SAMM and the financial services industry:
I have conducted, sold and project managed SAMM engagements to financial service (FS) organisations throughout Europe over the past years. It is obvious the demand is growing for such services. The rise in demand of “security@source” be it via code review, secure development or grey box penetration testing and a supporting framework to tie it all together and understandably so as SAMM is one of the first pragmatic benchmarking and assessment frameworks for the somewhat ancient “Security in the SDLC” challenge.
The financial services industry is the perfect work stream for frameworks like SAMM. Financial services are widely known as the an area which invests heavily in areas such as information security, it’s heavily regulated (some say not heavily enough) and a daily challenge to FS is to maintain leading edge security but manage costs and usability whilst also being compliant with industry regulations, corporate governance and local/regional/global legislation.
SAMM covers four domains which in turn have sub domains. These four “pillars” attempt to examine all aspects of software development, all external catalysts which may result in either making security more robust or result in weakness.
The beauty of SAMM is its simplicity:
It would be naive to assume SAMM is a “silver bullet” in terms of SDLC assessment but it is a very pragmatic solution to a rather complex ecosystem.
The questionnaire is simple and effective assuming knowledge of secure application development as it can sometimes be open to misinterpretation. One of the key challenges in developing SAMM was delivery/authoring of the questionnaire. The risk being that individuals being questioned may misunderstand the questions.
The key to an accurate SAMM effort is [in audit speak] to procure a decent “sample space”. Sample space is a function of the amount and the diversity [roles within the SDLC] of the individuals interviewed by the SAMM reviewer. Accuracy of the answers given is also important as you shall get divergence based on role within the organisation.
Road map definition is also a challenge and knowledge of what are the focus points for the organisation being assessed are very important to develop the roadmap. [E.g. A financial services organisation may focus on regulatory and compliance issues but a software development house may not so much.] A principal benefit of SAMM is the ability to define a high level roadmap and drilling down into each activity in order to define what is required to reach the required SAMM level for a given domain.