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Microsoft Shares Untold Story Behind Security Development Lifecycle

Microsoft on Wednesday launched a new web site dedicated to sharing the untold story behind its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL).

Microsoft on Wednesday launched a new web site dedicated to sharing the untold story behind its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL).

The Security Development Lifecycle, a process for writing more secure software, is now mandatory within Microsoft, and was the work of early security teams and the impact of Bill Gates’ Trustworthy Computing (TwC) memo in 2002.

Microsoft SDL

“It was an approach that had been used with the .NET development platform — stop developing entirely, fix as many bugs as possible in series of pushes, and then start back up,” said Glenn Pittaway, senior director of software security at Microsoft. “Could we do the same with Windows? It was initially seen as a ridiculous idea, because .NET had a few hundred developers, and Windows was this 9,000-person supertanker.”

The dedicated site, hosted at, provides never-before-seen video footage and photos from many of the SDL’s key players, including:

▪ Matt Thomlinson, vice president of security

▪ Steve Lipner, partner director of program management

▪ Glenn Pittaway, director of software security

▪ Michael Howard, principal consultant cybersecurity

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▪ Tim Rains, director, Trustworthy Computing

▪ David LeBlanc, principal software development engineer, Windows

The site also uncovers a collection of little-known anecdotes, Microsoft told SecurityWeek in an email.

For example, Microsoft said that in the early 2000s, the company had to bus engineers to the customer support call center to keep up with high call volumes coming in as a result of security incidents.

Microsoft also said that in early February 2002 the entire Windows division shut down development and diverted all developers to focus on security.

“Implementing the SDL is arguably one of the most significant security achievements of its time for any large software company, and this is the story behind it,” a company spokesperson told SecurityWeek in an email.

“For Microsoft, through pain came progress. Companies can learn from its experience and avoid some of that pain themselves. The threat landscape has never been more contentious. The time is now to stop treating security as an afterthought.”

The full site can be found here.

Related: Lessons from the Trenches on Implementing a Secure Development Lifecycle

Related: Implementing a Secure Development Lifecycle: The Importance of Executive Support

Related: Microsoft Talks Secure Coding Practices, Standards at Security Development Conference

Written By

For more than 15 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.

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