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This article explains the usage of DSOMM, the dimensions and corresponding sub-dimensions.


Before you start, there is kind of maturity level 0.

The pre-requirements are highly based (mostly copied) on AppSecure NRW.

This model is based on "Security Belts".

Risk management

NIST defines risk as

a measure of the extent to which an entity is threatened by a potential circumstance or event, and typically is a function of:

  1. the adverse impact, or magnitude of harm, that would arise if the circumstance or event occurs; and
  2. the likelihood of occurrence.

In information security, risks arise from the loss of:

of information or information systems and reflect the potential adverse impacts to:

A risk then tied to a threat, its probability and its impacts.

If you are interested in Risk Management frameworks and strategies, you can start from FISMA.

Onboard Product Owner and other Managers

To adopt a DSOMM in a product or a project, it is important to identify the person or the team which is responsible to ensure that risk-related considerations reflects the organizational risk tolerance (see Risk Executive for a more complete view).

Depending on the project, this "Risk Manager" - which in layman terms is responsible for judging "risks vs. costs" of the product - can be the Project Manager, the Product Owner or else: it is important that he has the proper risk management knowledge and, receive a proper training.

The "Risk Manager" must be convinced that continuously improving security through DSOMM is an effective way to to minimize risk and build better products.

The first steps for deploying DSOMM are then the following:

  1. identify the persons in charge for risk decisions
  2. make them aware of information security risks, showing the impacts of threats and their probability.
  3. convince them that security requires continuous efforts


Get to Know Security Policies

Identify the security policies of your organization and adhere to them.

Share with the Security Champion Guild how you perform the required activities from the policies, so others can benefit from your experience.

In addition, provide feedback to the policy owner.

Communicate discrepancies with the defined security policies to the "Risk Manager" so that he can take proper measures.


Continuously Improve your Security Belt Rank

Security is like a big pizza. You cannot eat it as a whole, but you can slice it and continuously eat small slices.

Ensure that the "Risk Manager" continuously prioritizes the security belt activities for the next belt highly within the product backlog.

Security belt activities make "good slices" because they are of reasonable size and have a defined output.

Celebrate all your implemented security belt activities!


Review Security Belt Activities

Let the Security Champion Guild review your implementations of security belt activities (or concepts of these implementations) as soon as possible. This helps to eradicate misunderstandings of security belt activities early.


Utilize Pairing when starting an activity

When implementing a security belt activity, approach a peer from the Security Champion Guild to get you started.



This section describes the various dimensions and the corresponding sub dimension.

The descriptions are highly based (mostly copied) on the OWASP Project Integration Project Writeup.


This dimension covers topic of "traditional" hardening of software and infrastructure components.

There is an abundance of libraries and frameworks implementing secure defaults. For frontend development, ReactJS seems to be the latest favourite in the Javascript world.

On the database side, there are ORM libraries and Query Builders for most languages.

If you write in Java, the ESAPI project offers several methods to securely implement features, ranging from Cryptography to input escaping and output encoding.

Example low maturity scenario:

The API was queryable by anyone and GraphQL introspection was enabled since all components were left in debug configuration.

Sensitive API paths were not whitelisted. The team found that the application was attacked when the server showed very high CPU load. The response was to bring the system down, very little information about the attack was found apart from the fact that someone was mining cryptocurrencies on the server.

Example Low Maturity Scenario:

The team attempted to build the requested features using vanilla NodeJS, connectivity to backend systems is validated by firing an internal request to /healthcheck?remoteHost=<xx.xx.xx> which attempts to run a ping command against the IP specified. All secrets are hard coded. The team uses off the shelf GraphQL libraries but versions are not checked using NPM Audit. Development is performed by pushing to master which triggers a webhook that uses FTP to copy latest master to the development server which will become production once development is finished.

Example High Maturity Scenario:

Team members have access to comprehensive documentation and a library of code snippets they can use to accelerate development.

Linters are bundled with pre-commit hooks and no code reaches master without peer review.

Pre-merge tests are executed before merging code into master. Tests run a comprehensive suite of tests covering unit tests, service acceptance tests, unit tests as well as regression tests.

Once a day a pipeline of specially configured static code analysis tools runs against the features merged that day, the results are triaged by a trained security team and fed to engineering.

There is a cronjob executing Dynamic Analysis tools against Staging with a similar process.

Pentests are conducted against features released on every release and also periodically against the whole software stack.

Culture and Organization

This section covers topics related to culture and organization like processes, education and the design phase.

Once requirements are gathered and analysis is performed, implementation specifics need to be defined. The outcome of this stage is usually a diagram outlining data flows and a general system architecture. This presents an opportunity for both threat modeling and attaching security considerations to every ticket and epic that is the outcome of this stage.


There is some great advice on threat modeling out there e.g. this article or this one.

A bite sized primer by Adam Shostack himself can be found here.

OWASP includes a short article on Threat Modeling along with a relevant Cheatsheet. Moreover, if you're following OWASP SAMM, it has a short section on Threat Assessment.

There's a few projects that can help with creating Threat Models at this stage, PyTM is one, ThreatSpec is another.

Note: A threat model can be as simple as a data flow diagram with attack vectors on every flow and asset and equivalent remediations. An example can be found below.

