Coding Standards and Guidelines

Coding standards

Written by Ayesha

Online hazards can be very numerous for both businesses and individuals. You run the danger of hacker attacks, harmful software entering your system to sluggish it down, and information theft without adequate security. Your gadgets are protected from threats and attacks thanks to security software. Any attacks on your devices are recognized and stopped by it.

Implementation of a Secure Software

Let us look at how implementing secure software enables better programming functionalities. 

Secure Programming

Developers preferred secure programming, writing code using a high-level language while following strict principles to prevent potential vulnerabilities. They aim to secure the data from unwanted exposure that could harm their system or customers. 

Therefore, secure programming is more than writing, compiling, and releasing software. If you want to embrace secure programming throughout your organization, you must create a development environment focusing on reliable insecure hardware, software, services, and vendors.

Adopting secure programming practices removes common vulnerabilities to prevent cyber attacks. Optimizing your software development lifecycle to include security from the first phase can reduce long-term costs associated with exploits.

Why your organization needs secure programming 

Development teams need to implement a secure programming approach as security flaws can enter the software at any stage of the software development life cycle if the team fails to:

  • Identify security requirements before starting the project
  • Remove logical errors from the conceptual design
  • Best practices to remove technical vulnerabilities
  • Deploy the software properly
  • Remove flaws during maintenance 

Getting started with techniques

When you consider moving towards secure programming practices, you must keep the entire process as simple as possible because Complex procedures lead to inconsistencies. You can start your journey towards secure programming by following these three points:

  1. Build an access control system with authentication and authorization policies that protect your software.
  2. Enforce strong encryption protocols to keep your software secure.
  3. Use a secrets management solution that protects your passwords and access keys.

Top 4 steps for secure programming

After familiarizing yourself with the things you should add to your software as the first line of defense, you can include these four measures to your secure programming checklist:

  • Minify your code
    You will determine potential attackers if you make your code harder to access and understand. Developers commonly minify their code to remove white spaces and line breaks. Code minification enhances the performance of your code by reducing its digital footprint and making it much harder to read if exposed to unauthorized individuals.
  • Avoid shortcuts
    Developers can take shortcuts to release code into production. It is tempting, but it could lead to serious security implications in the future. Sometimes developers forget to clean up essential information before releasing the apps, like credentials and security tokens left as comments in the source code.
  • Automate scanning and code reviews
    Attackers can use cross-site scripting and SQL injection to exploit security vulnerabilities in your code. If you enable automated scanning and reviewing of your code, you can identify instances of cross-site scripting for SQL injection to remove them from your code and ensure integrity.
  • Avoid adding components with known vulnerabilities
    Developers often consume open-source components and libraries to save time and effort, but they forget that malicious actors can also use them as a great source of exploits. Therefore, your developers must refrain from using open source components and constantly monitor your code for any vulnerabilities during production to ensure integrity.

Establishing Coding Standards and Conventions

Coding standards are compilations of best practices, regulations, and recommendations for coding. Think of coding standards as rules, techniques, and best practices for producing clearer, simpler-to-read, and more efficient code. They offer a common framework software developers can use to write sophisticated, highly functional code.

Coding standards are a list of rules that reputable organizations for software development demand their programmers adhere to. These firms typically build their own coding standards and regulations based on their organization’s needs and the software they create. Programmers must follow coding standards, or the code may be rejected during code review.

Coding Standards & Recommended Practices

Restricted use of globals

This explains which types of data can be labeled global and which cannot.

Typical headers for various modules

Each module’s header should adhere to a set format and information for easier comprehension and code maintenance. When the headers of various modules align in a single format, code is simpler to comprehend and maintain. The module supports various functions and lists their input and output parameters. The header format must include:

  • The module names
  • Module Author
  • The date on which the module was made
  • Global variables
  • An overview of the module’s functions
  • History of modifications
  • Variables that the module accesses

Naming standards

The following are some of the naming conventions:

  • Variable names that are clear and meaningful make it easier for anybody to understand why they are being used.
  • Names for local variables should begin with a lowercase letter, whereas names for global variables should begin with an uppercase. Constant names should be formed with capital letters.
  • It is preferable to not use digits in variable names.
  • The function’s name must concisely and explicitly state the purpose for utilizing the function. 

