Developing an Application Security Program

Since my last post, I’ve left my position with the consultancy. I’m now working for a medium-sized corporation in a senior application security role. One of my many tasks is to contribute to the development of an Application Security program. This post will serve as my thoughts on setting up an AppSec Program.

Measuring current performance

The Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) is a study of existing software security initiatives used by 95 companies of varying size across six verticals. In my organization, there is a lack of movement without consensus. This endeavour has taught me that the BSIMM’s major value has been the influence it weilds by virtue of including this swathe of companies.

The BSIMM is the measuring stick I’ve pitched to management as the tool we should use to evaluate where our AppSec program stands. Once we’ve discussed where the program stands, we will employ a more prescriptive framework to help us enable change.

To get started, I duplicated the BSIMM scorecard. You can find a copy of this here for use in your organization:

BSIMM Scorecard

With this, I sat down with the security stakeholders and we had a round-table discussion going over each activity. For each activity, we weighed in:

  • Is this an activity that we currently perform in our organization?
  • Is there a repeatable process surrounding it?
  • Is this process well documented?

This session was immediately valuable, because, for the first time, the security team understood what activities we were and weren’t performing. This information was captured and will be used to decide how to move the AppSec program forward.

Moving the AppSec program forward

While the BSIMM serves as a good measuring stick, it doesn’t provide much guidance for implementing the activities we may not currently perform or that we underperform. My efforts are currently focused on determining a good framework to help us move forward. I’m currently evaluating Microsoft’s SDL and OWASP’s SAMM.

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