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How to build an application security programme?

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

How to build an application security programme?

Cybersecurity isn't a luxury; it's a necessity. With the increasing complexity and frequency of cyber threats, having a robust application security programme is more vital than ever. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) provides valuable resources in this domain, notably the Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM) and the DevSecOps Maturity Model (DSOMM). Let's delve into a practical guide to leveraging these models to fortify your application security posture.

OWASP SAMM is a comprehensive framework designed to fold security practices seamlessly into the software development lifecycle. By offering a balanced structure, SAMM ensures that security isn't just an afterthought, but a foundational aspect of software creation. On the other hand, OWASP DSOMM zeroes in on the integration of security within DevOps, capturing the essence of continuous security amidst the agility of DevOps practices.

To initiate the journey, organizations first need to set a baseline. This involves understanding the current state of software practices using SAMM and, concurrently, gauging the depth of security in DevOps through DSOMM. This assessment will highlight strengths to be bolstered and weaknesses to be addressed.

With a clear snapshot in hand, organizations can then carve out their objectives and strategy. These goals should span both immediate concerns and long-term aspirations, anchored by tangible metrics that reflect security's vitality.

The roadmap to robust application security isn't solely about protocols and processes. Human elements play a pivotal role. Hence, continuous training and awareness become paramount. Developers equipped with knowledge about secure coding practices can be the first line of defense against vulnerabilities. Simultaneously, fostering a culture where security isn't just a checkbox but an ethos can make a world of difference.

While knowledge is power, application is key. It's essential to weave security threads throughout the fabric of the development lifecycle. SAMM acts as a guide here, illuminating touchpoints like threat modeling and secure code guidelines. DSOMM takes the baton in the realm of DevOps, advocating for automated security tests to be integrated into CI/CD pipelines, championing a proactive "shift left" approach.

In the world of cybersecurity, resting on laurels can be costly. Regular measurement and recalibration of security initiatives ensure that organizations are always a step ahead. By harnessing the metrics defined in SAMM and DSOMM, businesses can keep a pulse on their security health, making adjustments as threats evolve.

Collaboration, often underrated, is the linchpin for a successful application security programme. When development, operations, and security teams converge, sharing insights and responsibilities, the collective strength can be formidable. Add to this a feedback loop, where insights from security incidents and reviews are continually absorbed and acted upon, and you have a dynamic system ever-ready for challenges.

Building an Application Security Programme: A Guided Plan using OWASP SAMM & DSOMM

- Purpose: Lay the groundwork for creating a robust application security programme.

- Frameworks of Choice: OWASP's Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM) and DevSecOps Maturity Model (DSOMM).

Stage 1: Assessment:

- Objective: Establish the current state of software and DevOps practices.

- Action Steps:

- Utilize SAMM to evaluate software development and security practices.

- Use DSOMM to assess the security integration depth within DevOps.

Stage 2: Strategy Formation:

- Objective: Design a roadmap based on the assessment findings.

- Action Steps:

- Define clear short-term and long-term security goals.

- Identify key performance metrics.

Stage 3: Capacity Building:

- Objective: Ensure the team possesses the required skills and mindset.

- Action Steps:

- Arrange continuous training sessions on secure coding practices.

- Cultivate a security-first organizational culture.

Stage 4: Security Integration:

- Objective: Seamlessly weave security into the development process.

- Action Steps:

- Integrate SAMM-guided security touchpoints, such as threat modeling, into development.

- Infuse CI/CD pipelines with DSOMM-recommended automated security tests.

Stage 5: Continuous Monitoring:

- Objective: Maintain a dynamic approach by periodically measuring and updating practices.

- Action Steps:

- Monitor performance metrics defined earlier.

- Realign strategies based on the evolving threat landscape.

Stage 6: Collaboration & Feedback Loop:

- Objective: Facilitate knowledge-sharing and iterative improvement.

- Action Steps:

- Encourage teamwork between development, operations, and security units.

- Establish channels for feedback from security incidents and code reviews.

Building a resilient application security programme isn't a one-time task. It's a continuous journey of learning, adapting, and improving. With the guidance of frameworks like OWASP SAMM and DSOMM, organizations can chart a clear path, ensuring their applications stand strong against evolving cyber threats. When security is intertwined with development and operations, it not only mitigates risks but also fosters a culture where security is everyone's responsibility.


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