Software Security Pays Off: How Heartland Payment Systems Gains Steep ROI Via Software Assurance Tools and Methods
Software Security Pays Off: How Heartland Payment
Systems Gains Steep ROI Via Software Assurance Tools and
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how HP Fortify has helped one company improve
their software security practices.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: HP
Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series. I’m
Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host and moderator for this
ongoing sponsored discussion on IT innovation and how it’s making an impact on people’s lives.
In this ﬁrst of a two-part series -- Does Software Security Pay? -- we’ll discuss how Heartland
Payment Systems in Princeton New Jersey has leveraged software-assurance
practices and HP Fortify to drive value within its IT organization and improve
their overall business performance.
Join us now, as Ashwin Altekar, Director of Enterprise Risk Management at
Heartland, shares his insights and knowledge with Amir Hartman, the Founder
and Managing Director at MainStay, a marketing and IT advisory services ﬁrm
in San Mateo, California.
Amir recently completed a software-assurance return-on-investment (ROI) study. He’ll now
share details from that study on how HP Fortify has impacted Heartland’s IT organization and
We’ll learn how Heartland has improved results in innovative ways across the organization
thanks to both security best practices and tools. With that, please join me now in welcoming our
moderator Amir Hartman. Hello, Amir.
Amir Hartman: Good morning, Dana. Thanks for having us, and I'm really excited about the
program today. We’ve got a two-part series, as you indicated, and the research
that we did found some very interesting results from the companies that we
We found three main beneﬁts to employing and institutionalizing a strong
software security-assurance program with supporting tools. One was a saving
that organizations are seeing. Second, it’s a risk-management beneﬁt to the
organization. Last, we actually saw some revenue protection beneﬁts as well.
So I'm pretty excited to have Ashwin on the call today and have Ashwin share with us his
experiences in deploying Fortify solution and these practices within Heartland. Why don’t we
start? Ashwin, could you give us a little bit of background, a little bit about yourself, and then
segue for us into the software security landscape at Heartland?
Ashwin Altekar: Sure. I’m the Director of Enterprise Risk Management at Heartland. I've been
working in information security for over a decade and have spent a large portion of my time
performing application penetration tests and managing software-assurance efforts.
At Heartland, we take software security very seriously. We strive to be the trusted transaction
provider, the trusted partner of the large number of merchants who depend on our payments and
payroll services. With application security being such a large vector for attack, we’re very aware
of the multiple controls necessary to keep our customers’ data secure.
We lean quite heavily on Fortify, ﬁrst to understand, and then improve, our level of software
Hartman: Let's take people back a little bit. Could you describe for us what the software-
security scenario was like at Heartland before institutionalizing some of these practices and
before implementing and rolling out Fortify.
What did things looked like before? Then, talk to us about why you went in a new direction.
Altekar: Prior to Fortify, or any automated tools, we relied mostly on manual inspection by
developers using common security guidelines like the Open Web Application Security Project
(OWASP) or assessments done by third parties.
As our enterprise grew, it became harder and harder to be conﬁdent in our
application-security posture with just manual inspection by development teams.
Software assurance is very important to us, not just ﬁnding vulnerabilities, but
understanding what percentage still remains. With manual efforts, there was just
too much to do and not enough time.
We liked the breadth of programming languages supported by Fortify and we really liked the
direct integration to the integrated development environment (IDE) for common IDEs like Visual
Studio and Eclipse. So Fortify was just a natural ﬁt for the need at the time.
Hartman: I would imagine that with the space that Heartland plays in, obviously these issues are
quite sensitive. And if you look at the marketplace, you’re seeing this explosion of mobile
devices and mechanisms by which consumers are transacting. It makes this issue even more front
Altekar: Absolutely. Our primary product or service of facilitating transactions is provided
through software. So Fortify is deﬁnitely a key product that helps us position ourselves as a
secure company. And to do so, we need to understand what security issues we have in our
Hartman: Ashwin, talk to us a little bit about the implementation itself, just some interesting
facts. Then, if you could, segue into the impact that you’ve seen it have on the
organization. What are some of the beneﬁts that you've been able to deliver to the
organization and to its customers through institutionalizing these practices and
Altekar: At Heartland, we risk-rank our numerous applications and have various
requirements on what each development team has to do to meet internal requirements.
One of our basic requirements is that all software applications be scanned using Fortify. From the
information-security perspective, that has allowed us to understand what it is that we’re up
against when we talk about software-security assurance. So, a large challenge is trying to ﬁgure
out what it is we don’t know. Fortify allows us to quantify our level of effort and get the attention
software security requires.
Also, we've been able to show the successes of many teams that embrace Fortify. They’ve been
able to do more and learn more about software security in much less time.
Hartman: In the research that we did, we found similar results. We found quite a number of
organizations that were able to reduce the amount of time the developers were spending
identifying and remediating. Because of the automated mechanism, they focused their attention
on developing new value-add applications.
