Feeds

Too much code, too few application security specialists

Time to loosen up

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Next page: Waterfall dries up

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.