Managing Software Operational Security

Developing secure software is not enough: we need to make sure the software remains secure all the way through its operational life as well.

Software Configuration

We need to make sure that the configuration we intended for development purpose are turned off, and for production purpose are turned on.

Default accounts are accounts put in by vendor for testing and maintenance. They are commonly known and can be used as a point of entry to get access to the software. Password are often never changed, if they are changeable at all.

We have to double check the access levels of users and that logs are turned on.

Finally, make sure the built-in security features are turned on.

This come downs to hardening our system, i.e. disabling all unnecessary features. This includes:

  • Administrator accounts
  • Administrator functions
  • Remote access
  • Vendor-supplied default accounts and passwords

Sometimes, this is not documented and we need to discover those by ourselves.


An important part of secure operations is to have good documentation:

  • User guides (how to use the system)
  • Error handling (what the error means, without giving too much information that people could use to create errors to find out how the system works)
  • Scheduling (what jobs must complete prior, subsequently, etc)
  • Architecture configuration (DMZ etc)

Verification and Validation


  • Check existence of control
  • Controls were implemented
  • Controls are correctly configured
  • Controls are documented


  • Ensure it is the “right” control
  • Mitigates identified risk
  • Controls operate correctly
  • Test results are available

Assessment and Authorization


  • Testing of controls
  • Determine level of risk associated with the software
  • Performed throughout the software lifecycle
  • Shift left


  • Approval of software for implementation by Senior Manager
  • Acceptance of risk
  • Performed prior to implementation
  • Documents conditions for operation
  • Re-authorization may be required depending on changes to system or operational environment

Going Further