DevSecOpsJan Kahmen4 min read

Agile Software Development: Systematically Anchoring Security Aspects in the Project

Agile software development allows products to be brought to market faster and feedback to be taken into account sooner and faster. Agile development is therefore becoming the standard for the industry. In the process, software security is becoming a problem. Learn why this is so and how they systematically consider security issues in agile development from the very beginning!


Table of Content

Implement Security as a Process in Development

Agile software development works differently than traditional development process. There is not one long planning and development phase followed by a product launch, but many small iterations. Agile development cycles are based on the step-by-step development of a product. This enables a shorter time-to-market and optimization of the customer journey, but also requires an adapted security concept.

In agile software development, security is not a quality requirement at a single point in time within the development, but a continuous process with new activities in each sprint. Defining and implementing these processes is a major challenge for the organization - but once implemented, they also hold the potential to better address security standards from the outset and thus increase the quality of the product.

Use Abuser Stories and Define Security Requirements Early-Phase

An Abuser Story is a story told from the perspective of a user who has bad intentions. The abuser story describes a course of action that an attacker could use to harm the organization through the software. They are a useful tool in agile development to find out which user activities should be prevented from the beginning. Abuser stories thus form the basis for defining initial requirements and activities for later sprints.

Align Development Cycle and Security Cycle

The Security Development Life Cycle has become the standard for implementing security considerations into software development. However, the SDLC is defined in terms of traditional development cycles, in which clearly defined phases follow one another statically. Since this static sequence does not exist in agile development, static times for performing analyses do not make sense. Threat analyses should be performed in an agile project as soon as the architecture is conceptually in place. This is usually the case after a few sprints. An analysis in this early phase allows you to plan further activities for the next sprints in detail and to review them later.

Automate Security Measures

An incremental cycle usually lasts only a few weeks. During this time, security activities must also be performed. This makes the time for implementing security standards a critical factor. Tools help the development team automate activities such as code analysis or regression testing.

Governance and Communication: Ensuring Security in Agile Development at the Organizational Level

Agile development not only requires a different approach to the practical implementation of security standards during the development lifecycle, but also places specific demands on the organization and the employees involved.

This starts with the definition of responsibilities. To systematically embed security, each role should be clearly defined in terms of security tasks in the development process. This basically affects all members of the development team - from the product owner to the scrum master to the individual developers. To ensure that these requirements are also implemented, communication formats should also be institutionally anchored. Here, development teams can exchange information with those responsible for security within the organization, thereby ensuring a smooth flow of information.

Security and Agility are not Contradictory

Agile software development requires adapting established procedures and standards to the new development cycles. This places high demands on the development team, but also offers the opportunity to develop more secure products in the long term. Agility and security are not contradictory, on the contrary: the incremental and iterative approach of agile development also benefits the implementation of security standards. They are developed earlier and tested more frequently.

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