We analyse Stack Overflow (SO) to understand challenges and confusions developers face while dealing with privacy-related topics. We apply topic modelling techniques to 1,733 privacy-related questions to identify topics and then qualitatively analyse a random sample of 315 privacy-related questions. Identified topics include privacy policies, privacy concerns, access control, and version changes. Results show that developers do ask SO for support on privacy-related issues. We also find that platforms such as Apple and Google are defining privacy requirements for developers by specifying what "sensitive" information is and what types of information developers need to communicate to users (e.g. privacy policies). We also examine the accepted answers in our sample and find that 28% of them link to official documentation and more than half are answered by SO users without references to any external resources.
Ecological validity is a major concern in usable security studies with developers. Many studies are conducted with computer science (CS) students out of convenience, since recruiting professional software developers in sufficient numbers is very challenging. In a password-storage study, Naiakshina et al. (CHI'19) showed that CS students behave similarly to freelance developers recruited online. While this is a promising result for conducting developer studies with students, an open question remains: Do professional developers employed in companies behave similarly as well?To provide more insight into the ecological validity of recruiting students for security developer studies, we replicated the study of Naiakshina et al. with developers from diverse companies in Germany. We found that developers employed in companies performed better than students and freelancers in a direct comparison.However, treatment effects were found to be significant in all groups; the treatment effects on CS students also held for company developers.
Security is an essential component of the software development lifecycle. Researchers and practitioners have developed educational interventions, guidelines, security analysis tools, and new APIs aimed at improving security. However, measuring any resulting improvement in secure development skill is challenging. As a proxy for skill, we propose to measure self-efficacy, which has been shown to correlate with skill in other contexts. Here, we present a validated scale measuring secure software-development self-efficacy (SSD-SES). We first reviewed popular secure-development frameworks and surveyed 22 secure-development experts to identify 58 unique tasks. Next, we asked 311 developers — over multiple rounds — to rate their skill at each task. We iteratively updated our questions to ensure they were easily understandable, showed adequate variance between participants, and demonstrated reliability. Our final 15-item scale contains two sub-scales measuring belief in ability to perform vulnerability identification and mitigation as well as security communications tasks.
The positive effect of security information communicated to developers through API warnings has been established. However, current prototypical designs are based on security warnings for end-users. To improve security feedback for developers, we conducted a participatory design study with 25 professional software developers in focus groups. We identify which security information is considered helpful in avoiding insecure cryptographic API use during development. Concerning console messages, participants suggested five core elements, namely message classification, title message, code location, link to detailed external resources, and color. Design guidelines for end-user warnings are only partially suitable in this context. Participants emphasized the importance of tailoring the detail and content of security information to the context. Console warnings call for concise communication; further information needs to be linked externally. Therefore, security feedback should transcend tools and should be adjustable by software developers across development tools, considering the work context and developer needs.