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  • Infiltrating Security

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Infiltrating Security into Development: Exploring the World’s Largest Software Security Study

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Recent years have seen rapid increases in cybercrime. The use of effective software security activities plays an important part in preventing the harm involved. Objective research on industry use of software security practices is needed to help development teams, academic researchers, and educators to focus their activities.

Since 2008, a team of researchers, including two of the authors, has been gathering objective data on the use of 121 software security activities. The Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) study explores the activity use of 675,000 software developers, in companies including some of the world’s largest and most security-focused.

Our analysis of the study data shows little consistent growth in security activity adoption industry-wide until 2015. Since then, the data shows a strong increasing trend, along with the adoption of new activities to support cloud-based deployment, an emphasis on component security, and a reduction in security professionals’ policing role. Exploring patterns of adoption, activities related to detecting and responding to vulnerabilities are adopted marginally earlier than activities related to preventing vulnerabilities; and activities related to particular job roles tend to be used together. We also found that 12 developer security activities are adopted early, together, and notably more often than any others.

From these results, we offer recommendations for software and security engineers, and corresponding education and research suggestions for academia. These recommendations offer a strong contribution to improving security in development teams in the future.