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Execs, Technical Staff Don't See Eye To Eye In Secure Application Development Progress

New Ponemon Group report finds major rifts in how executives, technical staffers feel about their enterprise secure application development programs

If you ask most executives, they'll say their company's secure application development practices are solid. But if you ask the developers and technologists in the trenches, the story is much different.

New data released today by the Ponemon Group and commissioned by application security vendor Security Innovation shows a major disconnect between business leaders and their IT groups when it comes to the success and effectiveness of internal secure coding practices.

"The big surprise is the difference between senior [executives] and the rank-and-file" on whether enterprises are employing true secure application development life cycles, says Larry Ponemon, CEO and founder of The Ponemon Group. "The rank-and-file [view] is a better indicator of reality."

In what Ponemon Group's report calls "a serious and potentially dangerous misalignment," some 75 percent of executives surveyed for the report believe their organizations have "defined, secure architecture standards" in their programming. But only 23 percent of technicians agree or strongly agree with that statement.

The same dichotomy is apparent when it comes to whether enterprises are measuring application developers for compliance with those standards, according to the data.

Training is also in the eyes of the beholder: While 71 percent of execs believe their internal training and education programs are updated and in line with the latest threats, app security policies, and best practices, just 19 percent of the technical staff is on the same page.

"I view the executives as blissfully ignorant [rather than their] having a rosier picture. I'm a security guy, so I'm naturally more skeptical," says Ed Adams, CEO of Security Innovations.

Adams says the education and training issue is especially disconcerting. "They want them to write secure code, yet you've got this disillusionment at the executive level, who owns the budget," he says. "It's needed, it's wanted, but it's not getting delivered because of this perception gap."

According to the report, the perception problem is likely due to "poor communication and collaboration" among the players in application development and security.

Even so, overall, there are some positive developments in enterprise secure app development. Some 42 percent of organizations say their application security requirements are defined. "That's a good sign," Adams says. "That number was dramatically lower in 2008."

And some 43 percent of enterprises say they employ automated scanning tools during development of software and after its release. "That alone is a very positive statement," Adams says.

Other findings from the report: Most enterprises don't identify or measure app security risks, and most are only taking basic steps in application security. The full report is available here for download.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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