In today's swiftly evolving digital landscape and amidst the surge in cyber threats, the realm of application security (AppSec) has gained paramount importance in software development. Establishing a resilient and comprehensive AppSec culture has become indispensable to shield sensitive data and thwart potentially catastrophic data breaches. The recent breach experienced by Chick-fil-A serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative need for a robust AppSec framework to ensure the protection of customer information (1). This article seeks to delve into the creation of a holistic AppSec culture utilizing the OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) and to explore how this strategic approach could have potentially averted the Chick-fil-A data breach.

Understanding the Chick-fil-A Data Breach

What Happened?

Chick-fil-A disclosed a data breach that potentially exposed sensitive customer information, including membership and mobile payment numbers, QR codes, and masked payment details (1). This breach left millions of customers vulnerable to fraudulent activities and identity theft, accentuating the criticality of stringent AppSec practices in safeguarding user data.

How Did the Breach Occur?

While the precise cause behind the Chick-fil-A data breach remains undisclosed, it is conceivable that attackers exploited vulnerabilities within the company's mobile application, infrastructure, or API, thereby gaining unauthorized access to customer data. This underscores the importance of implementing robust security measures across the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) to mitigate the likelihood of similar incidents.

Preventive Measures

To mitigate or even forestall app data breaches, cultivating a robust AppSec culture that prioritizes security right from the outset of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is imperative. By integrating the OWASP ASVS, enterprises can systematically identify and tackle potential security vulnerabilities in their applications, thereby fortifying the safeguarding of sensitive customer data.

Fostering a Strong AppSec Culture through OWASP ASVS


The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) is an extensive framework designed to serve as a cornerstone for assessing the security of web applications. ASVS levels of security requirements categorized into different domains, enabling organizations to evaluate and enhance their application security stance comprehensively. Encompassing a broad spectrum of security aspects such as authentication, access control, data encryption, and more, the standard ensures a well-rounded approach to AppSec.

Benefits of OWASP Compliance

Embracing the ASVS assessment brings forth a myriad of advantages, encompassing:

  • Elevated security stance: Through its structured methodology, the ASVS facilitates the identification and mitigation of security vulnerabilities, fortifying the overall security posture of your applications.
  • Enhanced regulatory compliance: Compliance with stringent regulations like GDPR and PCI DSS mandates a proactive approach towards securing customer data. Implementation of the ASVS aids in meeting these regulatory obligations, shielding against potential fines or sanctions.
  • Augmented customer confidence: A robust commitment to application security communicates to customers your dedication to safeguarding their privacy and data integrity, nurturing a sense of trust and allegiance.
  • Mitigation of data breach risks: Proactive identification and remediation of vulnerabilities significantly diminish the likelihood of costly and reputation-damaging data breaches, underscoring the importance of ASVS integration within organizational security frameworks.

Implementing OWASP ASVS at a Feature or Component Level

To optimize the utility of the ASVS, companies should focus on integrating the standard at the feature or component level within their applications. This entails aligning the pertinent ASVS stipulations with specific application components or features, guaranteeing that security concerns are meticulously addressed in a precise and targeted manner.

This objective can be accomplished by deconstructing the application into smaller components or features and applying the relevant ASVS requirements to each one. For instance, during the creation of an authentication system, the development team ought to consult the ASVS requirements pertaining to authentication and ensure their meticulous implementation and thorough testing.

Incorporating AppSec into the SDLC

To foster a resilient AppSec culture, organizations should endeavor to infuse security seamlessly throughout the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). This necessitates the integration of security practices at every juncture, spanning from design and development through testing, deployment, and ongoing maintenance.

Security Integration in the Design Phase

At the onset of the design phase, prioritizing security is paramount. This entails conducting a meticulous threat modeling exercise to pinpoint potential attack vectors. Moreover, integrating secure design principles like the principle of least privilege and defense-in-depth is imperative to curtail the potential attack surface, ensuring robust security measures from the outset.

Embedding Security Practices in Development

Equipping developers with comprehensive training in secure coding practices is essential. Encouraging the utilization of tools such as static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) empowers them to identify and rectify vulnerabilities within their code. Additionally, incorporating security-focused code reviews enables reviewers to meticulously assess the code for potential security risks, fortifying the development process against potential threats.

Security Validation Through Rigorous Testing

Throughout the testing phase, the integration of security testing into the overarching test plan is crucial. This encompasses conducting vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and security regression testing to validate the effectiveness of security controls. By meticulously scrutinizing for vulnerabilities and ensuring the absence of newly introduced vulnerabilities during development, organizations can uphold the integrity of their security infrastructure.

Security during Deployment

As organizations embark on deploying their applications, it is imperative to prioritize the configuration of their infrastructure with utmost security in mind, following industry-leading protocols for both network and system security. Embracing regular vulnerability assessments and diligent patch management practices becomes indispensable to promptly address any newly unearthed vulnerabilities.

