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CISO AppSec Guide: Application Security Program

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Part III: Application Security Program

III-1 Executive Summary

From the risk management strategic point of view, the mitigation of application security risks is not a one time exercise; rather it is an ongoing activity that requires paying close attention to emerging threats and planning ahead for the deployment of new security measures to mitigate these new threats.

This includes the planning for the adoption of new application security activities, processes, controls and training. When planning for new application security processes and controls, it is important for CISOs to know on which application security domains to invest in order for the business to deliver on its missions.

To build and grow an application security program, CISOs must:

  • Map business priorities to security priorities
  • Assess the current state using a security program maturity model
  • Establish the target state using a security program maturity model

Map business priorities to security priorities

All security priorities must be able to be mapped to business priorities. This is the first step towards establishing the relevance of every security initiative and shows business management how security supports the mission. It also demonstrates to security staff how the staff supports the mission.

Assess the current state using a security program maturity model

Accessing process maturity is a prerequisite for adoption of application security and software security processes. One criteria that is often adopted by organizations is to consider the organization's capabilities in application security domains and the maturity of the organization in operating in these domains. Examples of these application security domains include application security governance, vulnerability risk management, regulatory compliance and application security engineering such as to design and implement secure applications. Specifically in the case of application security engineering, adopting software security assurance is often necessary when there is not direct control on implementing the security of such software since it is produced by a third party vendor. A factor to consider in this case is to measure the software security assurance using a maturity model. A pre-requisite for measuring software security assurance is the adoption of a Secure Software Development Lifecycle (S-SDLC). At high level, S-SDLC consists of embedding "build security in" security activities, training and tools within the SDLC. Examples of these activities might include software security processes/tools such as architectural risk analysis/threat modeling, secure code reviews/static source code analysis, application security testing/application vulnerability scanning and secure coding for software developers. A reference to OWASP software assurance maturity model as well as to the several OWASP projects dedicated to software security and S-SDLC are provided in this guide as well.

Establish the target state using a security program maturity model

Not all organizations need to be at the highest maturity. The maturity should be at a level that it can manage the security risk that affects the business. Obviously, this varies among organizations and is driven by the business and what it accepts as risk as part of continuous collaboration and transparency from the security organization.

Once a target state is identified, CISOs should build a roadmap that identifies its strategy for addressing known issues as well as detecting and mitigating new risks.

OWASP provides several projects and guidance for CISOs to help develop and implement an application security program. Besides reading this section of the guide, see the Appendix B: Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for more information on the type of security engineering domain activities that can be incorporated within an application security program.

III-2 Introduction

Mitigating the risk of attacks that seek to exploit application vulnerabilities as well as potential gaps in protective and detective controls is one of the CISOs main concerns. In the case when vulnerabilities are only found after a security incident, the next step is to fix the identified vulnerabilities and limit further impact. Typically, this involves reproducing the vulnerabilities and re-testing the vulnerabilities after fixes are implemented to ensure vulnerabilities can no longer be exploited. If the incident is due to a gap of a security control such as a failure to filter malicious input or to detect the attack event, the next step is to implement countermeasures to mitigate the risk. Countermeasures may be a combination of deterrent, preventative, detective, corrective, and compensating security controls. To make such decisions, the CISO needs to consider both the risks of vulnerabilities as well as the weaknesses of security control measures to make a decision on how to mitigate the risks. Typically fixing a vulnerability involves a vulnerability management cycle that includes identifying the vulnerability, fixing it and then re-testing it to determine that it is no longer present.

For countermeasures, the test that the countermeasure is effective in preventing and detecting an attack vector can also be tested with a functional security test after a countermeasure is deployed. The decision as to which countermeasure to deploy might depend on different factors such as the cost of the countermeasure vs. the business impact of the incident as well as on how risk mitigation effective is the countermeasure by comparing with others. The next step for the CISO after the security incident is under control is to make sure any vulnerabilities are fixed and countermeasures are deployed to mitigate the risk. In this section of the guide we focus on application security measures that are most cost effective to target the issues identified in Part 2. For example how to divide budgets across software security activities such as secure code training, secure code reviews, security verification and testing and issue and risk management.

In the 2013 CISO Survey, CISOs identified their top priorities and also the risks facing their programs. In this guide, you will find guidance for tools and processes to not only execute on these priorities, but also to manage the risks that may impact your priorities.

