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Microsoft to Share Its Secure Development Blueprint, Threat Modeling Tool

Customers, third-party developers can use Microsoft's model for writing more secure software - for free

Microsoft today said today it will open up its internal Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) framework to its third-party application developers and customers in the spirit of helping promote more secure software.

The software giant in November will make available via a free download the SDL Optimization Model and a new SDL Threat Modeling Tool, as well as launch the SDL Pro Network program.

“We feel that to achieve the promise of end-to-end trust and trustworthy computing, it’s very important that software be more secure, whether from Microsoft or someone else,” says Steve Lipner, senior director of security engineering strategy in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group. “We think of this as more of continuation of our commitment to collaborate with customers about secure development.”

Lipner says Microsoft will continue to promote secure software development in the industry. “Expect us to continue to do more of this,” he says.

This is yet another move by Microsoft to share with others in security efforts: Last month it announced that it would share vulnerability finds with Windows third-party application developers and help them fix security flaws in their software. (See New Microsoft Program Helps Fix Third-Party Vulnerabilities .) It also revamped its Patch Tuesday warning process to provide security software providers "advance information" about the vulnerabilities addressed by Microsoft security updates. (See Microsoft Revamps Patch Tuesday Warning Process.)

Microsoft's new SDL Optimization Model is a blueprint for developers within enterprises or third-party application firms to use for ensuring they build applications that are secure. It lets these organizations assess the state of their secure software development practices and build a roadmap for reducing security risks in their code.

“It’s for staying ahead of external vulnerability disclosure, by optimizing your processes so you’re ahead of the cure,” Lipner says. “It’s sort of like a checklist that says what are you doing and how do you measure up in your security practices.”

Microsoft’s SDL Pro Network, meanwhile, is a program that combines SDL best practices with security service providers acting as “live” expertise. The program begins a one-year pilot in November, with nine member organizations including Cigital, IOActive, NGS Software, n.runs AG, and Verizon Business.

“This includes service providers, consulting and training organizations that can help a development organization build more secure software by applying the SDL,” Lipner says.

The new SDL Threat Modeling Tool, which has been deployed internally at Microsoft, provides structured analysis of code, tracking and fixing potential security holes. It’s designed for any software developer to use, regardless of his or her security knowledge. It includes data flow diagrams, bug-tracking, and recommendations for "fuzzing" type vulnerability tests.

“A lot of the process of threat modeling has been either asset- or attacker-centric,” says Adam Shostack, senior program manager at Microsoft. “This [tool] allows us to start from the point of view of the software engineer... and to pull them through the process that doesn’t require them to think like an attacker or delve into anything they don’t know.”

“To date, there have not been any software-developer oriented design tools” like this, Shostack says. “We think this is a pretty exciting new space opening up.”

And SDLC isn’t just for Microsoft platforms, Lipner says. “We believe the principles of SDL apply to” non-Microsoft platforms, he says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
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