It's reallocating their time. It’s not that this stuff isn’t important. Obviously it's essential, but if
we've got a way to do this faster and then focus the developers’ attention on different areas that
are more value add, that was a big win. I don’t know if that’s something similar what you’re
ﬁnding as well, as developers are making it part of their DNA.
Altekar: We absolutely do ﬁnd that. There’s an old expression for spell check that if you see the
correct spelling seven times, you would ﬁnally get it right on the eighth.
Our developers are bit quicker in learning about security best practices, but Fortify allows us to
do a very similar type of reinforcement when it comes to speciﬁc software-security issues.
They’re able to see the right way to do secure development through Fortify and then learn from
Hartman: Let's shift gears a little bit here, Ashwin. Some of the things we noticed were a little
bit unexpected. When we went into the study trying to ﬁgure out how companies are beneﬁting
from effective software security practices, we were going in with certain assumptions.
One of the assumptions was that some of these automated tools and practices are going to
obviously save time and save money on the developer side. Certainly, if I can address and
remediate things early in the development cycle, that’s going to save me a tremendous amount of
resources and money, versus down the road in post production.
But there were a couple of areas that we found in terms of beneﬁts that companies were
experiencing that were a little bit unexpected, and there were some innovative uses.
Can you share with us a little bit from your perspective, and from Heartland's experience, some
of the more innovative uses of these practices and Fortify related to software assurance?
Altekar: We provide broad warnings about software security issues in general at the enterprise
level, and Fortify allows us to really target our training efforts on the issues we see at the project
We can discuss those speciﬁc topics with the development teams when we interact with them and
we can even point out the speciﬁc remediation tips within Fortify. That’s very helpful.
Something else we’re looking to roll out right now is how we can visualize the different
development teams and how they compare to each other in terms of software security. So we’re
looking to see if we can incentivize secure development even before a line of code has been
Through some minor gamiﬁcation, leveraging Fortify statistics between the various development
teams here at Heartland, we hope to better train developers and, in turn, improve the overall
There’s another interesting use that we have. At Heartland, from time to time, we acquire various
companies or seek to be partners with them. During the evaluation phase, often we’ll use Fortify
to determine the amount of work that we may need to do to get the acquired software into a
That has been helpful sometimes in negotiating the acquisition price or making sure that we
factor that in and do and appropriate level of due diligence ahead of time.
Another common scenario for us is that we’re able to understand the quality of any third-party
developers that we contract with and we can force strict standards on what secure development
Traditionally we enforce security through a legal contract that says the third party has to follow
secure coding guidelines based on best practices, but with the implementation of Fortify we can
say that they have to have a clean Fortify scan prior to ﬁnalizing a certain amount of work.
Lastly, our secure software development lifecycle (SDLC) process, which includes Fortify,
signals to our partners -- especially our partners that value security -- that we’re very serious
about software security and that we take a lot of the right steps, if not all the right steps, doing
whatever we can to understand our vulnerabilities in software and to eliminate them.
Hartman: I love those examples. The healthy competition between the developers is a great
idea. Perhaps it's a little bit melodramatic, but we hear a lot of this. When you start articulating
and dictating to developers things that they should do, the reaction isn’t always positive.
These are folks who think they’re developing great code and they’re quite independent. So,
thrusting upon them new ways of doing things sometimes can be met with some resistance. But
that notion of healthy competition and gamiﬁcation between groups is a great idea.
And your point about leveraging these capabilities and these tools in the acquisition process is
something that we’ve heard. When we did this study three years ago, that was something that one
or two companies were leveraging. Your example is great.
It's not necessarily acquiring companies. It could be the acquisitions of certain technology and
software assets, websites for example. Those things are ripe for leveraging these kinds of
practices and tools. So that’s great example.
Let's move on to more insight on how this has differentiated, or been used to differentiate,
Heartland. Obviously, in the space that you play in, security is at a premium, as is being able to
ensure your customers that you've got a terriﬁc approach. Can you talk to us about that in terms
of whether this capability helps you differentiate in the marketplace?
Altekar: As I'm sure you know, security is more important than ever in our customers’ minds.
When it comes to transactional security, we've heard of a few high-proﬁle reports about payment
security and breaches lately. That has really raised awareness and that’s great, especially since
many of Heartland’s products and services focus on security.
Conﬁdence in the quality and security of our software product is absolutely a differentiator. It
allows our customers to focus on their business without having to worry about technical security
issues in their day-to-day operations.
Having trust in a brand, having trust in a company and its products and services, is very
important for our customers, and our secure SDLC allows us to articulate why it is they should
have that conﬁdence in us.
We can tell them that we have secure development training, we have a static source code
analyzer, we use dynamic tools, we have manual inspection, we have third-party assessments.
These are all things that especially our larger customers appreciate. They understand that this is
what you need to do in today’s day and age to have secured products.
We’re able to elaborate on the multitude of things that we do, and many of our partners are very
thrilled to partner with us because of that.
Hartman: That’s well said. Ashwin. Think a little bit for me around what it took to
institutionalize some of these practices. You mentioned a little bit earlier about the use of
gamiﬁcation and healthy competition among development groups, but institutionalizing effective
software-assurance practices is easier said than done.
