Is OWASP at Danger of Irrelevance?

Because the OWASP Basis navigates its third decade of existence, many utility safety specialists and OWASP volunteer contributors say it is time for the group to make some massive modifications to remain related. This week, a bunch of over 60 high-profile OWASP members despatched an open letter to the OWASP Board of Administrators and to the muse’s government director demanding vital modifications to the muse. Many of those co-signers have been leaders of flagship OWASP tasks, lifetime contributors, and former OWASP board members.

“OWASP merely is not driving innovation anymore,” says Distinction Safety co-founder and CTO Jeff Williams, writer of the primary OWASP High Ten, the OWASP chair from 2001 by means of 2011, and one of many co-signers. “Open supply has modified, and OWASP must sustain by supporting contributors higher.”

Among the many signatories have been additionally two present board members, Glenn ten Cate and Mark Curphey. Whereas Curphey says the letter is the results of mutual collaboration inside the group, it additionally aligns very carefully with a manifesto he published last year as part of his profitable bid for a seat on the 2023 board. Because the founding father of OWASP, Curphey hadn’t been straight concerned with the group for a while, however had all the time been a supporter and advocate for OWASP whereas he was busy being a safety practitioner, safety product chief, and entrepreneur within the utility safety house.

Curphey targeted on the next three main factors throughout his marketing campaign for the board:

  • to vary the funding mannequin of OWASP to look extra like how Linux Basis and its Open Software program Safety Basis works with donors to help their mission,
  • to put in a chief product officer to steer the cost to scrub up tasks (and prioritize the high-impact ones) in addition to renovate the OWASP website to make it extra developer pleasant, and
  • to vary the tradition of OWASP to get rid of pink tape and so as to add extra transparency in how distributors are (or usually are not) concerned within the OWASP mission.

The open letter echoes many of these points, whereas calling for a change in governance that would gasoline a drastic effort in fundraising that they really feel might pull in hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to rent devoted builders and mission leaders.

OWASP Then and Now

When OWASP was based approach again in 2001, it was a scrappy labor of affection based by utility safety advocates who have been involved concerning the mounting threat to the Web posed by insecure Net functions. They wished to spice up consciousness of the issue outdoors the bubble of cybersecurity insiders. And so OWASP was born to assist ship training and assets to not simply safety professionals, but additionally builders and enterprise stakeholders.

The thought was to offer organizations technical steering that would allow builders to enhance their coding practices and cut back the chance of vulnerabilities within the software program they deployed. This was the genesis of the OWASP High 10, the group’s vaunted checklist of the ten riskiest flaws in functions that was first revealed in 2003 and which has since spawned quite a few updates and sub-lists, and which has fueled an entire host of safety open supply tasks, industrial merchandise, and companies.

Plenty of issues have modified since these early years. The notice piece of OWASP has definitely hit its mark, and at present the group has grown to help over 240 chapters and tens of hundreds of members and members around the globe. It hosts a full slate of native and world occasions, and a lot of tasks just like the High 10, the Software program Assurance Maturity Mannequin (SAMM), and Zed Assault Proxy (ZAP).

Nonetheless, the scope of utility safety work to be performed has broadened significantly because the world has moved approach past Net functions and is now awash with cell apps, IoT and embedded programs, wearables, and all the pieces in between — all of which is pushed by software program.

And the event atmosphere has radically modified, too. Trendy improvement practices have coopted strategies like steady integration/steady supply (CI/CD), DevOps, and Agile improvement to take over from conventional waterfall improvement patterns. Builders lean closely on microservices architectures and mix-and-match open supply parts to construct out their software program.

Sadly, within the face of all that change, some issues have additionally stayed the identical. Lots of the points on that first OWASP High 10 are simply as problematic at present and nonetheless on the checklist, together with injection flaws, misconfigurations, and authentication failures. Now, although, these nagging issues which have by no means gone away are solely exacerbated by the expanded scope, the velocity of improvement, and the tangle of software program provide chain dependencies which have been added to the combination through the years.

Clamoring for Change

Within the context of those elements, many OWASP insiders argue that the nonprofit has not saved up with the tempo of change inside the software program improvement world. They are saying the muse is not supporting the wants of the OWASP neighborhood, particularly in regard to the muse’s flagship projects, which incorporates over a dozen tasks amongst OWASP’s 274 different tasks.

“What labored prior to now merely isn’t working now and OWASP wants to vary. Yr after yr, issues have been raised and there have been guarantees of change, however yr after yr it hasn’t occurred,” stated the open letter to the OWASP Board of Administrators and to the muse’s government director. “The hole between what our tasks and the neighborhood round them need, and the help that OWASP gives, continues to develop wider.”

With the publication of this newest missive, the letter’s cosigners say that a few of OWASP’s most impactful tasks — ones which are relied upon by many enterprises and by merchandise enterprises use at present — are left to “function independently, in some instances managing their very own sponsorships, finance, web sites, domains, communication platforms, and developer instruments.”

