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Web Application Security: 3 Lessons We Learned From Formula 1™ Racing

Web Application Security: 3 Lessons We Learned From Formula  1™ Racing

Web application security is more than a best practice — it's a critical part of your security program. Find out how discovering and testing your web applications can help you gain an edge over attackers.

Web applications have long played a critical role in supporting e-commerce and key business initiatives. So, why are so many organizations struggling to keep them safe?

Recently a controversial tool called PunkSpider (re)claimed that it can crawl the entire web, identify hackable vulnerabilities in websites and post them publicly so everyone can search for those results.

If everyone else is testing your websites and your web applications, shouldn't you know what they know? Discovering and testing your web applications for vulnerabilities before anyone else does will help you minimize downtime, maximize revenue and gain the competitive advantage you need to ensure business success.

What Formula 1™ racing can teach us about web application security

Now imagine your web applications are Formula 1™ cars, your developers are the drivers and your security team is the pit crew. The drivers care about performance and speed of the cars while the pit crew wants to make sure the cars are safe, well maintained and free of vulnerabilities. When the race cars perform well, the entire team not only gains financially but also increases its fan base. And, just like these cars, when a company's e-commerce site does well, it generates revenue. But if it is compromised or suffers from downtime, the company loses money and its reputation suffers.

So...what can we learn from Formula 1 racing?

1: Prioritize visibility

Visibility is crucial to a Formula 1 team's success. F1 drivers are in continuous radio contact with their pit crew to get a clear view of the entire race, including track condition, turns and corners and all the cars that are on the track. 

Your web applications are like Formula 1 cars — running in a fast and dynamic environment. Unfortunately, your security team is often unaware of all of the websites and web applications that are being developed by the other parts of the organization. Examples include the unauthorized third-party web applications employees use on the company's behalf, and the abandoned and outdated web applications that potentially pose security holes. Knowing what web apps your organization has — whether in-house, open source or third-party developed — is an important first step in protecting them.

2: Run an efficient pit crew

Formula 1 teams are known for their teamwork, efficiency and ability to keep the cars running safely and at optimal performance levels. During a race, the pit crew must be extremely efficient, refueling cars and changing tires in less than three seconds on average. It is so incredibly impressive that it makes you wonder why a service visit at your car dealership can't be as efficient.

Likewise, if we think of your developers as the drivers, then your security team is the pit crew. The developers want performance and speed of the web applications and are often concerned with how the additional security process can hinder the agility of their web applications. Security practitioners need to guide, enable and support developers in their efforts to create secure code. It is the entire team's goal to ensure the performance and speed of the web applications while maintaining good cyber hygiene and increasing security posture.

3: Do the warm-up lap

Before the actual race, drivers take a warm-up or formation lap to get a last look at the track, warm-up tires, and ensure cars are fully race ready.

Race car drivers shift gears; security leaders "shift left." The traditional security practice of handing your DevOps team a static vulnerability report is no longer scalable in today's dynamic business environment. Integrating a web application scanning tool early into the dev, test, and/or QA phases of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is akin to a warm-up lap that can help expose vulnerabilities early, reduce the cost of fixing those problems and limit the potential for damages due to a compromise. According to Gartner, by 2023, more than 70% of enterprise DevSecOps initiatives will have incorporated automated security vulnerability and configuration scanning for open-source components and commercial packages, which is a significant increase from fewer than 30% in 2019*. Automating security scanning for applications every time — before they go into production and as code changes — is a recommended best practice for increased security posture.

Ready, set, go!

Now that you're ready for the race, keep your web applications safe and improve efficiency by removing silos between your security and DevOps teams and integrating security scanning into your SDLC.

*Source: Gartner, "12 Things to Get Right for Successful DevSecOps," Neil MacDonald and Dale Gardner, refreshed April 9, 2021.

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc., and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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