The Ultimate Guide to Building an Application Security Training Culture & Program

The Ultimate Guide to Building an Application Security Training Culture & Program

In today’s digital world, security is a top priority for organizations of all sizes. With the strategic importance of digital assets, plus the increasing number of cyber-attacks and data breaches, businesses of all sizes need to ensure that their applications are secure.

Delivering on this business priority begins with rolling out an Application Security training program within your organization.

What is an Application Security Training Program

An AppSec training program is essential to a successful application security program and process. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, organizations must prioritize security at every level of the development process to stay ahead of the curve. Empowering dev teams is an effective and cost-efficient building block in building out a successful application security program.

An application security training program should:

  • Establish a knowledge baseline for staff at various experience levels.
  • Include comprehensive training that teaches software development teams about code vulnerabilities and compliance.
  • It should be relevant to the technological stacks that your organization uses.
  • The training program should, at minimum, cover various security concepts such as secure coding practices, threat modeling, regulatory compliance, and security testing.
  • Ideally, courseware should have content that is delivered in a format that is engaging and can be easily consumed by the audience to maximize their valuable time investment.

7 Benefits of Application Security Training

Here are some benefits of implementing an AppSec training program to the success of your organization’s overall AppSec program and process:

1. Reduced Risk of Data Breaches

Data breaches can cause irreparable damage to an organization’s reputation, financial stability, and customer trust. An application security training program can help reduce the risk of data breaches by teaching developers how to prevent, identify and fix vulnerabilities in their code before going to production. By creating a culture of security awareness and best practices, your organization can minimize the likelihood of a successful attack.

2. Improved Code Quality

An application security training program can also lead to improved code quality. When developers understand how to write secure code, they can create applications less prone to security vulnerabilities. This can result in fewer bugs, increased reliability, and faster development cycles, given more proactive processes and less rework time.

3. Compliance with Industry Standards

Many industries have regulatory requirements for security and data protection. Implementing an application security training program can help your organization comply with these standards. By training your developers in secure coding practices, you can demonstrate your commitment to security and avoid costly fines and legal issues with attestations on which languages and frameworks your developers have been trained.

4. Cost Savings

Investments in an application security training program can lead to cost savings in the long run with improved productivity.. By identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities early in the development process, you can avoid costly rework and remediation efforts down the line. This can result in faster time to market, increased efficiency, and, ultimately, a higher return on investment.

5. Increased Customer Trust

Customers today are more security-conscious than ever before. By implementing an application security training program, you can show your customers that you take their security seriously. This can help build trust and confidence in your organization and increase customer loyalty when customers can expect products that are secure by default.

As the threat landscape evolves, organizations must prioritize security at every level of the development cycle to stay ahead of the curve.

6. Competitive Advantage

Whether competing for customers or top staff, security training benefits your organization in both areas. The goal of retaining customers and quality employees both benefit from your organization’s ability to empower your staff’s professional development in this underserved area. Plus, it directly correlates to the timely delivery of secure/quality products.

7. Staff Enablement (Product Security & Role Security Awareness)

Roles that develop and deliver products plus manage 3rd party vendor components such as engineers, security, architecture, threat modeling, plus supporting functions are on the front lines of delivering secure and risk-free products to your customers. Since post-secondary institutions are behind the curve on delivering graduates with the AppSec skill set that industry players need, establishing baseline roles and domain-specific knowledge to critical path staff is necessary for many organizations.

The Ultimate Guide to Building an Application Security Training Culture & Program

How To Roll Out an AppSec Training Program

Creating and rolling out an impactful, well-received, and successful organization-wide skills training program can be daunting. However, with the right planning, strategy, and execution, it can be a rewarding experience for both the organization and its employees.

9 Steps to Safeguard Your Training Initiative’s Success

Here are some best practices to consider when creating and rolling out an organization-wide security skills training program:

Step 1. Identify Learning Objectives

The first step in creating an organization-wide security training program is identifying the learning objectives. What are the skills or knowledge areas that the organization wants its employees to learn or improve? Identifying specific learning objectives that align with the organization’s goals and objectives is essential.

Step 2. Define the Target Audience

Once the learning objectives have been identified, the next step is to define the target audience. Who are the employees that will benefit from the training program? It is essential to consider the roles and responsibilities of the employees, as well as their skill levels, to ensure that the training program meets their needs.

Step 3. Choose a Training Methodology that can Scale

Choosing the right training methodology and training vendor is crucial for the overall program’s success. Organizations need a combination of content and delivery methodology that scales across the organization, is well-received by the audience, and provides measurable impact. It is essential to choose a method that is engaging, interactive, and effective.

