Security Boulevard Chats – Developers and Security with Pete Chestna, Veracode

In this DevOps Chat we speak with Pete Chestna of Veracode about the roles and opinions of both developers and security pros about how and who should be working on security in the enterprise. Much of the discussion centers on a survey Veracode conducted with consulting firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

Pete is always a great interview with a common-sense approach to DevSecOps borne from being both a developer and security pro. I am sure you will enjoy this discussion. As usual, the streaming audio of our discussion is immediately below and the transcript of our discussion is below that.




Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, this is Alan Shimel of here for another DevOps Chat. Today’s guest on the chat is Pete Chestna, Veracode, a CA company, director of developer engagement. And that’s a fancy way of saying Pete’s out there talking to developers about bringing security, shifting it left, bringing it into the developer universe and making all of our apps more secure. Pete, welcome to DevOps Chat.

Pete Chestna: Thanks, Alan. Pleasure to be here.

Shimel: Yep. So, Pete, you and I have, of course, crossed paths before and I’ve seen you present and you’re a knowledgeable, knowledgeable person, in terms of how security is continually kind of making inroads into the developer community and kinda convincing them that security’s everyone’s responsibility, right? That security isn’t just the purview of the security team; it’s everyone’s job. And you’re doing a heck of a job with it, which has, I think, attested to Veracode’s value in the market and its place in the market, so great job there.

Chestna: Thanks.

Shimel: Pete, what we’re gonna talk a little bit about today is that Veracode recently conducted a survey of developers and security folks, talking about this very subject. And I wanted to share it with our audience a little bit, if you can. Why don’t we start with what you consider sort of the headline of this survey?

As Director of Developer Engagement, Pete provides customers with practical advice on how to successfully roll out developer-centric application security programs. Relying on more than 10 years of direct AppSec experience as both a developer and development leader, Pete provides information on best practices amassed from working with Veracode’s 1,000+ customers. Pete joined Veracode in 2006 as a platform developer and was instrumental in delivering the first version of Veracode’s service to customers. Later, as Director of Platform Engineering, Pete managed the Agile teams responsible for delivering Veracode’s SaaS platform and built the first DevOps team.

Chestna: Thanks. So this was done with the enterprise strategy group and the key takeaway for this is, really, again, it’s reinforcing the messages we already bring out to the market, so we need increased accountability. The reason that developers don’t take security more seriously is because they’re held to account for their functionality and not necessarily their security, so, if we bring in metrics and goals into the equation, for developers, we’re gonna see an increased uptick in the way they think about security. It’s about building relationships with your security team, so security and developers need to work together to build that relationship, so, that way, they feel like there are people on each side and not just a function.

And, really, it’s what I call the “three-legged barstool of application security.” It’s about training, making sure developers are trained—a lot of the times that they don’t wanna develop these tools is because they don’t know what to do with the results. Second is integrate and automate—if you bring it into their toolchain and make it easy for them to use, then they’re more likely to use it. And, lastly, it’s about helping them fix what they find—again, this knowledge gap of, “What is across-site scripting? What is OS command injection?” Help them understand how to fix these and prevent them makes them more likely to adopt these tools and make security a better part of their work.

Shimel: Got it. And you know what, Pete? So I’m up here in Boston, recording this, and we just finished a DevOps Connect. I had an interesting question from the audience yesterday, and a gentleman said, “Well, our developers kinda get paid or judged on how much code they commit. And to go back and tell them that the code they committed, you know, it had vulnerabilities and they gotta fix it, it really upsets them.” I’m sorry for them, right, Pete? But –

Chestna: Right.

Shimel: – to me, it’s kind of—you know, I used to see this problem with running sales teams and stuff like that. You’ve mismatched incentives here. Right?

Chestna: Oh, absolutely.

Shimel: You know, and that has to be—and that’s not the developer’s or the security guy’s fault; that’s management’s fault.

Chestna: Yeah, if we don’t take accountability for what we’re doing, if we don’t hold the developers—so, you know, I always look at the security team. They are responsible for security but the developers need to feel accountable for security. And you’re right; it’s management that needs to say, “We’re gonna measure you on this and it’s gonna be part of how we evaluate you at the end of the year.” That will drive the right behaviors. They’re gonna do what they get paid to do. And if they get paid to produce functionality faster, that’s exactly what they end up doing.

Shimel: Yep. And so this is apparently something, I think, we need to solve. You know, we’re gonna see real progress in the area. But, look, let’s save that for another day. Pete, can you share some more of the findings on the survey with us?