2013 CISO Survey: Top 5 CISO Priorities
  1. Security awareness and training for developers
  2. Secure development lifecycle processes (e.g., secure coding, QA process)
  3. Security testing of applications (dynamic analysis, runtime observation)
  4. Application layer vulnerability management technologies and processes
  5. Code review (static analysis of source code to find security defects)

These priorities can be inhibited by the top program risks identified by CISOs in the same 2013 CISO Survey.

2013 CISO Survey: Top 5 CISO Risks
  1. Lack of awareness of application security issues within the organization
  2. Insecure source code development
  3. Poor/inadequate testing methodologies
  4. Lack of budget to support application security initiatives
  5. Staffing (e.g., lack of security skills within team)

III-3 Addressing CISO's Application Security Functions

Application security governance, risk and compliance

Governance is the process that introduces policies, standards, processes and sets the strategy, goals and organizational structure to support them. At an operational level, governance, compliance and risk management are interrelated. As part of governance responsibilities, CISOs influence the application security goals and work with executive management to set the application security standards, processes and organizational structure to support these goals. As part of compliance responsibilities, CISOs work with auditors and the legal counsel to derive information security policies and establish requirements to comply, measure and monitor these requirements including application security requirements. As part of risk management responsibilities, CISOs identify, quantify and make risk evaluations to determine how to mitigate application security risks that include introducing new application security standards and processes (governance), new application security requirements (compliance) and new application security measures (risks and controls). From a governance perspective, the adoption of application and software security processes, the establishment of application security teams and application security standards within any given organization varies greatly depending on the type of organization’s industry, the size of the organization and the different roles and responsibility that the CISO has in that organization. OWASP provides several projects and guidance for CISOs to help develop, implement and manage application security governance. See the Appendix B: Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for more information on OWASP projects and guides in the governance domain.

Typically the source of application security investments also varies depending on the size and the type of the organization. For CISOs reporting to the organization's head of operational information security and risk management, typically the budget for application security is part of the overall budget allocated by information security and operational risk departments. For these CISOs, one the main reasons for the adoption of new application security activities, guides and tools such as the ones that OWASP provides, is first and foremost to satisfy compliance and to reduce risks to the organization’s assets such as applications and software. Compliance varies greatly depending on the type of industry and clients served by the organization. For example, organizations that produce software that implements cryptography for use by governments such as the department and agencies of the United States Federal government need to comply with Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140. Organizations that produce software and applications that handle cardholder data such credit and debit card data for payments need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). CISOs that report to the organization's head of information technology, typically have responsibility on both security and information technology functions that might also include the compliance of applications and software with technology security standards such as FIPS 140 and PCI-DSS. Compliance with security technology standards represent an opportunity for promoting secure development and testing within the organization such as by using OWASP security testing guides for achieving security certifications for applications and software products. Compliance with PCI-DSS requirements, for example, might already require the organization to test applications for a minimum set of common vulnerabilities such as the OWASP Top 10. The budget allocated by the IT department for achieving certifications with technology security standards such as FIPS-140 and PCI-DSS can also be used for promoting secure coding guides such as the OWASP secure coding guide and invest in static code analysis tools. For example, in the case of compliance with PCI-DSS, CISOs might opt for static code analysis to satisfy the requirement 6.6 of PCI-DSS. OWASP provides several projects and guidance for CISOs to help develop and implement policies, standards and guidelines for application security as well as to help define application security requirements that can be verified and audited. See the Appendix B: Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for information on OWASP projects in the standards and policies and audit & compliance domains.

CISOs of small organizations can also use vulnerability management metrics to make the business case in which phases of the SDLC to invest in security and improve both software quality as well as security. For example, since most of the quality and security bugs are due to coding errors, it is important for CISOs to emphasize to the IT department the need for secure coding processes, standards and training for developers since focusing on these software security activities also leads to cost savings for the organization. A study from NIST about the cost of fixing security issues for example has shown that the cost of fixing a coding issue in production is six times more expensive than fixing it during coding. To achieve these money saving and efficiency goals, CISOs can work together with the engineering department managers to promote application and secure software initiatives. Part IV of the CISO guide provides guidance regarding setting metrics for managing application security risks and for deciding on application security investments.

