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Software Dependency Failures: jQuery, a Canary in the Coal Mine

Keeping dependencies up-to-date is challenging for any software development project and even more so from a systems administration point of view. Too often you see packaged web projects, which have been put together and then forgotten. They contain dependencies to third party libraries, which never get updated even if the application itself is maintained – at least to some extent. In my daily work I research the impact of vulnerabilities on the scale of the Internet. Most of the time, vulnerabilities in protocols, services and platforms keep me and other security professionals busy, whereas the upper layers and especially the web layer is often something of an afterthought. To find out whether there is a pink elephant in the room, I wanted to analyze a web application library which is ubiquitous and has had issues with vulnerabilities which are more or less persistent – which lead me to jQuery. My hypothesis was that software dependencies cause hidden vulnerabilities in applications considered secure, even if they are otherwise developed or maintained as they should.

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