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The effects of secure application development practices

Selling the CIO and others on secure application development requires understanding how it will impact the development process.

Our infosec team has failed to sell our developers on the need to adopt secure software development practices. Now we're moving up the chain, talking to the CIO and others. How should we change our approach to sell IT executives on secure development practices, which will require a significant investment in training, process management and ultimately slow down development?

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First you need to rethink your own understanding of secure application development practices.  Secure development does not always translate to slower development time.  It does take time to implement and train developers on new ways of producing and testing code.  There are even ways to integrate SDL into the agile development process

One of the frequent causes of insecure development is the total lack of processes and procedures.  There may be inefficiencies inherent in the current development process that could be addressed with the introduction of a secure development lifecycle process.  Microsoft commissioned a 2010 Forrester Research study that surveyed developers and their adoption of SDL.  Those that had implemented secure coding practices actually saw a significant ROI.  This came from reducing the amount of time developers spent fixing bugs, as well as the time spent in patching and customer servicing. 

SDL can also provide for new ways to measure developer productivity and quality.  A developer that is not using the versioning system to "check in" code may be producing less than his peers.  Similarly, a developer whose code consistently fails in security testing is probably making mistakes in other areas of his or her coding, reducing overall application quality and increasing support costs.

These are both hot button issues for CIOs looking for ways to stretch the IT budget to encompass all business priorities.  IT security professionals will always find a sympathetic CIO when they can tie security, efficiency and quality together. To that end, you will likely have more success selling secure software development by emphasizing the cost savings of "getting it right the first time" with a rigorous software development process. vs. arguing purely for the virtues of security.

This was last published in June 2013

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