1.2 Roles in Security

In a normal software development project, there are many people who influence software security. People often look at software security from different perspectives and hope to gain different results from its implementation; these are often at odds with the goals of others. In this section, we describe the most common roles, and explain the motivations and goals of those who hold them. The content of this book is aimed at the technical reader, but it is important that you appreciate the complete set of influences that shape the need for and implementation of software security. See Chapter 4 for a more detailed examination of some of these roles and the way they influence the life cycle of an application.

1.2.1 The Business Sponsor

The business sponsor is responsible for commissioning a software development project, and usually owns the problem that the application is intended to solve. The role of the business sponsor, and his expectations of software security, varies depending on the nature of the business and the purpose of the software.

The business sponsor typically lacks technical expertise, but controls the development budget and may support the implementation of software security for the following reasons:

  • Security is a known requirement of the systems users.

  • Legislation dictates that the software must implement certain security measures.

  • Security features are necessary to compete with other products and look good on marketing material.

Lacking formal requirements, the business sponsor will often have opinions to offer on the importance and implementation of software security. These opinions may or may not be in line with the real requirements of the project.

Business sponsors are often the biggest source of tension on a project when it comes to the correct application of security. As you will see throughout this book, software security can be applied only after a careful assessment of the application requirements; however, the business sponsor often wants to bring the application into production as quickly as possible, and this creates a tension between the careful application of a planned security policy and the business requirement that the application ship quickly.

1.2.2 The Architect

The project architect is responsible for the overall design of the application, ensuring that the planned development will meet the business and technical goals that have been specified by the business sponsor. The architect is ideally placed to assess the security needs of the application and to formulate the security policy that will be implemented by the programmers.

1.2.3 The Programmer

The programmer is responsible for implementing the application design produced by the architect and for meeting the software security goals specified in the design. The programmer must have a firm understanding of the security features provided by the development platform in use, and must be trusted to implement the security policy completely and without modification.

1.2.4 The Security Tester

The security tester does not perform the same role as an ordinary application tester. A normal tester creates test scenarios that ensure that the planned functionality works as expected, by simulating the actions of a user. By contrast, the security tester simulates the actions of a hacker, in order to uncover behaviors that would circumvent the software security measures. Security testing is an underrated and underemployed activity, but is vital in validating the security measures designed by the architect and implemented by the programmer.

1.2.5 The System Administrator

The system administrator is responsible for installing, configuring, and managing the application; these tasks require a good understanding of general security issues, and an appreciation of the security features provided by the development platform and the application itself.

One of the most important aspects of system administration is application monitoring. Well-designed applications provide system administrators with information about potential security breaches, and it is the responsibility of the system administrator to monitor for such information and to formulate a response plan in the event that the security of an application is subverted.

1.2.6 The User

The user is the final consumer of the functionality provided by the application, and is often required to interact with its software security measuresfor example, by entering a username and password to gain access to its functionality.

The users of an application create their own tensions against the security policy; their expectations that the software system will protect them are high, but their willingness to be constrained by intrusive security measures is limited. For example, retail customers expect that a software system will conceal their credit card numbers from unauthorized third parties and protect their accounts from unauthorized changes.However, the same users will resist taking any responsibility for their own securityfor example, by remembering and specifying a PIN code when they purchase goods.

Successful security policies take into account the users' attitudes, and do not force them to accept security demands that they cannot or will not adhere to. Unsuccessful security policies do not take into account the needs of the userfor example, requiring users to remember long and difficult passwords that are frequently changed. In such circumstances, users will simply write the password down on a piece of paper and thereby negate all of the effort made during the development process.

1.2.7 The Hacker/Cracker

The final role is the cracker, more popularly known as a hacker. The hacker attempts to circumvent or subvert software security for financial gain or perhaps to rise to a perceived intellectual challenge. The hacker is the person whom security measures are meant to foil, but the label does not accurately describe the range of people who will attack software security systems. Throughout this book, we detail a number of specific security systems and explain the type of attack against which each is intended to protect.

    Part V: API Quick Reference