Software development is time-consuming and requires thousands of working hours before the final product is released to the intended customers. One way to ensure your software’s integrity is to include security during development. Organizations must opt for a cost-effective, secure software design that complies with security regulations defined by international standards regulators.
Importance of Secure Software Design
Developers use secure software development as a methodology to create software by incorporating security into every phase of the Software Development Life Cycle. The idea is to bake security into the code from its inception instead of fixing it after the quality assurance department uncovers product flaws.
Traditionally, developers view security as an obstacle that distracts them from innovation and creativity by creating delays in delivering the product to the intended market. In reality, this mindset hurts their company’s profit margin as it costs extensively to fix bugs during implementation or testing.
Building an application with a security mindset makes it easier to identify and fix the same bug during the design phase. Therefore, security deserves to be in a preeminent position during software engineering, but most organizations fail to incorporate security in their SDLC and struggle to compete with others.
At its core, secure software design stresses the need to test early. Organizations must consider this philosophy when actively conducting status and dynamic security testing throughout the development process. A secure software development approach requires the development team to document security requirements as well as the functional requirements of their projects.
DevOps teams also need to conduct risk analysis during the design phase of the development lifecycle because it can help them identify potential environmental threats. If your organization plans to offer secure software for its users, you must lay the foundation for success by preparing your team, procedures, and technology to put security first.
Understanding a secure software development policy
Organizations build a secure software development policy as guidelines that define the practices and procedures. Development teams must follow this policy to decrease the risk of vulnerabilities during development. A secure software development policy should also contain precise instructions on how the team needs to view, assess, and demonstrate security throughout the SDLC. Projects also need to keep the policy in mind during risk management.
A secure software development policy is essential to keep your development costs to a minimum as it establishes the rules your teams need to follow. Your employees must have a clear understanding of their duties while receiving thorough training and undergoing strict screening to ensure compliance.
Segregating duties ensures that a single person does not have control or knowledge of the entire project because testing protocols need to assess the contribution of all team members to ensure compliance with standards. A secure software development policy must outline the necessary processes to protect software as the separation of development, testing, and operational environments breed autonomy, prevent test biases and unauthorized changing of source code.
Access control is another essential part of a secure software development policy that ensures employees only have access to data that is relevant to their job description. Your policy needs a version control clause because it helps track all sources and timestamps whenever a team member alters the code.
The Main Stages of Secure Development
The National Institute of Standards and Technology built a framework that organizes secure software development into four stages:
- Preparing the organization: The people, processes, and technology that make up the organization need to be prepared for secure software development at the managerial level for every project.
- Protecting the software: Every software component needs to be protected from tampering and unauthorized access.
- Producing well-secure software: The organization must incorporate security in every stage of the development life cycle to ensure the software has minimal vulnerabilities in releases.
- Responding to vulnerabilities: Teams must identify vulnerabilities in their software and proceed with an appropriate response to address them and prevent similar instances from occurring in the future.
Secure software development allows you to incorporate safety and security during the developing process, ensuring its integrity. This is a cost-effective and secure solution, that has many benefits, as we have discussed above. If you need more help on how to go about it, we have many articles on secure programming, such as good coding practices, software analysis, and more.
Application Security, which is popularly known as AppSec, is one of the essential elements of cybersecurity. AppSec provides security within the applications we use to prevent any chances of unauthorised access from unknown users.
Cybersecurity helps us protect our networks, devices, and data from criminals who want to gain unauthorised access for their immoral gains. Therefore, we rely on it to ensure that our information is confidential and readily available to those who use it. To batter the insecurity of the Internet, organisations and individuals need to take the necessary cybersecurity steps to protect themselves.
For developers, the crucial aspect of Application Security is to follow the Secure Application Development Guidelines during its design and development. For instance, a developer needs to use a secure development procedure that ensures all business applications owned or operated by the organisations are immune to common exploitation attempts like SQL Injection (SQLi).
What is Application Security?
Application Security protects the application and its protocols by identifying functionality, usage, logic, data flow, and access control. Additionally, developers should include AppSec in the System Development Life Cycle regardless of their methodology, as security plays an integral role in all phases.
For example, you can do threat modelling during the design phase or use IDE plugins to conduct a real-time review of your code during the development phase. You can use the feedback from the plugins to inform your developers regarding the best practices and direct them on how to improve their code quality.
Developers typically put AppSec activities at the end of the project, sometimes even after the release. If your application still has vulnerabilities and you release them for your users, correcting these mistakes can be costly. Since developing and sending over-the-air (OTA) security updates is more expensive, you should incorporate AppSec in your development phases.
Ideally, you should conduct security testing in the Quality Assurance phase by performing the Static and Dynamic Application Security Test (SAST and DAST) as early as possible. Moreover, you must set up automated scanning of web applications, APIs, and cloud infrastructure during User Acceptance Testing.
You should formalise Application Security activities to prevent your organisation from incurring additional costs. Therefore, you must provide your development teams with the proper education and resources to bake AppSec procedures into your SDLC.
The table below shows the activities followed in the Secure web application development phases:
Web Application Architecture: Components
Application security applies to the following aspects of web development. These include:
- Binaries/executables: The binaries/executables are files that contain code for the processor. They are easily executed in various operating systems. They are applicable as service applications, core components, and drivers. They need proper application security and management.
- Web Apps: Web applications run on a web server, and users access them through their browsers. So naturally, web apps must accept user connection requests even using an insecure network. Unfortunately, this exposure to numerous vulnerabilities can put user-specific sensitive information at risk.
- API: The importance of Application Programming Interfaces is rising as they provide microservices to their users. In addition, an entire API economy allows organisations to share their data across numerous software functionalities developed by others, making it crucial.
- Cloud Native: Technologies like virtual machines, containers, and serverless platforms help build a microservices architecture for Cloud native applications. Typically, infrastructure and environments are automatically based on declarative configuration, known as Infrastructure as Code.
There are four types of AppSec features you can consider for your development life cycle.
- Authentication: While building policies for an application, you must ensure that only authorised users can access it. Authentication procedures verify the user’s credentials to allow access via a unique username and password. Moreover, Multi-factor authentication is an extra layer of security that asks for something like the user’s phone number to verify the credentials.
- Authorisation: After authentication, the users are authorised to use the services. The system must verify that the user has the proper permissions by comparing the identity with the authorised users stored on the database. However, you must ensure that your application authorises users after authentication.
- Encryption: Once the user is authenticated and allowed access to the application, you must take other security measures to protect the information flow from cybercriminals. For example, encryption is essential for cloud-based applications because the information flows through the cloud and is a perfect target. Therefore, you should encrypt the data at all times to protect it.
- Logs: You should maintain a log of all activities and processes on your application. Additionally, you can use logging to identify suspected users in case of a data breach. Your application can build a record with timestamps to specify which aspect of your application was being used by a user.
Application security is a crucial aspect of cybersecurity that protects our programs, networks, and apps from unauthorised access by immoral persons on the internet. Such attacks can incur major financial damage, so it is essential to develop and implement a plan to prevent them from occurring.