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2/5/2010
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'Rugged' Initiative Brings Secure Software Development To The Masses

Rugged Software Development initiative an 'on-ramp' for all types of programmers to write resilient code

Security experts today officially launched a new effort to ensure software is written from the ground up with security in mind -- a philosophy and message they're aiming at people outside of the security industry.

The Rugged Software Development initiative is basically a foundation for creating resilient software that can stand up to attackers while performing its business or other functions, according to Joshua Corman, research director for the enterprise security practice at The 451 Group, who unveiled the program today at the SANS Application Security Summit in San Francisco.

Corman, along with Jeff Williams, chair of OWASP and CEO of Aspect Security, and David Rice, director of The Monterey Group and author of Geekonomics, came up with the idea for the initiative. It's more of "a value system" for writing secure software, versus a compliance program, according to its founders, who hope to incorporate the tenets of rugged code development into computer science programs at universities.

This isn't the first industry effort to push developers to bake security into their code: There's Homeland Security's Build Security In guidelines; Microsoft's Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) framework and tools; Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM), where financial services firms are comparing notes and sharing their secure coding strategies and experiences; and OpenSAMM (Software Assurance Maturity Model), an open-source model aimed at becoming an industry standard for secure software development.

Rugged doesn't include any new frameworks for secure coding, however, and instead will serve as an "on-ramp" for secure software development, Corman says. Rugged is different because it's aimed at people outside of the security realm: "Most efforts have been isolated to people who care about security and preaching to the choir," he says. "[Rugged] is specifically targeted at people out of the security context."

Getting the secure software development message to the masses won't be easy, and the plan is to get some initial support and momentum from the application security industry.

"We're not trying to replace or undo [other secure coding efforts]," Corman says. "Our goal is to drive more people to it that otherwise would not have known how to become involved."

Chris Wysopal, CTO of Veracode, says developers must be part of the solution to security problems. "Unfortunately, most developers don't know what it means to write secure code, and worse they think they already write secure code if they write high quality code. Software security practitioners have struggled to get past this mindset," Wysopal says. "Rugged code is a way of breaking through and instilling a mindset that secure code should be a pride-of-ownership issue just as much as elegant, high performing, and high quality code is."

Corman, who says he's looking to set up an advisory board for Rugged, envisions everything from having programmers voluntarily pledge to be Rugged software developers to developing an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label for measuring software for its "ruggedness."

The project is currently soliciting people to help define the "principles and technologies that will help others become Rugged, too. Our first project is to define how people and organizations can know if they are Rugged," the Rugged initiative Website says.

Meanwhile, the project even comes with its own manifesto, which reads, in part:

"I recognize that software has become a foundation of our modern world. I recognize the awesome responsibility that comes with this foundational role. I recognize that my code will be used in ways I cannot anticipate, in ways it was not designed, and for longer than it was ever intended. I recognize that my code will be attacked by talented and persistent adversaries who threaten our physical, economic, and national security. I recognize these things -- and I choose to be rugged. I am rugged because I refuse to be a source of vulnerability or weakness. I am rugged because I assure my code will support its mission. "

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" 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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