You dreamed of one day making software that would change the world. Or at least one tiny part of it.
One day, you decided to ship a project that you poured a lot of work and love into. You were very excited about this. You knew it wasn’t perfect, but you were confident that with time and enough iterations, it would become something great.
So you did it. You put your project out into the world, committing yourself not only to your code, but to your users. And your users loved it. They loved it so much they didn’t just use the software, they trusted it. They trusted you.
They asked you to keep safe things that were very personal and very valuable to them. You made an oath at slash-legal and swore your allegiance to protecting their data, which you wore in an amulet very close to your heart—anonymized, salted, and hashed, of course.
But as your project came to life and users began to depend on it, you found yourself in a new and strange place. It looked something like this.
It seemed safe enough. There were encouraging people there. People who liked your software. Some who even said it made their lives better!
But there were also monsters. Scary monsters. Monsters who were incredibly skilled at not being seen.
These monsters were destroyers of dreams. They looked for secret places where your software was vulnerable, and they attacked without warning, filling you with shame about the code you’d written.
But they didn’t just attack to hurt you. They attacked you because what they wanted most was what you were protecting: your users’ data. Data you’d sworn to protect!
And you knew that if a monster ever did get your users’ data you, would have to sadly and shamefully go back to your users, tell them what happened, ask them for their data again, and ask them to please trust you once again. There might even be a bunch of people who called themselves "Experts" pointing and laughing at you.
You couldn’t bear to let your users down, so you did your utmost to battle every monster that came your way. The problem was, no two monsters were the same, and every monster was stronger and more skilled than the one that came before.
Sometimes they would go a long time without attacking. It was exhausting to keep your guard up, so sometimes you just tried to not think about them, but you always knew they were there, lurking around every corner, waiting for just the right moment to strike.
One day, while battling a particularly skilled monster, the monster sank its teeth into your side. You fell. Hard. As you stared into its gaping jaws, you knew this was it. You couldn’t go on. Even if you could muster the courage to fight back, you knew you’d never be able to battle the next monster, and the next, and the one after that.
So you closed your eyes and prepared for the monster’s final death blow, knowing that very soon the monster would have the data you had been guarding with your life day after day after day as you climbed the stairs.
Just as you were taking what you knew would be one of your last few breaths, someone appeared by your side and vanquished the monster with a few sure strokes. You couldn’t believe it! Who was this person? Where did they come from? And why did they choose this exact moment to fight for you?
After expressing your gratitude, you got up and continued your climb. This new person walked beside you, and they turned out to be an incredible listener. Pretty soon, you were telling them your frustrations with this journey.
“Look at that!” You said, pointing. “I swear I’ve seen that exact thing before. Am I just going around in circles?”
“Do you trust me?” the sage asked. (You weren’t actually sure if they self-identified as a sage. Well… they seemed sage-ish, anyway.)
“Yes.” You said to the maybe-sage. They’d just saved your life, after all. Suddenly, you were no longer on the stairs. Instead, you were perched on an invisible platform high above.
“Do you see that?” the sage asked.
And suddenly, you saw it. You hadn’t been going around in circles. Instead, you had been spiraling up, higher and higher. You saw the place where you had started, far below, full of people early in their journey who were much weaker than you are now. You saw the spiral continuing upward, high above, full of people who looked quite strong and brave as they overcame new challenges and battled increasingly skilled monsters.
At first, you were encouraged. At least you weren’t going around in circles. And you were getting stronger and better at dealing with the inevitable challenges involved. But then, in exasperation, you cried, “Wait a minute. Does this mean that I will be climbing forever and ever? So there’s no END?!”
“Do you want there to be an end?” the sage asked. “Are you sure that’s what you really want?”
“Yes. Show me what it looks like if I get off these stairs. Show me a place where there are no monsters.”
“Very well.” the person replied.
With that, you were taken to a new place. This place was very different from the stairs that climbed up and up and up through the clouds. No, this was a grey, lifeless place where the trees had no leaves and there was no sound anywhere.
There were graves as far as you could see.
You went up to one of the tombstones. You read the name of an app. You walked to another grave—another app.
“These graves. They’re all software…. I’ve heard of these apps before.” You say, walking through the cemetery. “I once used this one.”
“In this field,” said the sage, “you’ll find all of the world’s most secure applications.”
You look down at the tomb at your feet and fear grips you. “I—I know this app.”
“Indeed you do.” Said the sage. “You know it very well, don’t you?”
You wipe away the soil covering the epitaph and read the stone:
“HERE LIES THE MOST SECURE APPLICATION EVER MADE”
Your eyes suddenly catch the amulet around your neck. Its glittering life and animated colors are gone. It is now just a dead and lifeless stone around your neck. The terror in your gut reaches your mouth and comes crashing out: “What IS this place? Why is MY software here?”
“If you want software that is forever safe from monsters, if you want to stop climbing the stairs, there is only one place your project can go.”
“But—but these projects are all dead,” you stammer.
“Aye, but very secure,” you hear the sage say. “Monsters attack living projects—not dead ones. The stairs may climb up and up and up indefinitely. It may seem endless. It may seem futile. But if you want an alternative? The only alternative is the end.”
You look at the faded amulet around your neck. You think of your users. You feel strength and determination flood your soul.
“I don’t want to give up,” you say, turning to the sage. “I want to keep fighting! Take me back to the stairs! Take me back!” “
The sage takes you by the arm and in a moment you are back at the familiar surrounding of the endless stairs.
“But will my project LIVE?” You cry to the sage.
The sage looks you straight in the eye and says,
“That’s up to you.”
Security is a journey not a destination. Know where you are, how you're doing, and where you are headed with a trusted partner at your side.