Home > Articles > Security > General Security and Privacy

Software [In]security: A Software Security Framework: Working Towards a Realistic Maturity Model

  • Print
  • + Share This
Gary McGraw and Brian Chess introduce a software security framework (SSF) to help understand and plan a software security initiative, the framework of which is being used to build an associated maturity model.
Like this article? We recommend

By understanding and measuring ten real software security inititiatives, we are building a maturity model for software security using a software security framework developed after a decade of commercial experience.

Software security is coming into its own as a discipline. There are now at least twenty large scale software security initiatives underway that we are either aware of or directly involved in. Though particular methodologies differ (think OWASP CLASP, Microsoft SDL, or the Cigital Touchpoints), many initiatives share common ground. In this article we introduce a software security framework (SSF) to help understand and plan a software security initiative. This framework is being used to build an associated maturity model.

A Software Security Framework

These days many developers and development managers have some basic understanding of why software security is important. In 1999 when John Viega and McGraw started writing Building Secure Software as a series of articles for developerworks, there was very little published software security work. The idea of software security, though compelling, was a new one in the commercial software world. After a decade of hard work, we are pleased with the progress the field has made. Business numbers from the field provide objective evidence of the tremendous growth software security is experiencing.

By 2006, a critical point was realized in software security with the publication of two books describing what kinds of activities an organization should carry out in order to build secure software (Software Security and The Security Development Lifecycle). Today, over 20 large-scale software security initiatives are underway in organizations as diverse as multi-national banks, independent software vendors, the U.S. Air Force, and embedded systems manufacturers.

Over the years we have come to know that getting security right requires more than just the technical chops necessary to do things like create a better sorting algorithm. Security encompasses business, social, and organization aspects as well.

Our aim with the software security framework is to capture an overall high-level understanding that encompasses all of the leading software security initiatives. Note that individually these initiatives follow different methodologies (including the top three mentioned above or a homegrown approach). Regardless of methodology, we have identified a number of common domains and practices shared by most software security initiatives. Our SSF provides a common vocabulary for describing the most important elements of a software security initiative, thereby allowing us to compare initiatives that apply different methodologies, operate at different scales, or create different work products.

Software security is the result of many activities. People, process, and automation are all required. The SSF allows us to discuss them all without becoming mired in details. To that end, we believe a simple approach that gets to the heart of the matter trumps an exhaustive approach with a Byzantine result.

The table below shows the SSF. There are twelve practices organized into four domains. The domains are:

  • Governance: Those practices that help organize, manage, and measure a software security initiative. Staff development is also a central governance practice.
  • Intelligence: Practices that result in collections of corporate knowledge used in carrying out software security activities throughout the organization. Collections include both proactive security guidance and organizational threat modeling.
  • SDL Touchpoints: Practices associated with analysis and assurance of particular software development artifacts and processes. All software security methodologies include these practices.
  • Deployment: Practices that interface with traditional network security and software maintenance organizations. Software configuration, maintenance, and other environment issues have direct impact on software security.

Governance

Intelligence

SDL Touchpoints

Deployment

Strategy and Metrics

Attack Models

Architecture Analysis

Penetration Testing

Compliance and Policy

Security Features and Design

Code Review

Software Environment

Training

Standards and Requirements

Security Testing

Configuration Management and Vulnerability Management

There are three practices under each domain. We are currently in the process of fleshing out a maturity model for each practice. To provide some idea of what a practice entails, we include a one or two sentence explanation of each.

In the governance domain, the strategy and metrics practice encompasses planning, assigning roles and responsibilities, identifying software security goals, determining budgets, and identifying metrics and gates. The compliance and policy practice is focused on identifying controls for compliance regimens such as PCI and HIPAA, developing contractual controls such as Service Level Agreements to help control COTS software risk, setting organizational software security policy, and auditing against that policy. Training has always played a critical role in software security because software developers and architects often start with very little security knowledge.

The intelligence domain is meant to create organization-wide resources. Those resources are divided into three practices. Attack models capture information used to think like an attacker: threat modeling, abuse case development and refinement, data classification, and technology-specific attack patterns. The security features and design practice is charged with creating usable security patterns for major security controls (meeting the standards defined in the next practice), building middleware frameworks for those controls, and creating and publishing other proactive security guidance. The standards and requirements practice involves eliciting explicit security requirements from the organization, determining which COTS to recommend, building standards for major security controls (such as authentication, input validation, and so on), creating security standards for technologies in use, and creating a standards review board.

The SDL Touchpoints domain is probably the most familiar of the four. This domain includes essential software security best practices that are integrated into the SDLC. The two most important software security practices are architecture analysis and code review. Architecture analysis encompasses capturing software architecture in concise diagrams, applying lists of risks and threats, adopting a process for review (such as STRIDE or Architectural Risk Analysis), and building an assessment and remediation plan for the organization. The code review practice includes use of code review tools, development of customized rules, profiles for tool use by different roles (for example, developers versus analysts), manual analysis, and tracking/measuring results. The security testing practice is concerned with pre-release testing including integrating security into standard quality assurance processes. The practice includes use of black box security tools (including fuzz testing) as a smoke test in QA, risk driven white box testing, application of the attack model, and code coverage analysis. Security testing focuses on vulnerabilities in construction.

By contrast, the penetration testing practice involves more standard outside→in testing of the sort carried out by security specialists. Penetration testing focuses on vulnerabilities in final configuration, and provides direct feeds to defect management and mitigation. The software environment practice concerns itself with OS and platform patching, Web application firewalls, installation and configuration documentation, application monitoring, change management, and ultimately code signing. Finally, the configuration management and vulnerability management practice concerns itself with patching and updating applications, version control, defect tracking and remediation, incident handling, and security sign-off by the PMO.

Science and pragmatism

As you can see, the SSF covers lots of ground, and the practices deserve a more detailed treatment. The next step is to create a maturity model based on the SSF that reflects reality.

A maturity model is appropriate because improving software security almost always means changing the way an organization works — something that doesn’t happen overnight. We aim to create a way to assess the state of an organization, prioritize changes, and demonstrate progress. We understand that not all organizations need to achieve the same security goals, but we believe all organizations can be measured with the same yardstick.

One could build a maturity model for software security theoretically (by pondering what organizations should do) or one could build a maturity model by understanding what a set of distinct organizations have already done successfully. The latter approach is both scientific and grounded in the real world, and it is the one we are taking with the SSF. Towards that end, we have scheduled fact-finding interviews with executives in charge of ten of the top software security initiatives. Once we have gathered and processed data from those interviews, we will construct a realistic maturity model.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020