Hopefully We Are Mostly Secure: Views on Secure Code in Professional Practice

Lopez, Tamara; Sharp, Helen; Tun, Thein; Bandara, Arosha; Levine, Mark and Nuseibeh, Bashar (2019). Hopefully We Are Mostly Secure: Views on Secure Code in Professional Practice. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Workshop on Cooperative and Human Aspects of Software Engineering pp. 61–68.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1109/CHASE.2019.00023


Security of software systems is of general concern, yet breaches caused by common vulnerabilities still occur. Software developers are routinely called upon to ”do more” to address this situation. However there has been little focus on the developers’ point of view, and understanding how security features in their day-to-day activities. This paper reports preliminary findings of semi-structured interviews taken during an ethnographic study of professional software developers in one organization who are not security experts. The overall study aims to understand how security features in day-to-day practice, while analysis of the interview data asks whether developers are responsible for security. The study reveals that awareness around security matters is raised through several paths including processes, standards, practices and company training and that a focus on security is driven by contextual factors. Security is taken care of with policies and through safeguards, and is handled differently depending on whether a team is developing new features, and hence ”looking forward”, or working with existing code and hence ”looking back”. Developers take and share responsibility for security in the code, but suggest that their responsibility has limits, and relies on collective practice.

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