Similar to plane crashes, significant information security disasters often stem from a combination of multiple failures. Let’s recall the Equifax Data Breach, one of the largest and most impactful data breaches in history. In March 2017, personal data of hundreds of millions of people was stolen from Equifax, the credit reporting agencies that assess the financial health of nearly everyone in the United States.
The investigation revealed a number of security lapses that allowed hackers to enter supposedly secure systems and exfiltrate terabytes of data. The personal information of over 143 million individuals, comprising more than 40 percent of the United States population, including their names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and driver’s license numbers, was compromised and exposed.
The sad example once again proofs: every stage of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) should be designed with security in mind. This approach creates a well-coordinated network of software security methods that protect the data used throughout the project. The result is the delivery of high-quality IT products that are free from vulnerabilities such as bugs, code loopholes, and design flaws that could compromise data integrity.
Let’s look at the critical problem areas and stress the importance of adopting the top software security methods. Dive in and ensure your software is secure.
Secure software development is a methodology that integrates security practices throughout the software development life cycle. Unlike outdated approaches in which security is an afterthought, secure software development ensures that security considerations are woven into the fabric of the software engineering process from the very beginning. This mitigates the chances of critical flaws surfacing during testing or after the product has been released.
While some developers may perceive security measures as hindrances to innovation and speed, the reality is that addressing security early on can save businesses significant time and costs. Fixing a bug during the design phase is far more efficient and cost-effective than rectifying the same bug during implementation.
What Happens without Applying Software Security Methods?
A software development process without proper attention to security brings alone the following risks and consequences:
- Developers may not be aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with their software.
- Neglecting security considerations increases the likelihood of successful attacks and compromises the overall security of the software.
- Software lacking secure development practices may struggle to handle security incidents effectively, leading to prolonged downtime, data breaches, and compromised user information.
- Hackers can bypass licensing controls, distribute unauthorized copies, and potentially monetize the stolen software.
- The lack of proper foundations and understanding can hinder future efforts to improve the security of the software.
Each phase of the cycle has a significant impact on the subsequent stages, and that’s why it’s vital to incorporate security at every step of the SDLC.
Building a secure software product requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond the basics. Here are 10 best practices that you should follow to enhance the security of your software development lifecycle.
A recent report compiled by Evans Data explored the attitudes of 1,200 active developers. It found that only 14% of the group consider security a priority when coding. The alarming results confirm that security is simply not on the radar for most engineers. They don’t see that they have a role to play when it comes to tackling common vulnerabilities or issues.
The prior thing towards ensuring reliable software if putting security at the very heart of the development process. Otherwise, a glaring security flaw in any application can damage the brand and reputation of the developers. It can also compromise the sensitive data of users, result in financial losses to businesses. Moreover, today when everything from household appliances to vehicles to medical devices are software-operated, software security failures can potentially impact safety and lives.
Consider security requirements, potential threats, and mitigation strategies during the initial design and planning phases. It fosters a mindset of proactive risk analysis and encourages the adoption of all the subsequent methods and practices.
A Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper Commissioned By VMware,“Bridging the Developer and Security Divide,” states 45.1% of developers believe they are involved with security planning, while a significantly lower percentage of security professionals (37.8%) indicated they involve development teams. These numbers reveal a troubling truth for developers: They are even less involved in security strategy planning than they think they are.
It is the time to bridge this gap. When security is ingrained in the mindset of everyone involved in the development process, it becomes a shared responsibility, and each team member becomes an advocate for appropriate practices.
A mere 22% of developers possess a comprehensive understanding of the security policies they need to adhere to, leading to confusion regarding their security responsibilities. To cultivate compliance and agility, avoid burdening developers with policy translation tasks. Instead, allocate time for teams to devise procedures and tools that seamlessly integrate policy measures into the development workflow, making security an innate component of their daily routine.
One aspect of asset tracking is maintaining an up-to-date inventory of hardware and software components used in the development environment—servers, workstations, networking equipment, development tools, libraries, and frameworks. Other aspects include monitoring data repositories and access controls.
Such a practice brings many advantages to businesses. Continuous tracking promotes accountability, discourages misuse, and prevents loss or theft. It provides real-time information on asset location, status, and usage, enabling optimized resource allocation and informed decision-making. Moreover, compliance with regulations and auditing becomes way more manageable.
New vulnerabilities may arise over time as your IT infrastructure expands, evolves, and ages.
Therefore, consider using automated vulnerability scanning tools, which are designed to scan your software and infrastructure for known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and weaknesses. Also, vulnerability intelligence and threat feeds will be helpful for staying informed about the latest threats and exploits.
