It’s time to get moving again. The Top 10 2007 is out. So it’s time to look at the raison d’Ãªtre of OWASP – The OWASP Guide. The OWASP Guide is a compendium of best practices, what not to do (in 2003-2005), how to test for a problem, and occasionally comically bad English. I did 18 hour days for nearly six months back in the day to get it out the door, something that is just not possible these days as I have my insomnia mostly under control.
My view is that we need four smaller books:
1. OWASP Secure Lifecycle Guide for Requirements, Architecture & Design
2. OWASP Guide to Writing Secure Applications
3. OWASP Testing Guide
4. OWASP Code Review Guide
That way, we can farm out the materials that exist in the Guide today to the appropriate books, and make it much more lightweight. Being 300 pages is fine, but honestly, I doubt anyone besides me and the translators have read it in its entirety. I don’t think the average work-a-day developer has the time nor the inclination to read yet another fat book, particularly one that they themselves don’t see as being particularly useful to their primary role: pumping out insecure code, leaving time for instant messages and a few quick rounds of killing fellow cubicle dwellers … in whatever FPS du jour.
Schneier stated recently in one of his famous counter points with mjr, that he believes that the security industry shouldn’t exist and that penetration tests (paraphrasing) should read and then shredded. Seriously, if you’re waiting until the pen testers tell you that you have a problem, it’s far too late. Software engineering must make the jump from being a cowboy nation of lazy and uneducated coders to being a repeatable, safe art. That’s why I work in the area I do – fixing the problems before they are problems. Then it’s basic risk management. And folks have been doing risk management for years, well before the current security industry sprang up. There are snake oil sales folks in our industry without a doubt, but there are many skilled and useful folks as well. I hope I am one of the latter.
Back to the Guide… There’s a need for the OWASP Wiki to be in sync with these master works. This is an ongoing problem; I don’t know how to solve it. Writing a book one page at a time is ineffectual and wasteful. Editing a massive tome even more so. Wikis have their place though, even if the Wiki fan boys hype it beyond its actual capabilities. The Wiki way is not the book way. To a Wiki fan boy, this is actually not a problem. But to me, as a lover of narrative and meaning, the dictionary like slabs of text are like context-less ships passing in the night. There’s no thumbing around there without maybe missing something important. The Wiki is great as a dictionary; terrible as a learning platform. I love puttering around great Wikis like H2G2. Towel Day is May 25. Don’t forget your towel.
No matter which way you slice it, someone has a lot of work to do to translate a book into a useful and helpfully hyperlinked Wiki, and a truly awesome Wiki is nearly impossible to fold back into a book.