Conventions for handling exceptions and error return values

To make debugging easier, any methods that meet an error state should either return a 0 or a 1. On the contrary, coding guidelines provide some basic recommendations for the coding style that should be used to improve the readability and comprehension of the code. 

Avoid employing a complex code style

The code needs to be simple to understand. Repair and debugging are challenging and costly in complicated code. 

Function lengths should be concise

Long functions are quite challenging to comprehend. To accomplish minor tasks, functions should be compact enough to handle them, and large functions should be divided into smaller ones.

Avoid using the GOTO statement

The GOTO statement causes the program to be unstructured, which lowers the program’s comprehension and makes debugging more challenging.

Prevent using the same identifier more than once

Give each variable a name that expresses its function clearly. A single variable cannot have more than one value or perform more than one function. This will make everyone puzzled and it is more challenging to add future improvements. Therefore, always give your variables distinct names.

Make daily backups automatic

Data loss can be caused by various things, including dead batteries, system crashes, hardware damage, software bugs, etc. Save code daily and after every change, no matter how small, to avoid this. Most text editors have backup options, use them!

Post comments and order your documents

The code should have clear comments to make it easier to understand. Don’t assume that simply because a developer is looking at the code, they will automatically comprehend it without explanation. Developers are also humans; thus, it is much simpler for them to read comments outlining code functions than it is for them to scan the code and make assumptions. Spend an extra moment drafting the code function at various points throughout the script in a remark. Make sure the comments walk readers through the rationale and algorithm used. Comments on the statements improve the code’s readability. Of course, this is only necessary when it is unclear what the goal of the code is; for clearly understandable code, there is no need to write comments. 

Try to formalize exception handling.

Exceptions are concerns, problems, or unusual events while code is being executed and obstruct the usual flow of execution. This situation must be addressed as it either interrupts or ends program execution. If, for some reason, they do occur, use the following measures to minimize the harm and save time and developer effort:

  • The code should be kept in a try-catch block.
  • Check to see if auto recovery is enabled and functional.
  • Think about the possibility that a network or software slowdown is the cause. Wait a moment or two for the necessary components to appear. 

Concentrate on code readability

Code that is easy to read and comprehend saves time and effort. Here are some strategies for doing that:

  • Try to write as few lines as you can.
  • Adhere to proper naming practices.
  • Divide code snippets from the same section into paragraphs.
  • Insert indentations to indicate the start and end of control structures. Indicate the connection between them in detail.
  • Avoid using long functions. A single function should, ideally, complete a single task.
  • Whenever necessary, utilize the automatic repeating tasks. The script shouldn’t contain several repetitions of the same piece of code.
  • Refrain from deep nesting. Code that contains an excessive amount of nesting layers is more challenging to read and comprehend.
  • Capitalize SQL special terms and function names.
  • Long lines should be avoided. Humans find it simpler to interpret blocks of lines with small horizontal lines and lengthy vertical lines.

Advantages of Coding Standards

Maintaining clear, collaborative code is more straightforward when coding standards are readily available. Of course, standards differ depending on the application, type, sector, undertaking, developer skill set, and other aspects. However, the guidelines provided in this book will help testers and developers set up straightforward workflows.

  • Coding standards speed up program development and improve software effectiveness.
  • Coding rules aid in the early detection of faults, which lowers the additional costs associated with the software project.
  • If coding standards are kept correctly, software code becomes more readable and understandable, lowering the code’s complexity.
  • It makes it possible to write reusable code and makes error detection simple.
  • A coding standard ensures that codes created by many engineers have a consistent appearance.
  • It decreases complexity and increases the reliability and integrity of the code.
  • It encourages good programming practices and boosts programmers’ productivity.

Conclusion

Secure software development is crucial to protecting oneself from numerous online hazards, such as hacker attacks, harmful software infections, and information theft. Here, we’ve discussed how you can protect yourself and your organization from these damages using secure programming by following high standards and recommended coding practices. For more help, check out our other articles on secure software development.

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