Step 4. Develop Engaging Content

Developing engaging content is essential to the success of the training program. The content should be relevant, up-to-date, and easy to understand. It should also be interactive and include practical examples that employees can relate to their day-to-day work.

Step 5. Reinforcement and Ongoing Support

Providing ongoing support is crucial for the maturing of your training program. Providing employees with access to resources, a breadth of content for continuing education, job aids, and reference materials that they can use to reinforce their learning. Industry-standard certification paths, Security Champions programs, manager/security champion-led remediation, coaching and feedback to employees will also help them apply their newly acquired skills. Training isn’t a one-time event. Reinforcement is needed, and empowering your employees with just-in-time and just enough training reinforces and directly coaches, applies, and measures the progress of security concepts against real-world applications for developers while on the job. Consider how your tools for secure development help your employees identify requirements and security issues as well as have reference-able examples for remediating them with countermeasures.

Step 6. Top-Down Mandates and Measurement of the Program’s Effectiveness

Measuring the program’s effectiveness is crucial to ensure that it meets the organization’s goals and objectives. Executive promotion and mandates lead driving security cultural change. It is essential to track employees’ progress and assess their learning outcomes. This will help the organization identify any gaps and make the necessary adjustments to the program. Rewards. Exclusive memberships and competitions around training goals is a long-term and sustainable way to leverage human nature competitiveness and add a gamification “fun” aspect to your program.

Step 7. Communicate the Benefits & Success

Communicating the benefits of the training program to employees is crucial to its success. Employees need to understand why the program is important and how it will benefit them in their current role and in their career development. It is also important to communicate the program’s impact on the organization and its strategic goals. Use of leader boards and organizational dashboards is an effective way to provide continuous communication of the organization’s progress, add some competitive motivation, drive cultural norms plus drive executive urgency.

Step 8. Third-Party Affirmation

Most teams have the best intentions, but additional motivation could only help since they usually also have a competing to-do list. One such motivator is to leverage your training program to support an employee’s desire to obtain Industry recognized 3rd party certifications such as those from ISC2. Look for courseware that is accredited by ISC2 towards obtaining annual CPE credits plus which prepares your staff to write an ISC2 accredited certification exam. This maximizes employee time, provides an additional layer of resume padding accomplishment, creates the foundations for a Security Champions program around and stimulates team competitiveness to achieve the corporate gold security standard along with its accolades.

Step 9. Establish a Time Efficient Annual Knowledge Assessment Baseline that is Tied to Employees’ Objectives and Key Results

Staff often ask, “Why do I need to take this course again since I took it last year?“. Since developer time is a valuable commodity, that’s a fair question.

The answer is you may not need to invest an hour of your time to retake the course, but you do need to demonstrate that you meet a knowledge baseline. To meet annual contractual/regulatory compliance criteria or to maintain your risk reduction security culture, a reportable self-service assessment will easily demonstrate up to the Executive Board level that you are maintaining your security knowledge baseline.

Security Compass’ Application Security Training courses are designed with this flexibility in mind. Individual courses can benefit various knowledge and experience levels within an organization.

Many organizations have established annual guidelines for Security Awareness training for all employees in order to reduce exposure to risks.

Be it Security Awareness, AppSec Fundamentals, OWASP Top 10, etc., Security Compass’ Application Security Training  courses are designed to be flexible and efficient for the use case of enabling knowledge self-assessment. As part of an annual Security Training Program requirement, they allow staff to jump straight to the final 10-minute exam to prove what they know in order to comply with annual Human Resources requirements. With real-time feedback, if a user fails the exam, they can focus their efforts on reviewing just the topics that they are weak on,  then successfully rewrite the exam.

Consider the benefits of importing this type of LMS reporting into your HR system and/or org performance dashboards to drive the company culture aspect.

That is a win-win scenario for both the organization and staff.

The Ultimate Guide to Building an Application Security Training Culture & Program


Creating and rolling out an organization-wide AppSec training program can be challenging, but it is essential for the organization’s and its employees’ success. By following these best practices, organizations can develop a training program that is impactful, well-received, and successful in achieving its goals and objectives.

Security Compass is here to assist you from start to finish. We work with customers from start-ups to multinationals in all phases of their program maturity.

From a start of security awareness training for team members  to full fledged role-based learning paths  to support for senior Dev staff security Champions programs via ISC2  TM recognized certification path and bragging rights. AppSec training is a sound  foundation for and a great starting point to rolling out an AppSec program.