The Software Assurance Forum for Excellence in Code (SAFECode) engaged with developers at the Black Hat Technical Security Conference yesterday in a brainstorming session to clarify a vision for software security over the next decade.

More than 50 Black Hat attendees participated in the session. SAFECode Members include Adobe Systems, EMC, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, Nokia, SAP AG and Symantec.

The No. 1 issue was education and training, said Steve Lipner, senior director of security engineering strategy at Microsoft and SAFECode board member. The discussion focused on how to get new graduates and entry-level developers to be prepared to write secure code, or even be aware of the need to write secure code, he observed.

Some specific suggestions included adding software security classes to university curricula; getting universities to “push back” against employers that are more interested in applicants that know about new technologies but might not be able to create secure code; requiring developers to have security certifications to write code; and establishing a mindset for secure development.

“I don’t see this as very realistic,” said Rex Black, president of Rex Black Consulting, a security group. “Academics telling practitioners how to do their job is not something that has traditionally gone down well in software engineering. What would be preferable, in my mind, would be for software and systems vendors to have the same kind of legal liability that vendors of other products—e.g., cars, airplanes, microwave ovens—have for the quality and safety of their products.”

One attendee said that the security needs are different everywhere, and different companies have different requirements that can’t be covered in a course. Lipner said that most members on the panel have a policy in place that includes security requirements for developers.

“This would be a good thing, as would requiring certifications to test code. What’s important here is that the job market start to see value in such certifications,” Black said.

The rest of the discussion had no single point of emphasis, but there was a lot of focus on secure Web (rather than client) application development, he said.