Chestna: Yeah, absolutely. So a couple of things that stood out to me, as I read through it, was there’s a increased maturity as far as adoption of Agile and DevOps. There’s only 5 percent of respondents that said they have no Agile in their shop at all, where 18 percent say that most or all of their products are using a Agile methodology. And then it goes on from there—28 percent is more than half. So we’re seeing a really good adoption, at least of Agile. And then if you think of DevOps usually being run on an Agile methodology, only 6 percent of respondents says they haven’t adopted DevOps at all and 17 percent are reporting that they have extensively adopted it, so great numbers, as far as people coming up to speed in doing this. And, as far as making things easier, 45 percent of respondents said that DevOps makes it easier for them to developer software, including security, which is a great finding.

Shimel: That is—what was the number? 45? Just about half?

Chestna: Yeah.

Shimel: Excellent.

Chestna: So those must be shops that are doing it well because they’re seeing the benefits that you get from experiencing DevOps.

Shimel: Well, I mean, you know, Pete, you take this, I think, in conjunction with the recent release—I was out in London last week for DOES and the folks at DORA and Puppet released the State of DevOps for this year’s survey and results, and it dovetails nicely here, where DevOps-enabled organizations deal with something—I forget what the number was—15 percent less vulnerabilities or 15 –

Chestna: Right.

Shimel: It was some –

Chestna: It was from the Puppet report.

Shimel: – eye-popping number of the improvement in the quality of code, vis á vis security. So it seems to make sense, but you know what, Pete? I’m amazed that something that seems so, you know, simple, so elementary, if you will, is still—we’re still talking about only half of organizations, a little less than half organizations doing it. What do you think is holding back the other half?

Chestna: It’s the culture. You know, people wanna maintain their silos. I see it all the time where the management—again, we’re going back to management, as a problem here—they wanna hold on to their silos and their power. And if you look at where DevOps takes a company typically, if you do it whole-hog and embrace everything, you’re reorganizing, so someone that has a large quality staff reporting to them is now gonna have that broken up and disseminated into other teams, and now they’re gonna be responsible for other functions or they’re gonna have to go find another job. So there’s this big unknown and fear for them of, “What does the future hold if I just don’t do quality and I have to actually produce product?” So this cross-accountability is just—is scaring the hell out of them.

Shimel: Yeah. Yeah. But you know what? Let’s not put it all on the dev side of things; let’s talk a little bit about the security folks, too. And, Pete, you and I both come from the security world. There are a lot of security people who get very territorial, you know, to say the least, around running scans, being the ultimate deciders of what’s secure and not secure, and they’re just as resistant to change, from a cultural point of view, as dev teams are sometimes. I mean, do you agree or –

Chestna: Yeah, and they white-knuckle the release, so –

Shimel: Yeah. [Laughs]

Chestna: – I’ve talked to a lot of people that say, “Hey, it’s gotta be pen-tested. I have to pen-test everything.” If you’re talking about releasing multiple times a day, there’s no way in heck that you’re gonna be able to do that. So you have to pick your battles and say, “This is important. It touches crypto or this touches authentication or authorization. It has to be pen-tested,” versus, “I can use the easy, least expensive way of SAST and DAST to go and find vulnerabilities and I can trust that those tools will find things.” So it’s that back-and-forth of how much security needs to be in there and how assured do they need to feel before they can sleep at night.

Shimel: Mm-hmm. And they’re ultimately, Pete—you know, I think, when we look at surveys like this and we talk about the view of the security team versus the view of the dev team, view of management, really, the way to kinda bridge these gaps and bring this all together is really a lot of the kinds of things that you do. Right? You’re out there, talking to the different constituencies around the world, almost constantly—we were talking off-mic about how much both of us have been traveling—but there’s a mission there to bring these tribes together, if you will, and forge a common path and a common way of working together. And I think, if we take surveys like this and we look at the results and we share those results with the two teams, again, it becomes sort of like, “Duh. What are we fighting about?”

Chestna: Oh, exactly. So, I mean, if I go back to the survey for a second here and look at how people are being measured, 33 percent of respondents say, “I’m being measured on functionality that I released,” versus only 18 percent that are saying, “I’m being judged on security.” So, if you look at that number and say, “Well, what are they doing? Their actions reflect how they’re being measured, so let’s change how they’re being measured and see if that changes what they think about their jobs.” The people that responded and looked at “Does DevOps help me with security, the ability to automate and integrate?” 58 percent of respondents said, “Hey, it allows me to do this integration and automation,” which is one step toward getting them to actually pay attention to those results.

Shimel: Yeah. And 58 percent is a sizable majority.

Chestna: Yes.

Shimel: That is Pete, I don’t know if you have the insight on this, but these were large enterprises, primarily, that were surveyed here?

Chestna: Yes, most of them were—98 percent were 1,000 or more employees.

Shimel: Okay. Now were there any particular verticals that were highlighted or anything?