The signatories are clamoring for some drastic modifications in funding fashions and governance to get the group again to serving the wants of builders within the context of contemporary software program supply fashions. They developed an motion checklist consists of 5 main factors, calling the muse and board to:

  1. develop a neighborhood plan that prioritizes key initiatives, pointing to the OSSF plan as a reference
  2. change the muse’s governance construction to “higher mirror the necessity of your entire safety neighborhood”
  3. set up an aggressive funding marketing campaign to boost $5 million to $10 million to pay for devoted builders, neighborhood managers, and help employees
  4. enhance centralized infrastructure and companies for the neighborhood to take the warmth off the tasks
  5. take a extra centralized hand in managing the product portfolio and what goes on in native chapters

Williams says he signed as a result of he felt that the modifications the group known as for are “sadly crucial.”

“OWASP has a obvious gap in not having a monetary plan constructed from the underside up based mostly on mission wants,” he says. “With out that, it is unimaginable to fundraise successfully. Writing down an aggressive funding plan, going after some massive funding increments, and taking over extra aggressive tasks is the one approach to maintain OWASP shifting shortly.”

Subsequent-Step Realities

The query is whether or not the muse and the OWASP neighborhood is prepared and in a position to make a few of these modifications. In accordance with Chenxi Wang, a former OWASP board member, there are a lot of objects within the proposal which are “a lot wanted” since she believes OWASP has devolved into a corporation that does not do far more than run occasions.

“However a few of the different objects appear to be too bold for OWASP, which has a volunteer board and a small working employees. For instance, the merchandise to ‘actively handle the mission portfolio and chapters’ would require a considerable effort going ahead, which will not be one thing the muse can do with at present’s assets,” she says. “Additionally, the proposal about funding prioritized tasks would require a change to at present’s mannequin and will disenfranchise newer tasks.”

As she sees it, the proposal goes to require drastic modifications to the funding mannequin, the neighborhood mannequin, and the way in which funds are distributed.

“To do all of this in a single swoop goes to be too disruptive,” Wang says. “A phased strategy is the one approach to make this occur.”

For his half, OWASP Basis government director Andrew van der Inventory says he additionally agrees with lots of the factors within the letter. The day after the letter was revealed, the proposals have been introduced on the basis’s month-to-month board assembly. He says the assembly went properly, and he agrees that the board must set a prioritized plan anyway as part of their fiduciary obligation.

“Past the way in which it was introduced, there’s nothing in there that we disagree with,” he says of the letter. “I feel making a plan inside 30 days is unquestionably doable. My main concern is de facto round if we do not handle to attain all the 5 objectives in a timeframe that the tasks need us to attain it in.”

He additionally does ponder whether the board’s present bylaws and the need of the OWASP neighborhood’s paying members will permit for the form of governance and funding modifications the co-signers need. For instance, OWASP is not arrange the way in which the OSSF group is, which at the moment has a board that consists of members that purchase their seats by means of company membership and pay considerably to retain these seats. OWASP at the moment has about 7,000 monetary members along with the 80,000 individuals who take part locally by means of occasions, chapter conferences, and tasks. That paying membership contains people who pay $50 a yr, lifetime members who pay $500, and company sponsors who pay $5,000 and up, relying on the extent of help they need to give.

“I do not assume our neighborhood would help that change. It is a type of issues that I feel goes to be a little bit bit unrealistic,” says van der Inventory, who provides that these sorts of modifications would require a change in OWASP bylaws, that are already within the final levels of being overhauled to a set of “pretty customary” nonprofit bylaws in response to a discovery a few yr in the past that the unique bylaws have been invalid based on Delaware Common Company Regulation. That routine process alone required an in depth course of that included a vote by the final membership.

Nonetheless, van der Inventory says that OWASP might positively flourish if the board can discover a approach to pull in additional funding.

“If we might get between $5 million and $10 million a yr, we might get so much performed. If we might get folks to work on tasks full-time, this stuff would seem a lot faster and possibly with a lot larger high quality,” he says, noting that the muse at the moment solely has 5 staffers on its roster. “I feel the one friction actually, and the one factor that is perhaps contested, is the governance mannequin. I feel our neighborhood would have so much to say about that.”

That is the priority from Williams as properly.

“I am fearful that OWASP will not be capable to reply to the letter, given the present governance constructions,” he says.

However based on Curphey, the board assembly was an excellent begin to laying out the change-makers’ proposal and contemplating subsequent steps.

“The board assembly was optimistic,” he says. “There’s nonetheless a protracted approach to go, however we’ll see. I did have to depart early to attend one other board assembly, however after I left was more than happy with progress and need from present board to adapt and alter.”

Why Ought to CISOs Care?

The massive query for CISOs and safety practitioners is whether or not any of this inner jockeying at OWASP actually issues to them. In accordance with Wang, the selections and actions the muse makes at present might not essentially straight impression CISOs proper now. Nevertheless it might have a long-term ripple impact that influences the form of expertise choices they will have for serving to builders in the long term.

“This might end in higher help of emergent applied sciences, which down the road might impression the way in which practitioners undertake these applied sciences,” she says.