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SAMM - Code Review - 1

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Code Review - 1

Objective: Opportunistically find basic code-level vulnerabilities and other high-risk security issues


  • Inspection for common code vulnerabilities that lead to likely discovery or attack
  • Lightweight review for coding errors that lead to severe security impact
  • Basic code-level due diligence for security assurance

Success Metrics

  • >80% of project teams briefed on relevant code review checklists in past 6 months
  • >50% of project teams performing code review on high-risk code in past 6 months
  • >3.0 Likert on usefulness of code review checklists reported by developers


  • Buildout or license of code review checklists
  • Ongoing project overhead from code review activities of high-risk code


  • Developers (2-4 days/yr)
  • Architects (1-2 days/yr)
  • Managers (1-2 days/yr)
  • Business Owners (1 day/yr)

Related Levels

  • Security Requirements - 1


A. Create review checklists from known security requirements

From the known security requirements for a project, derive a lightweight code review checklist for security. These can be checks specific to the security concerns surrounding the functional requirements or checks for secure coding best practices based on the implementation language, platform, typical technology stack, etc. Due to these variations, often a set of checklist are needed to cover the different types of software development within an organization.

Regardless, of whether created from publicly available resources or purchased, technical stakeholders such as development managers, architects, developers, and security auditors should review the checklists for efficacy and feasibility. It is important to keep the lists short and simple, aiming to catch high-priority issues that are straightforward to find in code either manually or with simple search tools. Code analysis automation tools may also be used to achieve this same end, but should also be customized to reduce the overall set of security checks to a small, valuable set in order to make the scan and review process efficient.

Developers should be briefed on the goals of checklists appropriate to their job function.

B. Perform point-review of high-risk code

Since code-level vulnerabilities can have dramatically increased impacts if they occur in security-critical parts of software, project teams should review high-risk modules for common vulnerabilities. Common examples of high-risk functionality include authentication modules, access control enforcement points, session management schemes, external interfaces, input validators and data parsers, etc.

Utilizing the code review checklists, the analysis can be performed as a normal part of the development process where members of the project team are assigned modules to review when changes are made. Security auditors and automated review tools can also be utilized for the review.

During development cycles where high-risk code is being changed and reviewed, development managers should triage the findings and prioritize remediation appropriately with input from other project stakeholders.

Additional Resources