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Through two studies, we open the box on developer rationale, by performing a holistic analysis of the rationale underpinning various activities in which app developers engage when developing an app.
The first study does so through a task-based study with app developers (N=44) incorporating six distinct tasks for which this developer demographic must take responsibility: setting up a development environment, reviewing code, seeking help, seeking testers, selecting an advertisement SDK, and software licensing. We found that, while on first glance in several activities participants seemed to prioritize security, only in the code task such prioritization was underpinned by a security rationale—indicating that development behavior perceived to be secure may only be an illusion until the box is opened on their rationale.
The second study confirms these findings through a wider survey of app developers (N=274) investigating to what extent they find the activities of the task-based study to affect their app’s security. In line with the task-based study, we found that developers perceived actively writing code and actively using external SDKs as the only security-relevant, while similarly disregarding other activities having an impact on app security.
Our results suggest the need for a stronger focus on the tasks and activities surrounding the coding task—all of which need to be underpinned by a security rationale. Without such a holistic focus, developers may write “secure code” but not produce “secure apps”.
|Title of host publication
|ICSE '20: Proceedings of the ACM/IEEE 42nd International Conference on Software Engineering
|Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
|Number of pages
|Published - 1 Jun 2020
|The 42nd International Conference on Software Engineering - https://conf.researchr.org/home/icse-2020, Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 23 May 2020 → 29 May 2020
Conference number: 42
|The 42nd International Conference on Software Engineering
|Korea, Republic of
|23/05/20 → 29/05/20
- Cyber Security
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- 1 Finished
1/10/18 → 31/12/21