Managing Security Testing in Agile Software Development

One of the biggest myths in the world of agile development is that there is not enough time during each sprint to do security testing. However, many teams new to the agile methodology may have a lot of questions about security testing in their new environment.

When should you perform security testing? Is there any change in the way security testing is done? What are some of the tips for introducing security testing to an agile environment? This story will attempt to answer these common queries.

Agile methods recommend testing early and often. Irrespective of whether it is functional or nonfunctional testing, these duties should be done from the first sprint. At the end of each sprint, an increment of the product is created, and, if possible, should be deployed as well. If external security agencies or white-hat hackers should be involved, they should be available during each sprint as needed.

As such, the process of security testing remains the same as in traditional methods; modules are just security tested in small increments during each sprint.

Yes, it is a bit uncomfortable to imagine doing security testing or other nonfunctional testing from day one. However, this is the most beneficial and cost-effective way of testing a product for the enterprise. By bringing the process up front, most of the security issues are detected with enough time for the programmers to fix issues.

An important distinction in the agile test management method is that quality is everyone’s responsibility, not just testers’. It’s a good idea to ensure that all team members are trained in and aware of the security guidelines.

For those who are new to security testing in an agile environment, initial security-related stories could be identified during the planning phase. It is also recommended to keep at least two sprints’ worth of backlog items ready at any point in time. This gives enough room to invite security experts for discussions as needed.

Penetration tests should be automated to reduce manual testing as much as possible.

When establishing the team’s definition of done, it may be helpful to stipulate that no stories are complete without code being reviewed for security.Teams also should use “definition of ready” and “definition of done” checklists to keep security-related stories ready and items tested from a security perspective.

Here is a sample “definition of done” checklist focusing on security guidelines:

  • Static code analysis done to check buffer overflows
  • Peer review done by security experts per security coding checklist
  • Threat modeling complete
  • Penetration testing done and approved

“Fail fast and fail early” should be the mantra while implementing security testing in agile environments. You should consider security testing the same way you approach any other testing, and you should plan to complete it during every sprint.

There is definitely time in agile software development to perform security testing. You just need to be dedicated to building it into the sprints.

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