Bryan Sullivan’s thought-provoking post on Streamlining Security Practices for Agile Development caught my attention this morning. Reading it gave me the impression of a genuine generational divide. If you have ever witnessed a father and son talk about music, while they are talking about the same subject, there is little doubt the two are incompatible.

The post is in line with what Rich and I have been discussing with the web application series, especially in the area of why the web apps are different, albeit on a slightly more granular level. This article is about process simplification and integration, and spells out a few of the things you need to consider if moving from more formalized waterfall process into Agile with Security. The two nuggets of valuable information are the risk based inclusion of requirements, where the higher risk issues are placed into the sprints, and the second is how to account for lower priority issues that require periodic inspection within a non-linear development methodology.

The risk-based approach of placing higher security issues as code gets created in each sprint is very effective. It requires that issues and threats be classified in advance, but it makes the sprint requirements very clear while keeping security as a core function of the product. It is a strong motivator for code and test case re-use to reduce overhead during each sprint, especially in critical areas like input validation.

Bryan also discusses the difficulties of fitting other lower priority security requirements extracted from SDL into Agile for Web Development. In fact, he closes the post with the conclusion that retrofitting waterfall based approaches to secure Agile development is not a good fit. Bravo to that! This is the heart of the issue, and while the granular inclusion of high risk issues into the sprint works, the rest of the ‘mesh’ is pretty much broken.  Checks and certifications triggered upon completed milestones must be rethought. The bucketing approach can work for you, but what you label the buckets and when you give them consideration will vary from team to team. You may decide to make them simple elements of the product and sprint backlog. But that’s the great thing about process is you get to change it to however it suits your purpose.

Regardless, this post has some great food for though and is worth a read.