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July 23, 2014

Four Steps to Successfully Implementing Security into a Continuous Development Shop

So you live in a continuous deployment shop and you have been told to inject security into the process. Are you afraid? Don’t be. When the world moved from waterfall to agile, did everything go smoothly? Of course not – you experienced setbacks and hiccups, just like everyone else. But, eventually you worked through the setbacks and lived to tell the tale. As with any new initiative, it will take time to mature. Take baby steps.

Step one: crawl.

Baseline the security of your application by using multiple testing methods. Static, dynamic and manual analysis will let you know exactly where you stand today. Understand that you may be overwhelmed with your results. You can’t fix it all at once, so don’t panic. At least you know what you have to work with. Integration with your SDLC tools is going to be your best friend. It will allow you to measure your progress over time and spot problematic trends early.

Step two: stand.

Come up with a plan based on your baseline. What has to be fixed now? What won’t we fix? You didn’t get here in a day and you won’t be able to fix it in a day. Work with your security team to build your backlog. Prioritize, deprioritize, decompose, repeat. Now would be a great time to introduce a little education into the organization. Take a look at your flaw prevalence and priorities and train your developers. If you teach them secure coding practices they will write more secure code the first time.

Step three: walk.

Stop digging and put the shovels down. We know that we have problems to fix from the old code (security debt). Let’s make sure we don’t add to the pile. Now is the time to institute a security gate. No new code can be merged until it passes your security policy. We’re not talking about the entire application, just the new stuff. Don’t let insecure code come into the system. By finding and addressing the problems before check-ins, you won’t slow your downstream process. This is a

good time to make sure your security auditing systems integrate with your software development lifecycle systems (JIRA, Jenkins, etc.). Integrating with these systems will make the processes more seamless.

Step four: run!

Now you have a backlog of prioritized work for your team to fix and you’re not allowing the problem to get worse. You’re constantly measuring your security posture and showing continuous improvement. As you pay down your security debt you will have more time for feature development and a team with great secure coding habits. Integrating a new standard into a system that is already working can be intimidating. But following these four steps will make the task more manageable. Also, once security is integrated, it will become a normal part of the continuous development lifecycle and your software will be better for it.

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As Director of Developer Engagement, Pete provides customers with practical advice on how to successfully roll out developer-centric application security programs. Relying on more than 10 years of direct AppSec experience as both a developer and development leader, Pete provides information on best practices amassed from working with Veracode’s 1,000+ customers.

Pete joined Veracode in 2006 as a platform developer and was instrumental in delivering the first version of Veracode’s service to customers. Later, as Director of Platform Engineering, Pete managed the Agile teams responsible for delivering Veracode’s SaaS platform and built the first DevOps team.  Pete also spearheaded Veracode’s initiative to automate the use of Veracode products into the company’s development processes. Using this experience, he has spoken with hundreds of Veracode customers to help them set up similar programs.

Pete has more than 25 years’ experience developing software and has been developing web applications since 1996, including one of the first applications to be delivered through a web interface. 

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