Key Considerations for Building a Proper AppSec Program for Modern Application Development

Many firms' security efforts are focused solely on deploying technologies, applying "best practices," and responding to a never-ending stream of security alerts and threats. As a result, security becomes reactive, with teams that are too preoccupied with “firefighting” to ask whether the organization is becoming more secure. This causes friction between business executives and security personnel. When the business is running smoothly, top management teams see security initiatives as costly and optional.

Rather than just defending the traditional network perimeter in order to keep business assets safe, all AppSec programs should strive for a collaborative security model with effective strategies, tactics, and operational maturity models.

Continue reading to learn how business leaders and security teams can collaborate to create a proper AppSec program in today's complex modern application development environment.

The Building Blocks of a Proper AppSec Program

To create a viable long-term security model, you must take a solution-oriented approach and focus on security relationships and responsibilities. This way, managers will not only realize the importance of having a secure maturity model, but will also be actively involved in its adoption, assessment, and implementation.

Strategic Security Management

Any organization's leadership must have a solid strategy for developing a proper AppSec program, and this begins with recognizing the security issues that it faces. The answer to security business challenges is competent strategic management, which can be achieved by establishing security rules, addressing personnel issues, and assessing threats and hazards. Project managers and executives in strategic security management are responsible for measuring and evaluating risk, developing security budgets, and determining overall operational direction.

Tactical Security Management

Tactical security management enables organizations to mitigate security threats. Here, security executives and leaders create and conduct risk mitigation security initiatives. Tactical security management activities include planning, creating, defining standards, and performing security duties. Roles and responsibilities related to security decisions and day-to-day security operations are defined and shared across the management team.

Operational Security Management

Operational security management attempts to answer the question of which security processes and techniques you should use. This procedure makes use of analyzing tools, auditing tools, physical controls, scanners, and packet sniffers. To aid in the implementation, enforcement, and monitoring of information security standards, operational management should be included in modern application development.

Five Key Vectors for Assessing Maturity in AppSec Programs

With security becoming a top priority in software development, evaluating your AppSec program's maturity is an important best practice for any security company. The goal of an AppSec maturity assessment is to determine the appropriate level of security for your company and to implement the necessary features to achieve it. Below, we discuss the essential metrics for assessing maturity in modern AppSec programs.

Strategy and Governance

The dimension Strategy and Governance focuses on high-level Goals & Objectives, Policies and KPIs. The CISO is typically in charge of determining whether the AppSec program meets the strategic and governance objectives. By identifying metrics, compliance, and the type of instructional guidance required for the model being utilized, strategy and governance procedures aid in the assessment of maturity models. Goals and Objectives, Strategic KPIs, AppSec Policy, and Education and Guidance are some of the other exercises addressed in this vector.

Secure Design

Secure design is an approach to development that uses threat modeling to design products and capabilities that are fundamentally secure. Crucially, it involves the implementation of security domains, perimeters, and control procedures at the start of the SDLC, which enhances security testing and AppSec development. The objective of secure design is to build, integrate, and use software that has been generated with security as a key component rather than an afterthought. Examples of secure design practices include choosing the type of firewall to use, enforcing the policy of least privilege, and designing intrusion detection systems and security filters. To guarantee secure design, it is typically the responsibility of the project manager, program manager, and delivery manager.

Two premier leaders in the AppSec world, NIST (The National Institute of Standards & Technology) and OWASP (The Open Web Application Security Project), are championing the importance of prioritizing secure design in modern AppSec programs.

Security Testing – Tactical

Tactical application assessment is an important vector for automating application security testing. The tactical aspect of security testing aims to find security vulnerabilities in your apps from source code to runtime. It includes tactical considerations such as procedures and guidelines, as well as aspects such as the vulnerability life cycle, the result validation process, the application onboarding process for security testing, and processes to create an application inventory and perform risk rating of applications.

Security Testing – Operational

The dimension Security Testing – Operational focuses on technology, i.e., the tools and how to use them in terms of procedures and guidelines. This vector is critical for ensuring security testing encompasses how tools are integrated into the DevOps or SDLC process, how bugs/defects are monitored, and how to manage the various system vulnerabilities that may arise as a result of the AppSec program's integration of diverse tools. The head of application development, in collaboration with AppSec management, is primarily responsible for this.

Security Testing – Architecture and Scale

Security Testing –Architecture and Scale is concerned with the infrastructure needed to conduct security testing. It guarantees that the AppSec program's tools are structured and sized to match the scope of the firm. When performing AppSec security testing, it is mostly the duty of the IT/infrastructure management to ensure that architecture and scale metrics are met. This exercise includes architecture and scale-focused assessments such as deployment model architecture, capacity planning and sizing, as well as System Monitoring of the security testing tools.

Where Should You Start with AppSec?

Even with the most powerful technology, meticulous planning and execution are essential if you want enterprise-grade security results. Your developers will spend less time fixing and more time coding with our world-class Checkmarx APMATM Framework. To learn more about Checkmarx’s approach you can read more about it here.

Faith Kilonzi is a full-stack software engineer, technical writer, and DevOps enthusiast with a passion for problem-solving through implementation of high-quality software products.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Ashesi University. She has experience working in academia, fin-tech, healthcare, research, technology, and consultancy industries in Kenya, Ghana, and in the USA. Driven by intellectual curiosity, she combines her passion for teaching, technology, and research to create technical digital content.

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