Among CISO responsibilities the Continuity of Business (CoB) is of primary importance specifically for web applications that provide critical business functions to customers. CISOs are responsible to roll out CoB plans to ensure that the business could continue to operate despite adverse circumstances or events. A CoB plan includes procedures to restore services that are lost because of a negative event such as a power outage of the data center where a web application is hosted. A critical item of CoB planning is the identification of web applications that are deemed business critical and assign a level of criticality and specific requirements for CoB testing such as the maximum time to recover from a loss of service. Similarly to CoB, having a disaster recovery plan is also one of the CISO responsibilities: this includes process, policies and procedures for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure in the case of natural or human provoked disaster.

One of the main CISOs responsibilities is to increase application security awareness among the application security stakeholders. A 2012 Survey by the Ponemon Institute and Security Innovation that included more than 800 IT executives found that "gaps in perceptions between security practitioners and developers about application security maturity, readiness and accountability indicate why many organizations' critical applications are at risk." Almost 80% of developers and 64% of security managers that participated to this survey, responded that their organization has no process for building security controls into their applications, and more than 50% of both developers and security officers reported that they did not receive software and application security training, only 15% of developers and 12% of security officers reported that applications met security regulations and 68% of developers versus 47% of officers reported to be aware of any security breaches affecting applications occurring in the past 2 years. It is clear that there is opportunity for efficiency gain by building security into the SDLC through security training. OWASP has several training and awareness resources that can be used for the training on application and software security for development, operational and information security teams. Please consult the Appendix B: Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for more information on OWASP guides and projects in the security training domain.

For CISOs whose main focus is information security and risk management, one of the main requirements besides compliance is to introduce efficiencies and save the money spent for existing security processes, including application security. Since the information security department allocates budgeting, any request for budget of application security needs to be justified by improving security and by reducing risks. Security and risk reduction goals are aligned by improving security test processes with use of better tools and training for developers. For CISOs of large organizations, promoting a software security initiative is also justified by cost-avoidance revenue from the decreased cost fixing vulnerabilities as a result of secure coding standards, secure code reviews and security testing in earlier phases of the SDLC when bug fixes are less costly. See Appendix B: Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for information on OWASP guides and projects that help CISOs in implementing an application security program including software security development and security testing processes.

Often CISOs need to justify the budget for application security by taking into consideration the different needs of security and business departments. For CISOs that serve in financial organizations for example, security is often a compromise with security and business goals. In this case, it is important for CISOs to be able to align application security programs with the business goals and when these goals not align, to focus on the ones that do. For example, by focusing on improving both software quality and security and by reaching a compromise in the case security impacts negatively the customer experience so different security options need to be considered. In the case the business is sponsoring a new application development project, CISOs can use this as an opportunity to promote new application security features for the application and work together with project managers by achieving compliance with security standards, improving security by design and by coding and yet achieving overall cost savings for the overall project.

The importance of security metrics

For CISOs whose responsibility is manage application vulnerability risks, security metrics such as application vulnerability metrics constitutes an important factor in making business cases for investing in application security measures to control and reduce risks. Security metrics such as measurements of vulnerabilities found on the same applications during the roll out of application security activities aimed to reduce the number and the risk of vulnerabilities for example, can demonstrate to senior managers and company executives that the adoption of application security processes, training and tools ultimately helps the organization to deliver applications and software products that have a fewer number of vulnerabilities and pose less risk to the organization and the customers.

III-4 Targeting Software Security Activities and S-SDLC Processes

OWASP provides several projects and guidance for CISOs to help in the development and implementation of software security activities and Security in the Software Life Cycle (S-SDLC). To know more, besides reading this section of the guide, please consult the Appendix B: Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for more information

Recognizing the importance and criticality of secure software

Since insecure coding causes a large number of vulnerabilities in applications, it is important that the CISO recognizes the importance that secure software has in improving the security of the application. The causes of insecure software might depends by different factors such as coding errors, not following secure coding standards and security requirements, integration with vulnerable software libraries, missing secure code review processes and security testing and formal secure code training and awareness for software developers. From CISO perspective, it is important to understand that software security is a complex discipline and requires a special focus in security processes, tools as well as people skills. It is also important to recognize that investing in software security helps the organization to save money spent in application vulnerability remediation costs in the future. By investing in software security initiatives, organizations can focus on fixing vulnerabilities as early as during coding phase of the Software Development Life-Cycle (SDLC) where is cheaper to identify, test and fix them than during the validation phase.

