The OWASP framework to achieve security maturity


Wendy Rodriguez


In today’s digital world, software is an essential part of almost every business. As a result, it is increasingly important for organizations to ensure that their software is secure. OWASP is a renowned community in software security that, with projects like the OWASP SAMM framework, provides organizations with a helping hand that aims to reach the ultimate goal: secure software.

What is OWASP?

OWASP (Open Worldwide Application Security Project) is a non-profit organization that focuses on the improvement of security in software systems. OWASP provides several resources to help software developers and security professionals understand and address common security vulnerabilities in software. These resources include the OWASP ASVC, a framework of security requirements, and the OWASP Top Ten, a list of the most critical web application security risks, along with a number of tools and guidelines for security software development. OWASP also hosts conferences and training events around the world to promote the importance of software security.


Another important resource from OWASP is the OWASP SAMM (Software Assurance Maturity Model) framework, which helps organizations formulate and implement software security strategies tailored to their specific risks, goals, and constraints. It provides an effective and measurable way for organizations to assess their software security programs and improve their security practices.

Why is OWASP SAMM important?

OWASP SAMM focuses on defining and improving an organization’s software security posture by emphasizing a balanced and risk-driven approach. SAMM is important for organizations that develop software because it helps them define and prioritize their security efforts and ensure that their software is secure throughout the development lifecycle. Being an open-source framework, it can be customized to meet the specific needs of different organizations. This framework can offer guidance for organizations to create strategies and achieve their maturity goals by assisting in:

  • Identifying and assessing software security risks

  • Developing and implementing effective software security controls

  • Measuring and tracking progress in improving software security

By using SAMM, organizations can adopt a more proactive approach to security, and therefore, reduce the risk of security breaches and other software vulnerabilities.


Released in 2020, SAMM v2 is the latest version of this framework and includes a number of new features and enhancements:

  • A new business function named Implementation. This function represents a number of core activities in the build and deploy domains of an organization.

  • A revised maturity model, that is more aligned with the latest security standards and best practices.

  • An updated SAMM Toolbox that includes a number of new tools and resources.

  • A new SAMM Benchmark initiative that provides information on maturity and progress in comparison with that of similar organizations.

SAMM v2 can be used by organizations of all sizes and industries. The model can be used to assess, formulate, and implement a software security strategy. Its benefits include improvement in software security posture and compliance with security standards, increased customer confidence, and a reduced risk of breaches.

OWASP SAMM maturity model

The 15 security practices found in SAMM v2 are grouped within the framework as five essential areas of business functions. They are governance, design, implementation, verification, and operations, and they represent the core activities that organizations should undertake to ensure that their software is secure.

  • Governance: The governance business function is responsible for establishing and maintaining the organization’s overall software security policy. This includes defining the organization’s risks and setting security standards, assigning roles and responsibilities, and overseeing the implementation of the organization’s security strategy in order to align it with the overall business goal. Its key security practices are strategy and metrics, policy and compliance, and education and guidance.

  • Design: The design business function is responsible for ensuring that software security is considered throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This includes identifying and assessing security requirements, designing secure architectures, and carrying out threat modeling. Its key security practices are threat assessment, security requirements, and secure architecture.

  • Implementation: The implementation business function is responsible for deploying and maintaining secure software. This includes building and deploying secure software, managing and monitoring security configurations, and receiving feedback. Its key security practices are secure build, secure deployment, and defect management.

  • Verification: The verification business function is responsible for ensuring that software security requirements are met. This includes conducting security testing and audits, performing code reviews, and verifying that security controls are in place and operational. Its key security practices are architecture assessment, requirements-driven testing, and security testing.

  • Operations: The operation business function is responsible for monitoring and managing security risks throughout the SDLC. This includes identifying and assessing operational risks, implementing security controls, and handling detected incidents. Its key security practices are incident management, environment management, and operational management.

Every key security practice has two associated activities, each of which is part of a different stream. Both streams have achievable goals that can be reached at increasing levels of maturity. SAMM's model looks like this:

SAMM Overview

OWASP SAMM overview(https://owaspsamm.org/release-notes-v2/) (taken from here).

OWASP SAMM maturity levels

OWASP SAMM defines four maturity levels (0 to 3) for each security practice and business function. The levels represent the evolution of an organization’s software security program, ranging from a null state with minimal security practices (level 0) to a well-defined and optimized state (level 3).

  • Level 0 - Inactive: no or minimal security practices

  • Level 1 - Initial: ad-hoc security practices

  • Level 2 - Defined: noticeable increase; defined and documented security practices

  • Level 3 - Mastery: quantitatively measured and continuously improved security practices

The assessment part of this verification process is a sure-fire way to know where each organization stands. The OWASP foundation provides assessment tools that are free and easy to understand, with a complete questionnaire that goes through each of the business functions and its practices, delivering a thorough scorecard to be used as a starting point. Regular assessment and continuous improvement efforts help organizations progress through the maturity levels and enhance their overall software security posture.

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How to achieve a high maturity level

Achieving the highest maturity level in OWASP SAMM requires a comprehensive and proactive approach. It involves establishing a culture of continuous improvement, embedding security into all aspects of the SDLC, and leveraging automation and advanced security practices. Here’s a detailed guide to achieving the highest maturity level:

  1. Establish a culture of continuous improvement: Foster a security-conscious mindset throughout the organization, emphasizing on the importance of security in all aspects of software development and deployment. Encourage and support continuous learning and training while promoting open communication and collaboration between security teams and every department involved in the SDLC.

  2. Embed security into the SDLC: Integrate security activities into all phases of the SDLC, implement a threat modeling process to identify, analyze, and prioritize potential threats to software, and utilize tools like SAST or DAST to identify and remediate vulnerabilities before deployment. Penetration testing can assess the security posture by identifying additional weaknesses. When this task is executed by certified ethical hackers, the result will be a lower rate of false positives.

  3. Leverage automation and advanced security practices: Implement continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines with built-in security checks and automated vulnerability scanning. Utilize infrastructure as code (IaC) to automate and secure infrastructure provisioning and configurations, as well as cloud-based security solutions.

  4. Continuous monitoring and improvement: Establish continuous monitoring of security logs, network traffic, and system behavior to detect anomalies and potential vulnerabilities. Implement reports that frequently inform on software status, incidents, and assessments.

How Fluid Attacks fits in the OWASP SAMM plan

For us, it’s clear that achieving the highest maturity level in OWASP SAMM is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Fluid Attacks can provide different tools and solutions to steer your organization toward maturity in its security posture.

OWASP SAMM defines security testing as a critical practice for verifying the effectiveness of security controls and identifying vulnerabilities in different systems. With Fluid Attacks, security testing is guaranteed in all phases of the SDLC.

Apart from security testing, we have a highly certified ethical hacking team, that performs manual penetration testing for the discovery and detailed analysis of hidden vulnerabilities.

You can also count with a single platform that provides details on findings, its interactive nature allows users to be up to date and plan for rapid remediation.

Start with a 21-day free trial of vulnerability assessment through our automated tool. If you’d like more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.


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