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User:Jeff Williams

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I'm Jeff Williams, I'm the CTO and cofounder of Contrast Security. Contrast is not a scanner or static analysis tool. Instead, Contrast uses software instrumentation to *both* find vulnerabilities and block attacks. The instrumentation approach provides access to not only the code and HTTP traffic, but also full data flow, control flow, configuration, libraries and frameworks, architecture, and much more. This wealth of information yields incredible accuracy. And that's not all... because Contrast runs in parallel and provides results in real time, you can provide security at devops speed and portfolio scale.

in the early 2000's, I helped found OWASP, created the OWASP Foundation 501c3, and served as the volunteer Chair of the OWASP Foundation from 2003 to 2012. I’ve dedicated my life to trying to make the world’s software more secure, and so I create lots of free and open tools, libraries, guidance, and standards to try to change the status quo. Thank you all for your dedication to application security and your participation in OWASP. Please send any questions or comments to me via email at [email protected]. Or you can twitter @planetlevel.

last revised 10/4/2015

I'm particularly proud of this free tool that uses instrumentation to find vulnerabilities. Far easier to use and more accurate than static (SAST) or dynamic analysis (DAST) scanners.

Also please read the "Continuous Security Handbook" which reinterprets application security for high-speed DevOps environments.

Some of my other work (in roughly reverse chronological order)

  I'm an official Java Rock Star!

To see my wiki contributions, click here.


My background, from an interview

I set out to be a user interface guy, but I got into security accidentally. I was working at TRW in 1992 on the user interface for a big Navy system that just happened to be highly secure – targeting B2 in the Orange Book. I took on an R&D project to port the user interface to the new compartmented mode workstation (what became Trusted Solaris) and I found that I really liked the challenge of securing such a complex system.

Then Java 1.0 came along and I got NIST and NRL funding to do security research. At the time, we thought the Java sandbox was a good idea, but that there were attacks that might bypass it. So I wrote a special classloader that modified the bytecode to wrap security relevant method calls with a reference monitor. After that I spent several years developing a Java-based multilevel secure network guard on Trusted Solaris. That guard handled HTTP, FTP, TDS, and a number of other protocols – sort of a very early application firewall. But unlike the modern WAFs, we took a whitelist approach where you would define exactly the data formats and rules for allowing messages.

In the mid-90’s, I chaired the group that authored the SSE-CMM, which is now ISO 21827. As it turns out, the processes involved in systems security engineering are quite similar to those necessary for secure software development. I’m very glad to see that the idea of assurance arguments from my work is starting to be used in the application security world.

Then in 1998, while I was the technical director of the Global Security Practice at Exodus Communications, a Fortune 10 company approached us and said “We’d like to host our applications with you, but we have this rule – every line of code has to be reviewed before it goes on the Internet.” So I started an application security practice and started providing application assessments, developer training, and help with security requirements and architecture. We built a successful practice securing some of the biggest and most complex web applications in the world.

In April 2002, together with Dave Wichers, Noelle Hardy, and some other great folks, I started Aspect Security to focus exclusively on application security. I just feel so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of consultants and customers. I’m having the most fun of my professional career.

I first heard of OWASP in 2001 from Chuck Pfleeger (the author of Security in Computing). The idea of a free and open community for application security was an interesting idea. At the time, getting companies to focus on application security was difficult. In meetings with several government agencies, they acknowledged that it was an issue, but that they were managing to the SANS Top 20. I came home and literally in the shower said to myself, “I wish we had an application security top ten…” So a small team of us at Aspect took the lead in drafting the first OWASP Top Ten.

Later, Aspect donated WebGoat, a hands-on training environment for application security issues that we had developed for our courses. A huge number of organizations, including Google, use WebGoat today to teach their developers about application security. We started to see that participation in OWASP allowed Aspect to demonstrate our skills in a very constructive way, and many of our customers have contacted us after seeing our participation in OWASP.

I was honored to take over the leadership of OWASP in 2003. At that time, we had a number of great contributors, but OWASP itself was just a domain name and a few small projects. So I got us set up as a 501c3 nonprofit organization and put a management structure in place. I want the OWASP Foundation to provide a free, open, supportive community infrastructure for application security projects. We’re making the barriers to entry for contribution so low that security experts will be motivated to make the effort and share their expertise.