Today, also thanks to OWASP, software security has matured and evolved as a discipline. For example, several organizations already adopt software security best practices within their software development processes such as the documentation of security requirements, following of secure coding standards and use of software security testing tools such as static source code analysis tools to identify vulnerabilities in source code before releasing source code to be build and integrated for final integrated and user acceptance tests. By integrating software security activities in the SDLC, organizations can produce software and applications with a fewer number of vulnerabilities and lower risks than software and applications that don’t.

Integrating risk management as part of the SDLC

CISOs determine how software security activities can be integrated as part of the SDLC. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Special Publication 800-30, “Effective risk management must be totally integrated into the SDLC ... [which] has five phases: initiation, development or acquisition, implementation, operation or maintenance and disposal.” The integration of security in the SDLC process begins by identifying the information assets that the software will be processing and by specifying requirements for confidentiality, integrity and availability. The next steps consist of information assets value determination, identification of the potential threats and identification of the necessary application security countermeasures such as authentication, authorization and encryption.

A comprehensive set of security requirements need to also include requirements to implement secure software by following certain security and technology standards, security approved technologies and platforms as well as security checks prior of software integration with other vendors software components/libraries.

Assess risks before procurement of third party components/services

When software is acquired as either part of the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) or as free open source (FOSS) for example, it is important for CISO to have a process in place to validate this type of software libraries against specific security requirements prior to acquiring them. This could provide the CISO of the organization a certain level of assurance that the acquired software is secure and can be integrated with the application. In that regard, OWASP had developed a legal project and a contract annex of a sample contract that included security requirements for the life cycle so that COTS products would be more secure. Please refer to the Appendix B Quick Reference to OWASP Guides & Projects for more information on OWASP projects that can help CISOs to assess procurement of new application processes, services, technologies and security tools.

Security in the SDLC (S-SDLC) methodologies

In cases when the CISO of the organization has also responsibility over promoting a software security process within the organization, it is important not to take this goal lightly since usually requires careful planning of resources and development of new processes and activities. Fortunately today, several “Security in the SDLC” (S-SDLC) methodologies can be adopted by CISOs to incorporate security in the SDLC. The most popular S-SDLC methodologies used today are Cigital’s Touch Points, Microsoft SDL, OWASP CLASP and the BITS Software Assurance Framework. At high level, these S-SDLC methodologies are very similar and consist on integrating security activities such as security requirements, secure architecture review, architecture risk analysis/threat modeling, static analysis/review of source code, security/penetration testing activities within the existing SDLCs used by the organization. The challenge for the integration of security in the SDLC from CISO perspective is to make sure that these software security activities are aligned with the software engineering processes used by the organization. This means for example to integrate with different types of S-SDLC s such as Agile, RUP, Waterfall as these might be already followed by different software development teams within the organization. An example on how these can be integrated within a waterfall SDLC as well as iterated within different iterations of a SDLC process is shown below.

Security in the SDLC Process.png

Adopting a holistic approach toward application and software security leads to better results since can align with information security and risk management already adopted by the organization. From information security perspective, the holistic approach toward application security should include for example security training for software developers as well as security officers and managers, integration with information security and risk management, alignment with information security policies and technology standards and leveraging of information security tools and technologies used by the organization.

Software assurance maturity models

Besides of following a holistic approach toward application security that considers other domains it is also important for the CISO to consider what the organization capabilities are from day one in building software security and plan on how to integrate new activities in the future. Measuring the organizations capabilities in software security is possible today with software security maturity models such as the Build Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) and the Open Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM). These models can also help the CISO in the assessment, planning and implementation of a software security initiative for the organization. These maturity models are explicitly designed for software security assurance. These models, even if are based upon empirical measurements, are feed from real data (e.g. software security surveys) hence allow to measure organizations against peers that already had implemented software security initiatives. By allowing their organization’s secure software development software practices to be measured using these models, CISOs can compare their organization secure software development capabilities against other software development organizations to determine in which software security activities the organization either leads or lags.

For the software security activities for which the organization is lagging, BSIMM and SAMM measurements allow the CISO to construct a plan for software security activities to close these gaps in the future. It is important to notice that these models are not prescriptive that is, are not telling organizations what to do but rather to measure security activities in comparison with similar organizations in the field. The models are organized along similar domains, governance, intelligence, SSDL touch points, deployment for BSIMM and governance, construction, verification, deployment for SAMM. SAMM measurements are done in three best practices and three levels of maturity for each business function.

