Secure Software Summit Series: Focus on Preventative Readiness

The connected world economy and the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to accelerate digital transformation. Sophisticated cybercriminals have seized this forced acceleration to lay the groundwork for cyberwarfare. In reaction to recent attacks ranging from the SolarWinds breach to the recent Log4Shell exploits, Many companies have quickly isolated and patched their systems. However, these reactive fixes do not work all the time; nor does the watch-and-wait approach. We must focus on re-engineering our organizational operations and culture to build and maintain preventative readiness. Companies and infrastructures need to be more resilient and secure from the start by building secure coding practices into the development process.

Secure Software Summit

At the beginning of 2022, ShiftLeft hosted the Secure Software Summit to provide industry experts and practitioners in the software development world a platform to discuss the latest methods and breakthroughs in secure coding and development practices—securing code earlier and better has become a discipline unto itself!

Some of the main takeaways from the event were:

SBOMs are in Your Future

In the very near future, organizations will need to have a better account for all the software and components of their applications, most likely via a software bill of materials (SBOM). The US government has mandated barebones SBOMs, and we will soon see private industry start to mandate them, too, as part of procurement processes and auditing. This will enforce greater transparency and automate discovery of all dependencies and components in a way that, until now, was not common. Software analysis (SCA) will make this process easier and will become a standard part of the build process and the application development life cycle.

Securing Open Source is Critical

With Log4Shell and other open source software (OSS) supply chain attacks, application security teams must learn how to more intelligently update and secure the most critical OSS components and infrastructure. The average AppSec team needs to sift through massive piles of vulnerabilities and suggested security fixes — far more than they can possibly fix. We have seen record numbers of new vulnerability disclosures in each of the past four years. Proper prioritization based on whether a vulnerability can significantly impact an organization’s own applications and infrastructure is now essential amidst the blizzard of OSS dependencies that make up the modern application.

Digital Threats Impact the Real World

For many organizations in non-tech verticals such as health care that consume a lot of software, application security is at a crisis point—software vulnerabilities can literally put lives and our economy at risk. Researchers have correlated increases in mortality with hospitals running at higher levels of stress and capacity. When ransomware or other attacks impact health care institutions, the effect is the same as a massive pandemic flooding the ER: Doctors can’t use systems or equipment, care is rationed, patients are turned away and everything becomes more time-consuming. The net result is more deaths. Securing these systems against attacks becomes a matter of life or death—literally.

Culture Change Must Come First

Organizations will deploy new security architectures such as zero-trust, but these attempts will only be successful if AppSec and development teams change the culture around security. Organizations must recognize that the new normal is a state of constant renewal of trust. This will be challenging; Constant renewal of trust requires entirely new infrastructure and a new mindset that can be hard on humans. It means implementing multifactor authentication in many more places and removing conveniences like administrative accounts that have blanket access to systems; it requires implementing least privilege practices. Software development will need to bake this constant renewal of trust into workflows and tooling to make it the new normal.

Shift From Reactive to Proactive

AppSec and development teams must shift from reactive approaches that tend to mobilize most resources during a breach or an incident and emphasize more proactive approaches such as better software security analysis and security chaos engineering. Knowing the unknown unknowns before they become a problem is key here. Netflix, which pioneered chaos engineering, recognized that stressing systems frequently and constantly to see how they behave under adverse conditions often yielded surprising insights that could improve security (and resilience, more broadly). As mentioned above, creating better ways to prioritize vulnerabilities and focus on the ones that are actually attackable shifts the task from a hopeless burndown to a targeted and proactive tactical exercise that is manageable.


Stay tuned for more articles to follow written by the following keynote speakers from the event:

  • Aaron Rinehart, Verica – Security Chaos Engineering
  • Dan Lorenc, Chainguard – The State of OSS Supply Chain Security
  • Steve Springett, OWASP – Behold the SBOM
  • Shinesa Cambric, Microsoft – Importance of Securing Software with a Zero Trust Mindset
  • Malcolm Harkins (Epiphany Systems), Rob Lundy (ShiftLeft) and Bryan Smith (RiskLens) – Reachability and Attackability
  • Abhishek Arya, Google – Measuring and Mitigating Risks in Open Source Software

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