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Building an Effective AppSec Education Program: A Step-by-Step Guide

Building an Effective Application Security Education Program: A Step-by-Step Guide

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As technology advances, cybersecurity risks have become a growing concern for businesses. As a result, building an effective application security education program has become a top priority for many organizations.  

In this article, we will dive into the steps involved in building an effective application security program. 


Building an Application Security Education Program 

As you build your application security program, you’ll be able to cater to your organization’s needs; even so, you can follow these five steps: 

  1. Set Measurable Goals  
  2. Collaborate and Communicate with Stakeholders 
  3. Build Your Program Requirements and Plan 
  4. Deploy and Communicate with Learners 
  5. Measure and Optimize 

By following these steps, you can better position yourself to show measurable organizational success. 

Listen to the Podcast: Layers of a Functional Application Security Program 

Let’s focus on the steps involved in building an effective application security program. 


Set Measurable Goals  

Most people think about measuring their program's success after it’s built, but it’s essential to consider what you will measure before building your program.  

To measure success, it is essential to establish key metrics and begin collecting data before launching a new program. This will provide both "before" and "after" data to evaluate the program's effectiveness. 

Start by gathering key metrics and information you can measure later: 

  • Number of vulnerabilities that appear in a developer’s code before and after training  
  • Number of vulnerabilities that a developer can detect and fix in their production code  
  • Elapsed time from vulnerability discovery to patch  
  • Time spent fixing vulnerabilities  

It's important to collaborate with different departments and identify the metrics they need to measure to achieve business goals. This will help streamline goals and guide programs that generate desired results. 

Read The Article: Why It's Important to Train More Than Just Developers 


Collaborate and Communicate with Stakeholders  

Effective application security programs are not created in a bubble; you must collaborate with stakeholders across your organization. This can include leaders from Security, Compliance, Development, Engineering, and QA.  

But what should you communicate? 

Depending on the stakeholder’s role, you may want to communicate: 

  • The Purpose of The Training Program 
    • Do you have to meet compliance standards? 
    • Is this a response to an incident? 
  • Learners and Admins' Time Commitment 
    • How much time will the training take away from daily job duties? 
  • How Reporting Will Be Provided 
    • What KPIs will be measured? 
    • How will results be reported? 


Build Your Program Requirements and Plan  

Adult learning science principles should be considered when building your program. Short, bite-sized lessons are more effective, as people learn better when focusing on small pieces of information that the mind can digest easily and quickly.  

When choosing the type of training, you consider your learners' roles, what technology is available, and how much access you have to subject matter experts. 

Read The Article: How to Integrate Role-Based Developer Training into Your AppSec Program 

There are a few ways you can train: 

  • In-Person - In-person training promotes a social component to learning, but it can be challenging to organize. This can be effective when you have in-house subject matter experts or Security Champions. 
  • Video-Based - Video-based training is excellent for teaching fundamentals, as it can be complete. This can be effective when you have non-technical roles that need to learn core concepts. 
  • Hands-On - Hands-on problem solving engages and easily applies skills to new situations. This is most effective when training technical roles that need proactive use of an interface that they’re already familiar with. 

Remember that training shouldn’t be one-and-done but continuous throughout the year. Keep security in mind by offering timely and relevant updates to improve learner engagement and recall. This can be done by partnering with a company like Security Journey. 


Deploy and Communicate 

When you’re ready to deploy your application security training program, communication with your learners is key. How you communicate about your program will dictate how your learners feel about the program. 

Utilize all your communication lines within the organization, including email, intranet, messengers, team, etc., to ensure no one is left out. Be clear with your learners about expectations, goals, and deadlines. 

Here are some opportunities for communication with your learners: 

  • Welcome email with directions to get started 
  • Reminders via Slack or other messengers to make sure learners are on track 
  • Easy access to the training material through your organization's intranet or HP platform 
  • Congratulatory messages when learners complete program milestones 
  • Regular check-in with learners on their experiences via surveys and forms 

Read The Article: Driving Engagement with Secure Coding Training Tournaments 


Measure and Optimize 

Training is not a one-time event, and measurement and optimization of a program should not be carried out only at the end.  

Continuous monitoring is crucial to ensure the application security training program's effectiveness. It is important to collect feedback from learners, administrators, and stakeholders throughout the program to identify areas of improvement. Keeping the stakeholders informed about the program's progress and remembering the goals will help achieve the desired outcomes. 


Now You Have The Building Blocks 

Building an effective application security education program requires careful planning, stakeholder collaboration, and continuous improvement.  

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can build a program that effectively trains your developers to write secure code, ultimately reducing the risk of cybersecurity breaches.