Figure: Business functions and security practices for each business function SAMM.jpg

BSIMM measurements cover 12 best practices and 110 software security activities. The maturity levels help the CISO to plan for the organizational improvements in software security processes. Software security improvements can be measured by assigning goals and objectives to reach for each activity. For CISOs that either have already started to deploy a software security initiative such as S-SDLC within their organization or that just plan it in the future, the measurements that a model such as BSIMM and SAMM provide are important measurement yard sticks to determine in which application security activities to focus spending. If not already familiar with BSIMM and SAMM, CISOs can also refer to the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and the various maturity levels to plan for the organization secure software development process capabilities.

Like BSIMM and SAMM, CMM is also an empirical model whose goal is improve the predictability, effectiveness, and control of an organization's software processes. In CMM for example, these are five levels that can be used to measure how the organization moves up to different levels of maturity of software engineering process: initial, repeatable, defined, managed, optimizing. In the first level (initial), the software engineering process is ad-hoc and used by the organization in uncontrolled and reactive manner. As the software development organization reaches level 2, the software development processes are repeatable and is possible to provide consistent results. When an organization reaches level 3, it means that it has adopted a set of defined and documented standard software development processes and these are followed consistently across the organization. At a level 4, that is managed, a software development organization has adopted metrics and measurements so that software development can be managed and controlled. When a software development organization is at level 5, optimized, the focus is on continually improving process performance through both incremental and innovative technological change and improvements in software development.

In reference to software security processes, at CMM Level 1 (Initial) CISOs have an ad-hoc process to “catch” and "patch" application vulnerabilities. At this level, the organization maturity in software security practice consists on running web application vulnerability scanning tool in reaction of events such as to validate the applications for compliance with PCI-DSS and OWASP Top 10. At CMM Level 2, the organization has already adopted standard processes for security testing applications for vulnerabilities including secure code reviews of the existing software libraries and components. At this level, the secure testing process can be repeated to produce consistent results (e.g. get same security issues if executed by different testers) but is not adopted across all software development groups within the same organization. At CMM Level 2, the application security processes are also reactive, that is, are not executed as required by the security testing standards. At CMM Level 3, application security processes are executed by following defined process standards and these are followed by all security teams within the same organization. At this level, application security processes are also proactive that means are executed to security test applications as part of governance, risk and compliance requirements prior to release into production. At level CMM 4 (managed) application security risks are identified and managed at different phases of the SDLC. At this level, the focus of security is the reduction of risks for all applications before these are released in production. At level CMM 5 (optimized), the application security processes are optimized for increased application coverage and for the highest return of investments in application security activities.

Security strategy


“Strategy (Greek "στρατηγία"—stratēgia, "art of general, command, generalship") is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. The art and science of planning and marshalling resources for their most efficient and effective use. Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy is also about attaining and maintaining a position of advantage over adversaries through the successive exploitation of known or emergent possibilities rather than committing to any specific fixed plan designed at the outset.”

Like with a general IT strategy most organizations should have a security strategy. It enables an organization to look beyond short-term tactical choices and develop strategic and long term planning. Because of the evolving cyber threat landscape it is important for CISOs to protect the information security assets for the threat of tomorrow. This strategy can guide operational decisions, plans and set priorities for the appropriate level of investment of resources to achieve your organization’s goals.

Have a plan and be ready to change it

A security strategy will not cover all eventualities, but rather provide you with a good strategic framework. Furthermore, with time your environment or underlying assumptions will change and your strategy will need to constantly evolve and be adapted accordingly. It is better to define a strategy and revise it frequently, adapting it to new circumstances, than to hold back developing your security strategy indefinitely, waiting for all information to become available.

To define the fundamentals of you security strategy, you should consider the following three general questions:

  1. Stakeholders: Who are your key stakeholders and potential threat agents?
  2. Assets: What are your information assets and how do they (and their protection) generate value for your clients inside and outside the organization?
  3. Capabilities: What are the essential security and protection capabilities that the organization and its stakeholders need to deliver that value proposition?

Strategy 3 key questions.png

How to define your organization's security strategy

As with all strategy documents you will analyze the impact of underlying assumptions and goals and derive your security strategy on how to achieve these goals.

Collecting input for developing your security strategy

In general the following inputs are useful in the process of defining your security strategy. Often organizations may not have all of them, or these inputs maybe in informal less accessible form (e.g. in the mind of some of your key employees in the organization). Or they might be outdated or not exactly matching what you are expecting. Devising a security strategy based on limited clarity of the overall strategy of an organization or missing pieces of information may be challenging. However, it is still better to develop some strategy and evolve it over time as more and more related information becomes available.

