Motivating Jenny to Write Secure Software
A Research Project to Help Developer Teams Engage with Security

The Motivating Jenny project investigates how to initiate and sustain secure software culture, building upon frameworks of personal motivation and team culture. The project has two aims:

  1. To develop an understanding about what motivates non-specialist developers to adopt secure coding practices and technologies into daily practice.
  2. To provide a toolkit for creating a security culture within software teams.

Introduction

Motivators, Outcomes, Characteristics and Context

Motivation significantly influences productivity and code quality in software development projects. Successful developers are motivated to learn new technologies, but are rarely motivated by reading documentation or studying manuals. They engage in peer-to-peer interactions and assessments, two forms of interaction that have been found to bring about lasting cultural change within the wider software developer community. This is evident, for example, in the widespread adoption of object-oriented technologies and agile development practices.

The Motivating Jenny project investigates how to initiate and sustain secure software culture, building upon frameworks of personal motivation and team culture (see figure). Our specific research aims were therefore to:

To address these research aims, we conducted ethnographic and constrained task studies and draw upon classic models of motivation, organisational theory, and social and cultural pyschology. Our engagement with the developer community  considered online and professional settings, in communities such as those found in StackExchange and through collaboration with a range of companies including members of Agile Business Consortium (ABC) Ltd and international partners in Ireland, Brazil and Japan.

This is a joint project between The Open University and Exeter University, and is a sister project of the EPSRC-funded Why Johnny doesn't write secure software? Secure Software Development by the masses.