Secure your code, from the start.

OWASP AppSec Day 2019: Nurturing Secure Developers

21st November 2019

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend OWASP AppSec Day 2019 in beautiful Melbourne. These developer-focused events are among my favorite on the calendar; they provide a humbling reminder of the community that works tirelessly to educate and empower software engineers and specialists to champion security in their work.

The guest lineup was sensational - not to mention refreshingly diverse - and it’s a great feeling that, even after all these years in the industry, I too can leave inspired. The likes of Tanya Janca, Toni James and Teri Radichel delivered incredible presentations, while Wireghoul’ Eldar Marcussen on-the-spot secure coding challenges tested the whole auditorium, but it was great to witness so much deep security awareness amongst attendees.

This year, Secure Code Warrior was a platinum sponsor of the event. I had to smile as I recalled that just four years ago, it was the team behind OWASP AppSec Day that was helping out our bootstrapped startup with a free booth and promotion. It was a moment of pride to see how far we had come as a company, and a time to be grateful that such a generous community of incredible people exists.

Toni James: Security From a Developer’s Perspective

If there is one thing we need to nurture more in this world, it’s empathy. And when it comes to making software safer across the board, understanding the plight of the developer is essential.

I really enjoyed Toni’s presentation, and I’m sure it was instantly relatable for every developer. There is a lot more to the story than just “write secure code”, and while I certainly believe that developers effectively trained in security are our best chance in the fight against vulnerabilities, it’s imperative to consider their day-to-day challenges.

A software developer’s work can be on display to millions of users, support critical infrastructure and be the driving force behind services we take for granted. Feature building, executing business innovations and sticking to lean delivery deadlines create a lot of pressure, and that’s before an AppSec team looms large and picks apart their hard work. Toni spoke about what life is like in this environment, and how a good dose of empathy on all sides can lead to far better processes and security outcomes. I am very pleased to see such healthy strides being made to bridge the gap between developers and AppSec teams; at the end of the day, this is a critical element in a positive, thriving security culture, and Toni is a prime example of this process working incredibly well.

Toni James with our Customer Success warrior, Jeanette.

Tanya Janca and Teri Radichel: Security Superheroes

Not that it’s a competition, but Tanya Janca and Teri Radichel’s contributions to the conference were among my favorite. Ten minutes into their tutorial on DIY cloud security assessments exposed their amazing breadth of experience, qualifications and expertise, but also their genuine warmth and desire to share knowledge and support the developer community. Together, they presented realistic and executable actions towards ensuring Azure implementations were secure, including practical advice on setting security policies and least privilege measures.

A quick Google search will tell you all you need to know about their dedication to supporting developers at the grassroots level, with a wealth of free resources, mentoring opportunities and interviews to promote the fun and engaging side of software security. They are inspirational, vital champions of our community; if they’re speaking at the next security conference you attend, you’d be mad to miss their session.

@shehackspurple herself, Tanya Janca.

Clients on the big stage

It was brilliant to see so many of our clients not only in attendance, but also owning the stage and sharing their immense security knowledge with the audience.

We managed to catch Telstra’s Andrew Bailey delivering an important talk, “Adding the ‘Sec’ to DevOps”. His wealth of experience as a senior software engineer, now laser-focused on application security and secure coding was an excellent perspective to highlight. He gave end-to-end tips on injecting security in every stage of the SDLC (including, of course, right at the beginning by training more developers in secure coding).

Ken Johnson is part of GitHub’s security team, and I was delighted to see him join the panel of experts at the end of the conference. He, along with the other panelists, was only too happy to answer pressing questions from the audience, including those that don’t necessarily receive the attention they deserve in the media. Along with several industry insights, he got the panel talking about the importance of wellbeing and work/life balance, which is something very important in this age of developer burnout.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Julian Berton and the whole OWASP Melbourne team for another incredible conference. See you next year (with more stickers).

Pieter is the Co-Founder and CEO of Secure Code Warrior, as well as a principal instructor for the SANS Institute. He also co-founded BruCON, one of the most awesome hacking conferences on the planet.

View Comments