Security strategy inputs.png

1. Business strategy
CISOs should look first at the organization's business strategy such as the mission statement, the business goals as well as the other strategy components (see the following points) in support of these goals. For example, which parts of your operation are critically reliant on the confidentiality, availability and integrity of the information provided by the IT functions? What would be the impact on your Sales and Marketing in case of system failures or loss of prizing information, how dependent is the supply chain on the functioning IT backbone, can deliveries be made in case of failure, would fraud be spotted in case of security problems? Which parts of the value chain are susceptible to potential attacks? Which opportunities can certain security postures offer as a competitive advantage for the business (e.g. can a more robust security environment enable more e-commerce, higher dependency on IT processes and more efficiency)? Can procurement processes be dramatically changed, e.g. when allowing a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy? Are there new and potentially disruptive business cases possible due to secure and reliable application? How far can you allow some of your data to leave the immediate control of your organization (e.g. in case of cloud based applications)? How can you minimize the risks, by legal and technical controls? Are the resulting risk levels acceptable for the business?

2. Corporate strategy
How does your corporate strategy align with your IT and security strategy? Does your corporation aim for a decentralized or centralized organizational structure? How does this affect your ability to enforce central and local security policies? Are frequent corporate acquisitions and their integration an important part of your corporate strategy and how do you integrate new entities effectively and manage the security of these newly acquired corporate entities across the whole organization?

3. IT strategy & Review of the IT architecture
One important aspect of the security strategy is the alignment with the IT strategy for example depending on whether systems are decentralized or centralized, it will determine how and to which extend the organization can enforce central and local security policies. Further aspects are system architecture overview, trust boundaries, data flows, data in motion, and data at rest. How did your business strategy drive your IT strategy. What kind of IT assets and capabilities does your organization have and plan to develop going forward?

4. Compliance and legal requirements

5. Analyze your threats and risks
You need to understand how these risks affect your business operation and could possibly affect your business and business strategy. (See also part II of this guide)

6. Review of your current security status
Another important factor to consider before setting the security strategy is the maturity of the organization and the capabilities in the various security domains and specifically the application security domain. A maturity model such as OWASP openSAMM and the various activities in the Strategy and Metrics (SM) can also be used by CISOs to review the current security status and set goals. Specifically, by following the openSAMM model CISOs can start with level 1 (basic) SAMM activities such as "estimate the overall business risk profile" and "build and maintain assurance program roadmap"'. As the maturity of the organization grows, CISO can incorporate level 2 openSAMM activities such as "classify data and applications based on business risk", and "establish and measure per-classification security goals". Understanding the current security status of your organization will allow to develop a clear roadmap as one of the key components of a good security strategy going forward.

Components of your security strategy

A security strategy should contain or enable the following components:
1. General guiding principles & priorities
What security investments will the organization make over the next x months. In general most companies use a time period of 12 – 24 months for their strategy definitions. It would be advisable to have a main security strategy defined for 12 months, with a second longer term planning component for between 2 and 5 years, depending on the type of organization, that outlines security investment plans for the longer term. Of course in today’s fast changing security arena, threats and risks can change very quickly and the plan should be adapted whenever underlying assumption change and be reviewed at least on a yearly basis.
2. Risk Management, risk acceptance levels
(see Part II)
3. Security Roadmap
To define your security roadmap, a good way is to look at the general company and IT roadmaps and combine this with a security roadmap derived from risk based assessments using maturity models like for example openSAMM.
4. Security architecture & Processes
What security properties does the overall system architecture present? What and where are the trust boundaries and underlying trust assumptions for your organization? Which are core security systems like authentication and authorization? How deep is the reliance on individual central and legacy systems, e.g. if you deploy single-sign-on or equivalents, how reliable is the central system managing all authorization controls?
Furthermore the security architecture needs to consider the attack surface and the exposure to cyber threats, specifically which parts of the application architecture and the functionality are susceptible to potential cyber attacks. And building on that is resiliency, hence the question is which security architecture is the most resilient in case of attacks, like for example DdoS, etc.
The procurement of security technology and services is a critical component of the security strategy, too. Questions to ask here are whether the procurement process addresses security risks introduced by the adoption of third part technology and what the organization can do to improve the security of third party processes and applications.
And in today's cloud based systems, data can often leave the security perimeter and flow through other networks (e.g. in the cloud) and systems. And the organization may have no or only very limited control on how this data is protected in such cloud applications.

