start with the proper disclosure; we provide a Web Site Security Seal service which competes with ControlScan’s. That said, I’m not about to bash ControlScan but rather the poor practices of security seal companies giving out seals to whoever pays them without the proper security checks.

Some background: The FTC sued ControlScan for $750,000 for giving out security seals while not really checking the security of the web sites. This lawsuit and its verdict are good news: It means that services that give out seals need to be responsible for their actions; no more “scanless PCI” badges: if you give out a seal (and I’m looking at all you large domain resellers) that needs to stand for something – when customers see a seal that says “secure site” they need to know the site is secure.

Before you take out the pitchforks, sure – there is no way to verify with 100% certainty that the web site is “secure”. But vulnerability scanning is at a stage today where you can run automated scans and make sure the web site is “secure enough” – meaning it does not have any known vulnerabilities, doesn’t suffer from SQL injections or cross site scripting. If there is a zero day vulnerability in apache, I doubt it will be used against an e-commerce site – it is more likely to be used against a bank or the government. Fact is, over 90% of successful attacks use known vulnerabilities that would have been detected by any competent scanner. If the site is properly scanned and no vulnerabilities are found, this is probably as good as it’s ever going to get; and is definitely better than the chances of your credit card being stolen at a brick-and-mortar store.

What will happen with ControlScan is not really important. What’s important is that security seal providers will now have to stand behind their claims – the fact that the FCC went after a case like this, which is normally way below their threshold, probably means that someone is applying pressure on them; hopefully that will help clean up the act of some online scanning vendors.

Note: Complaint, Exhibits and final judgment here.

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