Chestna: The biggest ones were IT at 23 percent and the finance industry at 21 percent.

Shimel: Oh, okay, there you go. And those are both pretty DevOps-savvy, if you will, or maybe early—no, I don’t wanna use the term “early adopters,” ’cause finance is very rarely an early adopter, but, I mean, certainly, DevOps has taken a strong foothold within the financial and financial services industry, so.

Chestna: Yeah, and the thing is driving them is really the regulatory compliance, so 53 percent of respondents said that, “We’re doing app-sec because of regulatory.” Forty percent are saying it’s because of corporate governance. And an interesting stat here was 34 percent said it was because of customers or partners, so the great news is people are starting to pay attention to their software supply chain, to say, “Am I getting secure software to install in my environment?” and they’re asking customers to prove that they are. And, hopefully, that also means that outside customers, like individuals, are also looking at security as an important decision in where they go and where they spend their money.

Shimel: Yep. I agree. I mean, it is interesting stuff, Pete. So, Pete, where do we go from here with this now?

Chestna: So I think the next step is to continue the journey that you and I are on, of helping security understand development, help development understand security, tell them that they need to build in accountability. It’s built by relationships, so they have to work together. If security starts to teach developers how to do secure development and explains to them how to fix the things that they’re finding, developers are more likely to engage because it’s not this great unknown of “Hey, I don’t wanna go in and fail. I don’t wanna go in and look like an idiot,” or, “I don’t wanna go in and not understand what I’m doing.”

So security needs to take their part and companies need to understand that training and development and education around security is a carrying cost of having developers. They were never trained to do it and they have to pick that cost up; it’s not like they can just throw them all away and bring in new developers because the developers that they bring in are gonna have the same problem. So getting that education done leads to better engagement, leads to better results.

Shimel: Agreed. And you know what, Pete? Just a shameless plug on that note: I’m gonna be out in Singapore at the end of July, at the RSA APJ show, putting on another DevSecOps event at RSA, and we’re working with both the local—so it’s interesting. In Singapore, there’s almost a 900-person-strong DevSecOps MeetUp group, which is huge for that area of the world, and there’s an equally-as-big DevOps MeetUp group. And we’re working with both of these MeetUp groups, as part of this event, and we’re really—I’m hoping to really kinda bring these tribes together and make it happen. Of course, I’d –

Chestna: Sounds great.

Shimel: – you to come out. You’re in Black Hat at that time.

Chestna: Yes.

Shimel: Are you speaking at Black Hat, Peter?

Chestna: I’m not. I’m doing customer stuff, customer-facing.

Shimel: Ah, very good. So you’ll be in hot Vegas and I hear Singapore’s pretty warm now that time of year as well. Well, we continue along our mission of spreading the good word, right?

Chestna: Yes, sir.

Shimel: as they say. Anyway, so, Pete, we’re about out of time. I know you don’t have the URLs off the top of your head right now, but we will include them in the show notes for people to download the results of the survey and the report, maybe find out a little bit more, but I wanted to thank you for sharing and giving us a little bit of insight into the results. And then keep up the great work, Pete. You do good stuff.

Chestna: Thanks. I appreciate your time, Alan.

Shimel: All right, Peter. This is Alan Shimel for’s DevOps Chat and we’ll see you on the next chat.

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Alan Shimel

Alan Shimel

Throughout his career spanning over 25 years in the IT industry, Alan Shimel has been at the forefront of leading technology change. From hosting and infrastructure, to security and now DevOps, Shimel is an industry leader whose opinions and views are widely sought after.

Alan’s entrepreneurial ventures have seen him found or co-found several technology related companies including TriStar Web, StillSecure, The CISO Group, MediaOps, Inc., and the DevOps Institute. He has also helped several companies grow from startup to public entities and beyond. He has held a variety of executive roles around Business and Corporate Development, Sales, Marketing, Product and Strategy.

Alan is also the founder of the Security Bloggers Network, the Security Bloggers Meetups and awards which run at various Security conferences and Security Boulevard.

Most recently Shimel saw the impact that DevOps and related technologies were going to have on the Software Development Lifecycle and the entire IT stack. He founded and then the DevOps Institute. is the leading destination for all things DevOps, as well as the producers of multiple DevOps events called DevOps Connect. DevOps Connect produces DevSecOps and Rugged DevOps tracks and events at leading security conferences such as RSA Conference, InfoSec Europe and InfoSec World. The DevOps Institute is the leading provider of DevOps education, training and certification.

Alan has a BA in Government and Politics from St Johns University, a JD from New York Law School and a lifetime of business experience. His legal education, long experience in the field, and New York street smarts combine to form a unique personality that is always in demand to appear at conferences and events.

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