Assimilating and Optimizing Software Assurance in the SDLC: A Framework and Step-Wise Approach

Assimilating and Optimizing Software Assurance in the SDLC: A Framework and Step-Wise Approach

Aderemi O. Adeniji (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA) and Seok-Won Lee (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-456-7.ch309
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Software Assurance is the planned and systematic set of activities that ensures software processes and products conform to requirements while standards and procedures in a manner that builds trusted systems and secure software. While absolute security may not yet be possible, procedures and practices exist to promote assurance in the software lifecycle. In this paper, the authors present a framework and step-wise approach towards achieving and optimizing assurance by infusing security knowledge, techniques, and methodologies into each phase of the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).
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Software Assurance is steadily gaining ground in the Information Technology industry. The notion of proving secure software while supporting organization and system priorities is appealing to developers and customers alike. Software assurance aims to provide justifiable confidence that software is trusted to behave as intended even amidst intentional and unintentional attacks (Goertzel et al., 2007; Sinclair, 2005).

Based on experiences and lessons learned from designing a graduate level software assurance curriculum, assurance optimization is aided by implementing techniques in each phase of the SDLC. The intent of this paper is to share a strategy for integrating software assurance throughout the lifecycle in a methodical manner, proving a secure and trusted system. Several of the foundations, tools and methods used for optimization, shown on Figure 1, will be highlighted throughout the context.

Figure 1.

Software assurance foundations, methods and tools



Software is the core component of modern products and services, supporting business operations for all sectors of life. With each software use, there are factors which contribute to increased mission risk including: project size and complexity, attack sophistication, and use of third-party vendors (Ellison, 2006; McGraw, 2005). Dependence on this software makes security a primary concern (Allen et al., 2010). Software Assurance is achieved by understanding the mechanics of software built and/or acquired and incorporating validation tools and strategies into each phase of its lifecycle to build a trusted and secure product. Figure 2 diagrams this process, showing a step-wise approach for infusing assurance techniques into the SDLC by outlining approaches and artifacts produced. Knowledge gained from performing each step in a methodical and well-defined manner is carried forward, resulting in progressive learning. This is an iterative process, as education acquired from one phase will allow for more intelligent review in another. Assurance optimization can be achieved by mitigating common weaknesses in software throughout the aforementioned process. Peter G. Neumann identified nine sources of problems in computer systems (1994). A framework for assurance in the SDLC has been developed and these vulnerability sources will be addressed in appropriate phases, shown in Table 1.

Figure 2.

Knowledge flow chart for software assurance in the SDLC

Table 1.
Sources of problems in computer systems and their corresponding software assurance phase
  Neumann’s Sources of Problems in Computer Systems  Assurance Phase(s)
  1. Requirements definitions, omissions and mistakes  Requirement & Operational, Design
  2. System design flaws  Design
  3. Hardware implementation flaws  Implementation/Code
  4. Software implementation errors (program bugs, compiler bugs, etc.)  Implementation/Code
  5. System use, operations error and inadvertent mistakes  Requirement & Operational
  6. Willful system misuse  Requirement & Operational, Design
  7. Hardware, communication, or other equipment malfunction  Implementation/Code
  8. Environmental problems, natural causes and acts of God  Requirement & Operational
  9. Evolution, maintenance, faulty upgrades and decompositions  Implementation/Code

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