One of the key challenges has been to ensure that OWASP is not influenced by commercial interests. When I set up the AppSec conference and local chapter rules, I made sure that vendors are cannot use OWASP to market their products. We’re also starting to ferret out abuse of the OWASP brand by companies that claim their products “address the OWASP Top Ten” or enable “OWASP Compliance.” The local chapters have been growing very quickly and starting to contribute back to the mothership. Our conferences have also been a great experience.

I think the switch to the MediaWiki platform in 2006 was a major step for OWASP. Prior to that, contributing content was a difficult and painful process. Now, anyone can create an account and contribute easily. We have a team set up to review all the contributions and the number of abuses in our first year has been astoundingly low (less than 10 incidents). We’re to the point now where we get dozens of articles and contributions every day. I don’t see how a non-open approach to building an application security body of knowledge can possibly keep up with our productivity.

We’re still a long way from the point where a company can go to OWASP for everything they need in order to build, acquire, and operate secure applications… but we’ve got an incredible process and we’re working very hard to get there.

I have big family and absolutely love my kids. We live in the woods and spend a lot of time outside with our two Labrador retrievers. I’m very much into sports – I rowed on the crew team at UVA and still play basketball three times a week (if you meet me you'll know why). For a while I was into extreme rollerblading and then I got into mountain bike trials – I broke a lot of equipment, but never had any serious injuries :)"

Articles / Presentations

Opening the Black Box: A Source Code Security Analysis Case Study

Application Security Initiatives - The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

Let's Sue the Idiots -- Security, Software, Contracts, and Lawyers

How to Build an HTTP Request Validation Engine for Your J2EE Application

Access Control (aka Authorization) in Your J2EE Application

Trustworthy Java - Are your apps bulletproof?

The Ten Most Critical Web Application Security Vulnerabilities

Security Code Review - the Best Way to Eliminate Vulnerabilities in Software" -

Can a 'Social Protocol' Help Protect Privacy?

Jini and Mobile Agent Security - Proceedings of the Workshop on Agent Technologies (AT ‘98)

A Practical Approach to Improving and Communicating Assurance - Proceedings of the 10th Canadian Information Technology Security Symposium (CITSS)

A Practical Approach to Measuring Assurance - Proceedings of the 1998 Security Applications Conference (ACSAC)

System Security Engineering Capability Maturity Model (SSE-CMM) version 2.0 - Released at the 21st Annual National Information System Security Conference (NISSC)

Just Sick about Security - Proceedings of the New Security Paradigms Workshop

An Enterprise Assurance Framework - Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Enabling Technologies

Pretty Good Assurance - Proceedings of the New Security Paradigms Workshop

Need for a Framework for Reasoning about Assurance - Proceedings of the International Workshop on IT Assurance and Trustworthiness (WITAT)

Assurance is an N-Space (Where N is Hopefully Small) - Proceedings of the International Invitational Workshop on Developmental Assurance

A Capability Maturity Model For Security Engineering - Proceedings of the 6th Annual Canadian Computer Security Symposium

Unsafe at Any (CPU) Speed: Why We Keep Making the Same Mistakes - NSA High Confidence Software and Systems Conference

Web Applications: The “Last Mile” of Internet Security

A Constructionist Approach to Law and Society - Law and Society Seminar, Georgetown University Law Center

Interpreting Anticircumvention (DMCA) - Advanced International Copyright Law, Georgetown University Law Center

P3I – Protection Profile Process Improvement - Proceedings of the 22nd National Information System Security Conference (NISSC)

Windows NT Security - 17th Annual National Computer Security Conference (NCSC)

Windows NT Client Security and Windows NTAS Security - The Local Area Network Security Conference (LANSEC)

Reusing Existing C3I Systems in a Secure Environment - Proceedings of the Application of COTS and Reusable Components Conference

A Framework for Reasoning about Assurance - Published by the National Computer Security Center of the NSA Proceedings of the 11th Annual Conference on Computer Assurance (COMPASS)

Interconnecting MLS Command Centers - White paper for the Multilevel Security Initiative at Hanscomb AFB


  • JD cum laude – Georgetown Law - Cyberlaw and Intellectual Property
  • MA – George Mason - Human Factors Engineering
  • BA – University of Virginia - Cognitive Psychology and Computer Science (Specialization in AI)