Security throughout Maintenance

As the application enters the maintenance phase, organizations must remain vigilant in monitoring for potential security loopholes. Consistent security assessments should be conducted, and patches applied as required to uphold the integrity of the system. This ongoing dedication to applications security not only safeguards against emerging security threats but also fortifies the organization's overall security posture, ensuring resilience in the face of evolving challenges.

How OWASP ASVS Might Have Mitigated the Chick-fil-A Data Breach

If Chick-fil-A had integrated the OWASP ASVS, it could have potentially averted the data breach or at least minimized its impact significantly. Adhering to the ASVS guidelines would have enabled Chick-fil-A to proactively identify and rectify potential vulnerabilities within their application, infrastructure, or API. 

Strengthened Authentication and Access Control 

Incorporating ASVS requirements concerning authentication and access control would have fortified Chick-fil-A's ability to restrict access to sensitive customer data exclusively to authorized users. This might have entailed the implementation of multifactor authentication, robust session management protocols, and secure methods for storing passwords, thereby heightening the difficulty for unauthorized parties to infiltrate the system. 

Enhanced Data Protection Measures 

Furthermore, the ASVS delineates specifications for data protection, encompassing encryption techniques and secure handling practices. Had Chick-fil-A followed these stipulations, they could have ensured comprehensive protection of customer data, both during storage and transmission, rendering it substantially more challenging for attackers to intercept or extract sensitive user information.

Next Steps for Enterprises

In order to forge a resilient AppSec ethos leveraging the OWASP ASVS, organizations can embark on the following initiatives:

Undertake a Comprehensive Gap Analysis: Initiate a thorough gap analysis to evaluate your organization's existing security posture vis-à-vis the criteria delineated in the OWASP ASVS controls. This endeavor will unveil areas necessitating enhancement, enabling prioritized action on security endeavors.

  • Institute a Holistic Security Training Regimen: Formulate and execute a comprehensive security training regimen tailored for developers and pertinent stakeholders. Encompassing secure coding protocols, security architecture fundamentals, and adept utilization of security tools such as Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST).
  • Develop a Rigid Secure Development Policy: Craft a robust secure development policy elucidating the organization's steadfast commitment to AppSec and delineating expectations for developers, testers, and ancillary stakeholders. Embed this policy seamlessly into the overarching Information Security Management System (ISMS).
  • Engage in Ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation of Security Practices: Regularly monitor and evaluate the efficacy of organizational security practices to ensure alignment with the OWASP ASVS benchmarks. This may entail periodic security assessments including vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and meticulous scrutiny of security audit outcomes.
  • Cultivate a Security-Conscious Work Environment: Foster a culture steeped in security consciousness within the organizational fabric by fostering collaboration and fostering transparent communication among developers, testers, and security personnel. Facilitate this through recurrent security forums, workshops, and knowledge-sharing sessions.


In today's ever-evolving digital terrain, the significance of web application security cannot be overstated. The recent breach experienced by Chick-fil-A serves as a poignant illustration of the potential repercussions stemming from inadequate AppSec practices. By embracing the OWASP ASVS framework and ingraining security measures throughout the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), organizations can markedly diminish the likelihood of data breaches and safeguard the sensitive information of their clientele.

Fostering a robust culture of AppSec not only aids organizations in preserving their reputation and fostering customer trust but also facilitates compliance with regulatory standards and staying abreast of emerging threats. Through a proactive stance on application security, organizations can ensure the enduring prosperity and resilience of their digital assets.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve and cyber threats grow more sophisticated, organizations must remain vigilant and prioritize investment in robust AppSec protocols. By leveraging the OWASP ASVS as a cornerstone of their AppSec ethos, organizations can preemptively address potential vulnerabilities and erect secure, enduring applications that withstand the test of time.

At BD Emerson, we acknowledge the pivotal role that a comprehensive cybersecurity and privacy strategy plays in today's corporate milieu. In response to the recent breach detailed in our blog post, we underscore the imperative of embracing the Application Security Verification (ASVS) Standard and integrating privacy controls alongside security measures to fortify your organization's defenses. Our expert security professionals stand ready to aid you in formulating functional and technical prerequisites for novel technologies, orchestrating proof-of-concepts with vendors, and conducting thorough cost-benefit analyses for each solution. Should your organization aspire to bolster its cybersecurity and privacy frameworks, we invite you to avail of our support by contacting us at or directly reaching out to the author at

Strengthening AppSec Practices with OWASP ASVS: Analyzing the Chick-fil-A Data Breach

About the author



Managing Director


Drew spearheads BD Emerson's Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Security (GRC+Sec) division, where he channels his expertise into guiding clients through the labyrinth of Information Security, Risk Management, Regulatory Compliance, Data Governance, and Privacy. His stewardship is key in developing tailored programs that not only address the unique challenges faced by businesses but also foster a culture of security and compliance.


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