“Walking” with the SDL – Part 2

Jeremy Dallman here with Part Two in my series on “Walking” with the SDL. In Part One, I provided a snapshot of “Crawling” and discussed getting management approval. In Part Two, I will cover a couple more “Walk” components: expanding security training and formalizing requirements.


This blog gives us a place to talk about our experiences from using the SDL here at Microsoft and hopefully provide useful information that will help you implement it more effectively at your company.  So, I would encourage you to use the Comments section at the bottom of each post to ask questions, give us feedback, or request other topics for us to cover.


Some quick definitions before we dive in. I’ve been using the imagery of learning to “crawl, walk and run” as a way to provide some basic starting points that would move your organization toward implementing the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL).  “Walking” is the point where your security development practices become a lifecycle – a repeatable, reusable process that makes security a part of your development culture. To relate the analogy to SDL a bit more closely, think of crawling as the “SD” in SDL. For this post, we’ll continue to talk about walking – or adding the “L” in SDL.


Let’s jump into another component for adopting the Microsoft SDL to expand your own Security Development Lifecycle.


Expand Security Training


Once you have management approval, it is necessary to gain grassroots acceptance of the changes – at the developer, QA/test, and PM levels. If you have been “crawling”, you have probably already implemented some sort of discipline-specific training around things like threat modeling, using compiler defenses, and fuzz testing. Now that you are building a lifecycle, your goal for security training should expand. Security training should be about creating an environment where writing secure software is everyone’s mission. While security training should be undertaken with the goal of understanding security issues and how to address them, good training (and instructors) will also explain why solving security problems is in their best interests and create an environment where they know voicing security concerns is encouraged.


Training has been one of the earliest and most important elements of the SDL at Microsoft. From our experience, we learned that the most effective approach is to divide your training into two tracks: general security principles and role-specific security practices. Before I jump into the details, I want to encourage you to also read Shawn Hernan’s very good post about SDL training that highlights some of the ways to make security training effective.


The general security principles should explain why security is important, how you define security requirements, the process you will use for writing and validating secure code, and how security relates to each phase of the lifecycle or unique roles contributing to the development process. A key factor for building a development lifecycle is educating your individual contributors on the value of investing in security. Of course changing culture takes time, but using the opportunity of structured training to explain your principles will be one of your most effective platforms for influencing change.


At this point in your organizational maturity, you are also beginning to expand your security thinking by focusing on each role in the development process. Discipline-specific security training is where you dig into the details of implementing a Security Development Lifecycle.


·         The developer needs to understand the practical details of how to write code securely, how to set compiler flags, what a security code review means, how to avoid using banned APIs, and what tools are available for them to perform security analysis before checking in their code.


·         The QA/tester needs to know how to set security rules in test tools, how to perform penetration testing, and what the security quality criteria is for your product, or how to file a security bug.


·         The PM needs to understand how to define measurable goals or how security policies can be factored into feature design.


·         The business decision maker of your organization should understand how to track security metrics alongside other product measurements or how security policy plays a critical role in the overall quality and value of your product.


·         Finally, it is critical for the employees occupying all job roles to understand the value of threat modeling – both as a tool for understanding threats early in the design phase and throughout the development process as a key barometer to the security pulse of your product.


Discipline-specific training will be the place to address these issues for your organization. In case you were wondering, all job roles should be required to attend both types of security training before working on your product.


Our new SDL website [http://www.microsoft.com/sdl] will be a very good place to watch for future training materials. The SDL Training and Resources page has some useful material up now and more will be coming in the future.


That’s Part Two. In Part Three, I will discuss the important “walk” components of formalizing security requirements and reusing threat models and attack surface reviews. Then we will close with the discussions on conducting final security reviews, and managing post-release documentation.


I’d like to hear if anyone is using the concept of “crawling” and “walking” to implement SDL in your company.


?        Do you provide security training to your employees today?


?        Do these additional training topics make sense in your organization?


?        What would you add to this that is unique to your application or company?