Being that the tagline of the Secure360 Conference was Evolving Threats, Practical Solutions I figured a session on How To Build an Effective Application Security Program would be appropriate. Fewer areas of information security have more evolving threats, or are in more need of practical, applied, solutions.I've been writing about application flaws since 2000. And in what will soon be a decade, I'm still surprised to learn that building secure, sustainable software - from the start - is still a novel idea to many companies. While quantitative numbers are sparse, I'm convinced that building applications secure from the start is the most cost effective way to go for most enterprises. It's also the right thing to do. At least, if you care about your customers, and the integrity of your infrastructure.
As I listened to Joey Peloquin, director application security at FishNet Security, give his presentation on building an effective Web application security program, I'm reminded just how much of the task is about awareness and effective organizational communication. It is about these things much more than technology.
Peloquin's first point: find a senior level business executive to be your Web application security evangelist. And, it sounded to me, that you'll need this senior level executive to not only help build awareness, but also provide some political cover when internal egos start getting bruised when your Web application assessments start outing shoddily crafted code. In order to avoid the very sharp arrows that tend to fly when one starts displaying the incompetency of others, Peloquin shared a tip that was given to him from Allan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute: also enlist a number of senior developers as your allies. Have them trained on secure Web application development and also carry the torch for the need for secure development.
Now, the political will and strength is in place for your revolution.
As Peloquin explained from experience: if you don't have executive level sponsorship, and work with -- not against -- the development team: your secure Web application initiative lost the race before the starting gun was fired.
Next up is the technology and the processes. This comes down to training software developers on how to write securely, model application risk and mitigate wherever possible and also makes business sense. Also, build applications with security as part of the quality control process, with periodic security assessments and code reviews whether they be static, dynamic, or manual.
A great place to start with these details can be found in the Application Security How-To articles found here.
My advice, though, is to listen to Peloquin and find some executive level cover, and get as many on your development team vested in the effort before pushing Web application vulnerability scan results across the conference table.
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