Feeds

Too much code, too few application security specialists

Time to loosen up

High performance access to file storage

Agile dominates software development. According to Scott Ambler, a prolific author of books on the subject in addition to being IBM's agile development practice lead, 69 per cent of organizations already use agile in one or more projects. Twenty four per cent of the rest are planning to start in the next year.

Unlike traditional waterfall projects, which progress through a series of horizontal layers until complete, agile projects work in vertical "sprints" to completely implement a small slice of functionality before moving on to the next one.

Agile's lack of formal requirements, architecture, and paperwork makes most in the security field shudder. Is it possible to build something secure without the traditional traceability the security folks like?

The waterfall model is burned deep into the security mindset. In the venerable Orange Book, assurance comes by way of formal models, traceability across lifecycle stages, test plans and test results. The agile brigade considers this top-down approach an "anti-pattern" - they even have a derogatory name for it: Big Design Up Front.

The agilistas might be on to something. From a security point of view, there are certainly problems with the big-design-up-front approach.

First, so many security problems are at the implementation level that getting a big design up front complete enough is exceedingly difficult. Further, projects frequently lose the traceability between requirements, design, implementation and testing, so there is a lot of wasted effort.

Perhaps the biggest issue when you go breadth-first, though, is all security issues tend to be treated the same - regardless of their criticality. This results in spending too much time validating, analyzing and testing things that are not likely to make a difference. While it's not impossible to prioritize this way, the waterfall model doesn't encourage it.

Re-arrange your evidence

Forcing traditional security activities onto an agile process just doesn't work - the security folks will think the agile team is out of control, and the developers will detest the security team for slowing them down. But if agile is so successful at producing software predictably, surely there must be a way to make it produce assurance as well.

If you're a security person, try this thought experiment - picture all the security evidence produced by your entire waterfall software development process. Now slice up that evidence and organize it into arguments demonstrating how you've addressed your most critical business risks. What if we can tune the agile process to produce these narrow arguments? You could still end up with all the same evidence, and it might even make more sense to organize it this way.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Waterfall dries up

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.