5. Continuity of Business & Incidence Response
It is important that CISOs also develop a Continuity of Business (CoB) plan as part of the security strategy that takes into account possible system failures and the dependencies of the supply chain on the functioning IT infrastructure.
A security strategy should consider worst case scenarios and plan for security measures in advance. A proactive risk strategy is to answer questions about managing business impact before an incident actually occurs. For a service delivery business for example the question might be whether the application can still operate to guarantee delivery and fail securely.

Security strategy outputs.png


The overall goal for the security strategy is to minimize the risks and maximize the business benefits for the organization. The key question that the strategy must answer is whether security controls are sufficient and efficient enough to reduce the risk for the organization and the residual risks after security measures are applied are acceptable for the business.

Generally, most roadmaps have a duration of 1-2 years. The 2013 OWASP CISO Survey found that 64% of roadmaps projected for 1-2 years.


III-5 How to Choose the Right OWASP Projects For Your Organization

Depending on the overall security level and risk profile of the organization unit different tools and standards can be particularly useful for the CISO in advancing his or her security strategy.

Note, following the risk discussions in the previous chapter, depending on the risk profile of different business units, the security strategy can actually be different based on their different individual risk scenarios and different regulatory requirements. For example a financial department may require a substantially stronger security posture, while an internal web page announcing the lunch menus of the cantine may be sufficiently protected with basic security measures (though to the authors knowledge in military settings, even the lunch menu can be considered as confidential information as further information about supply logistics etc. could be derived from that).

Based on these different risk profiles different tools and standards may be more relevant for the project and organizational unit in question.

Also note that OWASP provides several projects and guidance for CISOs to help in the development and implementation of software security development and security testing processes. Please refer to Appendix B for a quick reference to OWASP guides & projects.

In general tools can be classified in various categories (and so are also the OWASP projects).

Owasp projects.png

Project's maturity

  • Stable (a project or tool that is mature and constantly maintained to a good quality)
  • Beta (relatively proven, though not to optimal quality)
  • Alpha (this usually reflects a good first prototype, but still a lot of functionality may be missing or not up to standard)
  • Inactive (former projects that have been retired or deprecated or that at some point have been abandoned).

Obviously for a CISO, the most interesting projects and tools would be stable and reliable ones. He can rely on a certain proven quality, and on them being available and maintained to a certain degree in the future days to come. Beta projects can also be very valuable, as they may represent projects that have not finished their full review cycle yet but are already available for early adopters and can help to build good foundations for your security programs and tools going forward.

Project's categories

Usually OWASP projects are divided in either Tools or Documentation. And by the category of use: Builders, Breakers and Defenders. These categories can help the manager to quickly navigate the large portfolio of OWASP tools available and more easily find the right project for his current needs.

People, processes and technology

The CISO can also choose to achieve his security goals through three main ways. People, Processes and Technology. Managing the organization it is usually important to shape all three pillars to achieve the best impact throughout your organization. Focusing on only one or two of them can leave the organization vulnerable.

Figure: People, process, and technology controls supporting web & application security


This will address the training and motivation of staff, suppliers, clients and partners. If they are well educated and motivated, the chances of malicious behavior or accidental mistakes can dramatically be reduced and many basic security threats can be avoided.


If an organization becomes more mature, the processes will be well defined and in fact channel and enable the work force to do things the "right way". Processes can ensure that the actions of the organization became reliable and repeatable. For example with well-defined standard operating procedures, the incident response process will be reliable and not rely on ad hoc decisions that would before have varied with the individual decision maker. In highly mature organizations, the business and IT processes will be constantly evaluated and improved. If a failure happens, improved processes can allow an organization as a whole to learn from past mistakes and improve its operation to more efficient and secure ways.


Technology can guide and support people by providing good training and knowledge, by being engaging and motivating to work with. Technology can facilitate an organization to follow sound security practices by providing good tools, while making difficult to deviate from the right path without detection. For example, good technology would automate access controls and authentication and make them very simple for the authorized user, while denying access or privileges to an unauthorized attacker. Finally, a number of automated tools can in the background help and support the people and organization in their work to defend against risks more effectively and more efficiently. Many of the security standards and tools (in OWASP and other bodies) can also be seen as focusing on parts of this framework. For example, staff training will enable the people to build their security understanding and do the right thing, while the various SDLC models can help an organization establish the right level of processes for its development and incident response mechanisms.