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SAMM - Design Review - 1

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Design Review - 1

Objective: Support ad hoc reviews of software design to ensure baseline mitigations for known risks


  • High-level understanding of security implications from perimeter architecture
  • Enable development teams to self-check designs for security best-practices
  • Lightweight process for conducting project-level design reviews

Success Metrics

  • >50% of projects with updated attack surface analysis in past 12 months
  • >50% of projects with updated security requirements design-level analysis in past 12 months


  • Buildout and maintenance of architecture diagrams for each project
  • Ongoing project overhead from attack surface and security requirement design inspection


  • Architects (2-3 days/yr)
  • Developers (1-2 days/yr)
  • Managers (1 day/yr)
  • Security Auditor (1 day/yr)

Related Levels

  • Security Requirements - 1


A. Identify software attack surface

For each software project, create a simplified view of the overall architecture. Typically, this should be created based on project artifacts such as high-level requirements and design documents, interviews with technical staff, or module-level review of the code base. It is important to capture the high-level modules in the system, but a good rule of thumb for granularity is to ensure that the diagram of the whole system under review fits onto one page.

From the single page architecture view, analyze each component in terms of accessibility of the interfaces from authorized users, anonymous users, operators, application-specific roles, etc. The components providing the interfaces should also be considered in the context of the one-page view to find points of functional delegation or data pass-through to other components on the diagram. Group interfaces and components with similar accessibility profiles and capture this as the software attack surface.

For each interface, further elaborate the one-page diagram to note any security-related functionality. Based on the identified interface groups comprising the attack surface, check the model for design-level consistency for how interfaces with similar access are secured. Any breaks in consistency can be noted as assessment findings

This analysis should be conducted by security-savvy technical staff, either within the project team or external. Typically, after initial creation, the diagram and attack surface analysis only needs to be updated during the design phase when additions or changes are made to the edge system interfaces.

B. Analyze design against known security requirements

Security requirements, either formally identified or informally known, should be identified and collected. Additionally, identify and include any security assumptions upon which safe operation of the system relies.

Review each item on the list of known security requirements against the one-page diagram of the system architecture. Elaborate the diagram to show the design-level features that address each security requirement. Separate, granular diagrams can be created to simplify capturing this information if the system is large and/or complex. The overall goal is to verify that each known security requirement has been addressed by the system design. Any security requirements that are not clearly provided at the design level should be noted as assessment findings.

This analysis should be conducted by security-savvy technical staff with input from architects, developers, managers, and business owners as needed. It should be updated during the design phase when there are changes in security requirements or high-level system design.

Additional Resources