State Government Rolls Out a Scalable Application Security Program in One Year

“In the first eight months, we had 18,000 flaws fixed. It was just phenomenal.”

State of Missouri scales AppSec program to 365 applications and 14 agencies.

The Challenge

Preventing Data Breaches and Ensuring Compliance

With mounting concerns about data breaches affecting millions of taxpayers and following a series of measures in the state’s legislature, the State of Missouri CTO declared cybersecurity the number one priority, ahead of legacy system modernization and data warehousing. Application security testing became a significant focus of the cybersecurity initiative, alongside security training for developers and end users, and implementation of data loss prevention tools.

Although the state had an existing tools-based approach to application security testing, only one of 14 state agencies with IT departments administered through the Office of Administration Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) was thoroughly using the scanning software: Nikki Veit, Director of Application Development for the State of Missouri.

When Nikki started in 2011, the existing application security solution was used only sporadically, and it was running on a Windows XP workstation that needed to be upgraded. As Nikki waited for an upgrade, she scanned one application using static analysis. After four hours of scouring 1,200 vulnerabilities, she discovered that every single one proved to be a false positive. “At this rate there was no way we could make developers use this.” Nikki said. “It would just be a waste of time. We needed a better way.” Nikki got the approval to find a better application security solution.

The Solution

Veracode Application Security Solution and Services

Nikki’s team evaluated application security testing solutions, ultimately selecting Veracode for its comprehensive offerings and services-based approach.

“We looked at the Gartner Magic Quadrant and identified other tools that would fit our environment,” Nikki said. After a proof of concept with Veracode, “we were scanning that same day or the next day,” Nikki said. “It was really easy.”

With an initial goal to implement a program for 100 applications in the first six months, Nikki began onboarding development teams across the 14 consolidated agencies, starting with a single application for each team. The teams made progress much faster than Nikki expected, and the program had expanded to assessing 150 applications, fixing 18,000 flaws in eight months and 28,000 flaws in the first year alone.

Getting Started

In partnership with the state’s cybersecurity team, Nikki established a group to determine a security policy. The AppDev security oversight team is responsible for setting standards and security policies and driving AppDev security initiatives. A Veracode Customer Success Manager helped the AppDev security team implement a centralized, policy-based program with consistent policies, metrics, and reporting.

“When we first started scanning, there were a lot of noncompliant applications,” Nikki said. “But [Veracode] was really easy to use, and developers were able to go in and scan early and often. In the first eight months, we had 18,000 flaws fixed. It was just phenomenal.”

In the first year, the teams used Veracode’s recommended policies based on business criticality of applications. Using Veracode’s comprehensive reporting, the AppDev security oversight team provides regular reports to upper management. “This lets us know where to praise and where to invest more time,” Nikki said.

Expanding the Program

Within a year, the AppDev security oversight team determined that the development teams were doing well, with many applications becoming compliant, but they could do even better. Nikki wanted to require higher scores to be compliant. To transition the teams to higher scores, development teams were invited to participate, but within a year the stricter policy would become a requirement. With comprehensive policy compliance reporting, Nikki’s team can quickly review reports to see where the flaws are and review how to mitigate those flaws in AppDev meetings.

In the second year of the program, the AppDev security oversight team decided to expand the program to non-consolidated agencies, and two more agencies have since joined the program. “The solution makes it simple to add other teams to our account,” Nikki said.

Nikki continues to look for ways to improve the security posture and automate application security. Some of the development teams have taken the initiative to create scripts that automatically upload binaries to Veracode whenever they do a build. Beginning in 2017, the AppDev teams plan to start integrating automated scan processes with Team Foundation Server. “Veracode APIs make it easy for our AppDev groups to take the tool and run with it,” Nikki said.

The AppDev security oversight team has begun integrating security requirements as part of the RFP (Request for Proposal) and PAQ (Project Assessment Quote) processes. New software products must be compliant with internal policies. “Now we have a way to ensure code that we purchase meets our same internal standards,” Nikki said.


AppSec That Works for Developers and Security

Veracode’s ease of use helps ensure that developers buy into the program, and Veracode APIs for decentralized scanning puts a lot of control into the developer’s hands. Once a developer has access, they can use Veracode right within their developer environment and scan as often as they want. “The plugins that work with the IDEs make scanning and reviewing even easier,” Nikki said.

Some developers are using Veracode Developer Sandbox for scanning preproduction applications against the policy to get feedback without setting off reporting or alerts. Some developers like to use it when they’re not ready to publish yet,” Nikki said.

To provide training and support for developers, each agency has a security lead to ensure their teams are following security best practices. These security leaders received specialized security training in the first year of implementing the program. Each year, additional team members receive the specialized training. In 2016, all developers received general security training that covered the OWASP Top 10.

The AppDev teams can also lean on Veracode expertise to answer their toughest questions and review the results of their scans on consultation calls with Veracode experts. Although at first some developers can be a little intimidated about showcasing the flaws in their code, they quickly begin to embrace the idea of openness with their code. “I see [consultation calls] as a great opportunity for our team to increase their knowledge in security, which has been awesome,” Nikki said.

“When I talk to people about Veracode, I talk about the ease of use and the rollout. As compared to on premises options, the startup time is in minutes. And it’s easy to use by the developers because it makes it easy to fix the flaws. It’s been a huge success.”

Nikki Veit
Director of Application Development, State of Missouri

About State of Missouri

Amid rising data breaches in recent years at governments from the local, state, and federal level, the CTO of the State of Missouri declared a cybersecurity program as
the state’s top IT priority, including application security testing. With Veracode’s cloud-based service and policy-based approach, the state launched a comprehensive application security program, fixing over 28,000 flaws in the first year alone, and scaling to 360+ applications within three years.

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