Threat Model

Last, if the organisation maps Features to Epics, the Security Knowledge Framework (SKF) can be used to facilitate this process by leveraging it's questionnaire function.


This practice has the side effect that it trains non-security specialists to think like attackers.

The outcomes of this stage should help lay the foundation of secure design and considerations.

Example Low Maturity Scenario:

Following vague feature requirements the design includes caching data to a local unencrypted database with a hardcoded password.

Remote data store access secrets are hardcoded in the configuration files. All communication between backend systems is plaintext.

Frontend serves data over GraphQL as a thin layer between caching system and end user.

GraphQL queries are dynamically translated to SQL, Elasticsearch and NoSQL queries. Access to data is protected with basic auth set to 1234:1234 for development purposes.

Example High Maturity Scenario:

Based on a detailed threat model defined and updated through code, the team decides the following:

Education and Guidence

Metrics won't necessarily improve without training engineering teams and somehow building a security-minded culture. Security training is a long and complicated discussion. There is a variety of approaches out there, on the testing-only end of the spectrum there is fully black box virtual machines such as DVWA, Metasploitable series and the VulnHub project.

The code & remediation end of the spectrum isn't as well-developed, mainly due to the complexity involved in building and distributing such material. However, there are some respectable solutions, Remediate The Flag can be used to setup a code based challenge.

Remediate the Flag

However, if questionnaires are the preferred medium, or if the organisation is looking for self-service testing, Secure Coding Dojo is an interesting solution.

More on the self-service side, the Security Knowledge Framework has released several Labs that each showcase one vulnerability and provides information on how to exploit it.

However, to our knowledge, the most flexible project out there is probably the Juice Shop, deployed on Heroku with one click, it offers both CTF functionality and a self-service standalone application that comes with solution detection and a comprehensive progress-board.

Juice Shop


Example High Maturity Scenario:

Business continuity and Security teams run incident management drills periodically to refresh incident playbook knowledge.

Test and Verification

At any maturity level, linters can be introduced to ensure that consistent code is being added. For most linters, there are IDE integrations providing software engineers with the ability to validate code correctness during development time. Several linters also include security specific rules. This allows for basic security checks before the code is even committed. For example, if you write in Typescript, you can use tslint along with tslint-config-security to easily and quickly perform basic checks.

However, linters cannot detect vulnerabilities in third party libraries, and as software supply chain attacks spread, this consideration becomes more important. To track third party library usage and audit their security you can use Dependency Check/Track.

SKF Code

This stage can be used to validate software correctness and it's results as a metric for the security related decisions of the previous stages. At this stage both automated and manual testing can be performed. SAMM again offers 3 maturity levels across Architecture Reviews, Requirements testing, and Security Testing. Instructions can be found here and a screenshot is listed below.

SAMM Testing

Testing can be performed several ways and it highly depends on the nature of the software, the organisation's cadence, and the regulatory requirements among other things.

If available, automation is a good idea as it allows detection of easy to find vulnerabilities without much human interaction.

If the application communicates using a web-based protocol, the ZAP project can be used to automate a great number of web related attacks and detection. ZAP can be orchestrated using its REST API and it can even automate multi-stage attacks by leveraging its Zest scripting support.

Vulnerabilities from ZAP and a wide variety of other tools can be imported and managed using a dedicated defect management platform such as Defect Dojo(screenshot below).

Defect Dojo

For manual testing the Web and Mobile Security Testing Guides can be used to achieve a base level of quality for human driven testing.

Example Low Maturity Scenario:

The business deployed the system to production without testing. Soon after, the client's routine pentests uncovered deep flaws with access to backend data and services. The remediation effort was significant.

Example High Maturity Scenario:

The application features received Dynamic Automated testing when each reached staging, a trained QA team validated business requirements that involved security checks. A security team performed an adequate pentest and gave a sign-off.

Build and Deployment

Secure configuration standards can be enforced during the deployment using the Open Policy Agent.

SAMM Release

Example Low Maturity scenario:

please create a PR

Example High Maturity scenario:

The CI/CD system, when migrating successful QA environments to production, applies appropriate configuration to all components. Configuration is tested periodically for drift.

Secrets live in-memory only and are persisted in a dedicated Secrets Storage solution such as Hashicorp Vault.

Information Gathering

Concerning metrics, the community has been quite vocal on what to measure and how important it is. The OWASP CISO guide offers 3 broad categories of SDLC metrics[1] which can be used to measure effectiveness of security practices. Moreover, there is a number of presentations on what could be leveraged to improve a security programme, starting from Marcus' Ranum's keynote at Appsec California[1], Caroline Wong's similar presentation and this presentation by J. Rose and R. Sulatycki. These among several writeups by private companies all offering their own version of what could be measured.

Projects such as the ELK stack, Grafana and Prometheus can be used to aggregate logging and provide observability.

However, no matter the WAFs, Logging, and secure configuration enforced at this stage, incidents will occur eventually. Incident management is a complicated and high stress process. To prepare organisations for this, SAMM includes a section on incident management involving simple questions for stakeholders to answer so you can determine incident preparedness accurately.

Example High Maturity scenario:

Logging from all components gets aggregated in dashboards and alerts are raised based on several Thresholds and events. There are canary values and events fired against monitoring from time to time to validate it works.