Secure Code Warrior

Making moves with NIST: Our human-led position on the future of cyber defense

The recent cybersecurity Executive Order from the Biden Administration has certainly got the security industry talking, especially those who are looking to win over developers to the importance of applying secure coding best practices in their day-to-day work.

The recent cybersecurity Executive Order from the Biden Administration has certainly got the security industry talking, especially those who are looking to win over developers to the importance of applying secure coding best practices in their day-to-day work. For the first time, developers who are working on software in use by the federal government must have verified security skills, as well as adherence to new, evolved guidelines. 

This marks a positive change in the cyber defense status quo, and finally makes adequate upskilling of developers part of the conversation. While these policies are US government-centric, they offer a global opportunity for organizations to address and upgrade current security standards, everything from developers to security analysis of software supply chains. 

NIST recently sought public comment to inform their next updates to HIPAA legislation, among others, and this was an unmissable opportunity for us to pool our company expertise into positioning papers that can help inform a safer, and more effective, human-led approach to cybersecurity that will help organizations leverage their teams for greater outcomes. 

As an expert-driven organization, we are fortunate to have some of the most dedicated and accomplished cybersecurity professionals working with us, including Ph.D. candidate Pieter de Cremer, and Dr. Brian Chess, who is part of our Technical Advisory Board. The three of us put our heads together to formally submit positioning papers to NIST, calling out ways our approach to developer upskilling and preventative security at the software creation stage could positively impact cybersecurity standards going forward. 

A secure development pathway, paved for developers

Vulnerability scanning tools, monitoring and other forms of security automation are increasingly prevalent, and they feature in both the new Executive Order, as well as within NIST guidelines. They are an increasingly essential part of a modern security program, but history and the present show that scanning tools in particular certainly find vulnerabilities in software with ever-increasing efficiency, yet this alone has no effect on reducing them, or, indeed, improving security from the start. 

A cumbersome tech stack that is distracting and slows down the developer workflow is one of the fundamental reasons that developers disengage with security and view it in a negative light. However, if developers had a paved pathway for secure development, one that was customized to suit not just the technology, but also languages, frameworks, and project-specific development objectives, then embedding security into the development process from the beginning - with as little disruption to their productivity as possible - is an ideal that would result in significant reduction in common vulnerabilities over time. 


To read our NIST positioning paper in full, download it now:

Download our full position paper as proposed to NIST.

Certification framework for secure development practices: The (current) missing link

To date, there is no formal certification to verifying secure coding skills and best practices. This has been an industry oversight for a long time, and it’s our position that this is essential for the future of improved cyber defense and secure development. 

We know there are many forms of security training targeting developers, but if the volume of large-scale data breaches, cyberattacks, and poor quality code out there is any indication, it’s not creating security-aware developers, and they are not being equipped with the knowledge to make a dent in a problem that is only getting worse. 

Developer upskilling requires tools and education that is day-job relevant, contextual, bite-sized (yet frequent), and allows them to build upon existing knowledge in the languages and frameworks they actually use. Generic training does not suffice, and this needs to be made abundantly clear in legislation and industry bodies such as NIST. 

The NICE Framework is more than suitable to build out comprehensive certification guidelines that actively use methodologies that work, and are of most interest and relevance to developers, and their work. Aligning with this recognized institutional framework helps to standardize practices that truly make a difference, and provides more concrete pathways for organizations to follow. 


To read our second NIST positioning paper in full, download it now:

Download our full position paper as proposed to NIST.


The people factor in cybersecurity is often forgotten, and it’s time we worked towards human solutions for human problems such as recurrent common vulnerabilities. Decades-old bugs should no longer trip us up, but it will take the backing of global governments to change the status quo and provide measurable, positive impact. 

Are you ready to certify your developers? You’ve come to the right place. Check out our Learning Platform today.