This way, you can reduce the likelihood of the possible attack surface through continuous monitoring. Remember: prevention is always more cost-effective than remediation. The average cost of containing a data breach stands at 4.35 million in direct and indirect costs.
Assess the Business Logic for Potential Exploits
Business logic vulnerabilities can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access, manipulate data, or perform malicious actions within the system. By evaluating the business logic, developers can identify potential weaknesses and take appropriate measures to mitigate them, such as implementing input validation, access controls, and encryption mechanisms. By understanding the expected behavior and logic flow of the system, developers can implement proper access controls, authorization mechanisms, and business rules enforcement.
Examine how the software handles different scenarios, inputs, and user actions to ensure that it behaves securely and as intended. You can find potential exploits through testing for feature misuse, non-repudiation, trust relationships, data integrity, and duty segregation.
Defense in depth is a comprehensive security strategy that utilizes multiple layers of defense to safeguard an organization’s assets. It emphasizes the implementation of multiple defensive layers:
- Access measures
- Workstation defenses
- Data protection
- Perimeter defenses
- Monitoring and prevention
For instance, an organization may have firewalls and intrusion detection systems at the network perimeter, secure authentication mechanisms for user access, encryption for data transmission, strict access controls to limit privileges, and continuous monitoring for suspicious activities. This multi-layered approach ensures that if one security control is bypassed or compromised, there are additional layers of defense to prevent unauthorized access or mitigate the impact of an attack, safeguarding the financial institution and its customers.
With smaller units of change, it becomes easier to identify and address security issues promptly. If a vulnerability or flaw is discovered, it can be quickly isolated and fixed within the specific unit, minimizing the impact on the overall software.
In 2006, AOL, an American web portal and online service provider, released a dataset containing over 20 million search queries made by their users. The intention was to provide researchers with anonymized data for analysis. However, the released dataset contained unique user identifiers that were linked to search queries, allowing individuals to be identified. Although AOL attempted to anonymize the data by replacing user IDs with random numbers, the lack of proper data sanitization resulted in a breach of privacy. This incident demonstrated the importance of thoroughly sanitizing data to remove any personally identifiable information before its release.
When sensitive data is no longer needed, it must be properly sanitized or destroyed to prevent misuse. The team can apply encryption, shredding, or overwriting to render the data unreadable and irretrievable. Read more about standards, practices, and legislation for data sanitization.
Careful reporting and documentation includes capturing details about application security testing results and any security-related incidents that may have occurred during the development process. This will highlight trends and lay the groundwork for better security posture.
Maintaining proper reporting and documentation is essential for software security due to the following reasons:
- Incident response and forensic analysis: Accurate reporting and documentation are crucial for effective incident response and investigating security breaches.
- Compliance and audit requirements: Proper documentation helps organizations meet regulatory and compliance standards by providing evidence of security controls and procedures.
- Knowledge transfer and continuity: Documentation ensures the transfer of knowledge within teams and facilitates continuity when there are staff changes.
- Risk management and decision-making: Reporting and documentation support informed decision-making by identifying trends, vulnerabilities, and mitigation strategies.
- Legal and contractual obligations: Well-documented reports and evidence assist in legal matters, protecting organizations from potential liabilities.
Remember that security tools are not a one-size-fits-all solution. The right toolset may vary depending on the nature of your software, the development methodology employed, and the specific security risks you need to address. But don’t compromise on security tools; choose wisely to ensure the safety of your software and sensitive customer data.
With a comprehensive assessment approach, can assist you in adhering to the top software security practices and building reliable IT products & solutions. It evaluates the quality levels of your systems and products from both technical and business perspectives, which doesn’t let you miss any crucial aspects—whether it’s a security vulnerability, architecture quality, data integrity, or business logic alignment.
Having your product examined from multiple angles isn’t something many enterprises consider. At least, many take a rather siloed approach in which building security is a separate consideration, not integrated into the broader quality assessment process. But it makes more sense to break down the barriers between security and other aspects of product development. In the end, this will give you a higher level of assurance and confidence in your product’s overall quality. Reach out today to see your product from the inside.
While there is no 100% solution to ensure the absolute security of software development, following these fundamental practices serves as a solid foundation for safeguarding your organization. So, make sure your strategy encompasses various aspects of security, including secure coding, vulnerability management, risk assessment, and secure deployment.
However, it’s important to recognize it’s an ongoing process that requires continuous vigilance, adaptability, and a proactive approach. Embedding security into the DNA of your software development processes is a solid start, but then you need to reinforce these efforts with regular assessments, updates, and enhancements.