Can you help us understand what were some of those key factors throughout this journey, and it
is a journey? It's not just one quick little implementation and then you are off and running. It's
deﬁnitely a journey from the customers we've talked to. What are some of those key success
factors in institutionalizing such tools and practices across an organization?
Altekar: Journey is a great word for it. There have been so many times when I thought that we
were ﬁnally at a place where we need to be, and then, one of the variables changed.
The ﬁrst thing that you can do is be very clear about what development teams need to do for
internal compliance when it comes to software assurance. That could mean setting speciﬁc
metrics or making sure that they have well deﬁned processes. But whatever is right for your
organization, you have to repeat that message often.
I used to think that I was just constantly talking about security, and everyone was tired of it, but
one of the key lessons I learned was that it's impossible for you to repeat that message too often.
So be very clear about what it is you want them to do and say it often to anyone who will listen.
The second is to make it easy. Make it very simple for various development teams that integrate
into your software assurance processes. So understand the challenges that individual teams face
in implementing security during the development life cycle. One team’s problem, if they are
doing an agile development process versus waterfall, could be very different depending on those
Make sure you understand their challenges, whether it's process, time, or the right tools, and
make sure that you’re able to solve for those. Thankfully, for us, Fortify has been very easy to
integrate into the IDE. We've been able to automate with it, so it's been ﬂexible in a number of
different scenarios for us.
Finally, quantifying, measuring progress over time. It's very easy to sit back and say, “These
guys implement Fortify” or “We have manual tests for them” or “They take all the required
training,” but it's great to quantify each, so that you provide feedback to senior management and
talk about many of the success stories.
If you can provide quantitative information and share those success stories everywhere
throughout the organization, you’re able to reward everyone’s efforts. In summary, the key
success factors are just to be clear about the message, make it easy for people to integrate, and
then measure how well everyone is doing.
Hartman: That’s a great summary, and last one, especially to your point, sounds easy. It's not
that trivial of an activity. It's being able to communicate to leadership as well as to the troops.
Leadership, especially in a set of measures or metrics that resonate with them, is not an easy task.
There are a lot of activities that get done as far as software security and software assurance
practices go, but translating that into a language that a senior business leader is going to
understand is not an easy task. That’s a very good point.
A couple of last questions for you. If you could take a look back for us with this journey and
when it started and the success you've had, is there anything you would do a little differently?
Altekar: One of the things I already mentioned was to be repetitive about the importance of
software security and what needs to be done. There is always someone who hasn’t heard that
message, and it's important for them to hear it as well.
The other thing is that it's okay to be a bit more realistic in what an organization can do. Just
because there's lots of security work ahead of you, it doesn’t mean that the organization is able to
get it all done immediately.
So it's important to create realistic goals and time frames that the organization can meet, versus
trying to get everything done all at once. It changes from organization to organization on what
that means, but I've learned to have realistic goals, rather than ideal goals.
Hartman: The goal-setting and the expectations and constant communication of reinforcing of
those goals is deﬁnitely critical.
Going forward then, what's next for Heartland and speciﬁcally in this space? Can you paint us a
picture for what's next in the horizon from an SSA standpoint, let's say, the next 12 months or so?
Altekar: I'm really excited for the next year at Heartland. We’re at a place where we have many
of the right tools. We have many of the right controls at the right time during the software
My next goal is to combine all our different tools and get even more value out of them running in
sync with each other - trying to add one and one to get three, versus just the two that we have
Going forward, I’d really like to continue to automate and leverage the individual tools and get
them working together so that we get, one, richer information about our security posture, but
two, to get more actionable and precise information on what various development teams need to
do, or what the security team needs to do to better support software assurance efforts.
Hartman: Ashwin, I really appreciate your sharing this with us. You have a lot of great insights.
Obviously, as you pointed out, this is very much a journey. It's not something that’s a week,
month, or multi month effort. It's constantly changing and morphing. Again, your insights were
very, very valuable and I appreciate them. So, back to you, Dana, on this one.
Gardner: Thanks, Amir. You've been listening to the ﬁrst in a two-part sponsored series -- Does
Software Security Pay? -- examining how Heartland Payment Systems has leveraged software
assurance best practices and HP Fortify tools to drive value inside the organization and improve
their overall business performance.
And we've seen how a recent software assurance return on investment study from MainStay
demonstrates how HP Fortify has measurably positively impacted Heartland’s IT organization
and their developers.
Please join me now in thanking our moderator, Amir Hartman, Founder and Managing Director
at MainStay. Thank you so much, Amir.
Hartman: You got it, Dana. I appreciate being here.
Gardner: And also, a big thank you to our special guest, Ashwin Altekar. He is the Director of
Enterprise Risk Management at Heartland Payment Systems. Thank you so much, Ashwin.
Altekar: Thank you.
Gardner: I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this on
going sponsored discussion of IT Innovation and how it's making an impact on people’s lives.
Thanks again, for listening and come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: HP
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how HP Fortify has helped one company improve
their software security practices. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2014. All rights
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