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Reacting to security incidents is slowing you down.

Application security is often reactive: we wait for incidents to occur before we address them. But you can't afford to be reactive if you want to speed up your development processes. Even if you quickly and successfully patch up your system after an attack, the damage has already been done. Your data has already been compromised and customer trust has been eroded. 

Reactive application security leaves you in a constant state of vulnerability where you are endlessly playing catch-up. That’s no way to increase your team’s development velocity

If you want to successfully implement fast-paced development methodologies like Agile, you must adopt a proactive plan and process for securing your software. This transition protects against imminent dangers and ensures your application's enduring integrity and reliability amidst a progressively hostile online environment.

Code quality as a security foundation 

Adding secure coding practices to your code quality standards will help your team avoid potential security pitfalls. 

While adding a security focus might seem like something that could add friction, it’ll actually make things run smoother if implemented thoughtfully, as less rework will be necessary. Adding proactive processes like threat modeling and risk-based prioritization can also significantly speed up work by empowering developers to mitigate the most severe threats first, reducing future disruptions that can slow them down. 

Added benefits of prioritizing security in development 

While speed is the primary goal here, there are several added benefits to putting security first: 

  • Greater compliance

When security is integrated early in your development process, you can avoid surprises and streamline the process of preparing your product for compliance audits. This is essential for companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance. 

  • Developer upskilling 

Developers exposed early to security best practices can quickly improve their skills by increasing their knowledge of common attack vectors, even when working on tasks that aren’t directly focused on security. 

  • Easier incident resolution

Accelerated development also means accelerated incident resolution. If an issue does arise, your team is in a better position to react quickly and minimize downtime. 

  • Competitive advantage

Products with a reputation for being secure have a marketing advantage over competitors that don’t prioritize security. Your team’s dedication to security signals a high level of trust, competence, and reliability that customers will come to expect and recognize. 

How to prioritize security in an agile development setting 

To see what integrating security into a faster development environment looks like, let’s examine how it would work in an Agile setting, where continuous improvement and iterative integration are paramount. 

Select the right framework

A security framework is a structured set of guidelines and tools to help developers build secure software applications. These frameworks provide a systematic approach to addressing security in every part of the development lifecycle, from initial design to deployment and maintenance.

Some popular ones are OWASP Top 10, CERT C/C++, CWE, and PCI DSS. Choosing a framework isn’t a decision that can be taken lightly. Your team must discuss how the chosen framework addresses your unique risk profile and compliance requirements. It should also be compatible with your tool stack and the technologies you are using. 

Focus on education 

While most software companies have a security team, or at least a security expert on board, knowledge sharing is essential if you want to prioritize security and increase development velocity.

Find a way to share knowledge of secure coding principles throughout your team. Use regular meetings like standups and retrospectives as learning opportunities for your security experts to share knowledge with others, helping to promote rapid learning and iteration within the feedback loop.

Introduce secure coding standards gradually. Pick and choose them to address your most vital product security needs with each standard you add. Be very specific when defining severity categorization for known issues. 

Introduce automation 

Take advantage of the robustness of your continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline by adding automated tools to your workflow,such as Static Application Security Testing (SAST). 

Introduce Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) scanning and incorporate security-specific unit tests. Instead of inundating developers with every possible flaw right from the start, tailor the rules of your automated tools to focus on standard and high-risk vulnerabilities that correspond with your product and industry. 

As your team becomes comfortable integrating automated tools into their workflow, you can gradually augment these rules to include more diverse and widespread issues and bugs.

Final thoughts

Sophisticated teams recognize that automation doesn't replace human expertise; it enables teams to engage in higher-level analysis and proactive threat modeling discussions to speed up development without compromising product and customer safety. Keeping your product and customer data secure should be just as essential as adding features and improving how customers interact with your product.