Top 10 Best Practices For Ensuring Software Development Security
Security risks have become ubiquitous, posing threats to individuals, businesses, and governments in an era marked by sophisticated cyber attacks.
To address the increasingly complex challenge of cybersecurity, it is necessary to understand how to ensure security and apply the best secure software development practices.
In this article, we will also explore the practices that help improve security in the software development process.
Common Security Risks in Software Development
Web Service Security Risks
Web services play a critical role in today’s digital world. They allow different applications to communicate with each other and share data. However, web services can also be a target for cyber attacks. Some common web service security risks include:
SQL injection vulnerabilities: Attackers can inject malicious SQL code into the input of a web service to access or modify data in the database.
CSRF attacks: Attackers can trick users into performing unwanted actions on a web service, such as transferring money or changing their password.
Unsafe Password Storage
Passwords are a critical part of cybersecurity. They are used to authenticate users and protect sensitive data. However, if passwords are stored unsafely, they can be stolen and used to gain unauthorized access to systems. Some common risks associated with unsafe password storage include:
Passwords being stored in plain text, which means they can be easily read by anyone who has access to the file.
Passwords being stored in a weak or easily guessable format, such as using common words or phrases.
Passwords being stored in a centralized location, which makes them a prime target for attackers.
Challenges of Maintaining Inactive Software Systems
Unmaintained software systems often have unpatched security vulnerabilities. Attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain access to the system and cause damage. Older software systems may use technologies and programming languages that are no longer popular. As a result, it can be difficult to find experts with knowledge of the system to maintain and patch it.
Security Risks in Legacy Software
Legacy software is often developed in the past when cybersecurity standards were not as advanced as they are today. Additionally, software vendors may discontinue support for older versions. As a result, legacy software may contain numerous security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.
Poorly Written Source Code
Poorly written source code may contain many security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers. Maintaining and updating poorly written source code can be very difficult due to a lack of documentation, messy code, and programming errors.
Top 10 Practices for Secure Software Development
1. Prioritizing Software Security from the Beginning
Ensuring security in the software development process is not just a final task but an ongoing, integrated effort from the planning stage. The significance of prioritizing security is evident through its clear benefits:
Minimizing Risks: Identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities from the outset helps minimize the risk of cyber attacks.
Cost Savings: Addressing security concerns early in the development stage proves cost-effective compared to post-implementation fixes.
Enhancing Efficiency: Integrating security into the software development process enhances overall efficiency and productivity.
Building Trust: A secure software application not only protects users but also fosters trust among them.
The implementation involves adopting the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) methodology, utilizing security testing tools, conducting security testing, and fostering a security-focused culture within the development team. These efforts not only yield direct benefits such as risk reduction, cost savings, and increased efficiency but also contribute to user trust and the overall reputation of the business.
2. Regularly Updating Software and Systems
Regularly updating software and systems is a crucial practice for maintaining robust software security. Given that hackers actively seek security vulnerabilities to exploit, staying up-to-date with patches is essential to thwart potential threats.
Benefits of Regular Updates:
Fixes Security Vulnerabilities: Timely updates address and rectify security vulnerabilities, strengthening the overall security posture.
Removes Bugs: Regular updates eliminate software bugs, contributing to improved functionality and reliability.
Introduces New Features: Updates often bring new features, enhancing the software’s capabilities and user experience.
Removes Outdated Features: Eliminating outdated features ensures that the software remains streamlined and efficient.
Establishing a Software Security Policy with Software Bill of Materials (BOM):
In addition to routine updates, it is advisable to institute a software security policy that incorporates a Software Bill of Materials (BOM). This document offers a comprehensive overview of the software’s composition, facilitating the tracking and management of potential vulnerabilities.
3. Developing a Comprehensive Software Security Policy
Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often lack well-designed IT security policies, which are essential for the success of their software security strategy and initiatives. The lack of comprehensive security policies can be attributed to factors such as limited resources, slow leadership adoption, or a lack of awareness about the importance of building an effective web security program.
The role of security policies:
Network security policies act as guiding documents, outlining rules and procedures for all individuals accessing and using an organization’s IT assets and resources.
They play a critical role in addressing security risks, mitigating vulnerabilities, and defining recovery measures in the event of a network breach.
These policies provide clear guidance to employees on acceptable and unacceptable behavior, define access rights, and outline the consequences of policy violations.
Key objectives of IT security policies:
Confidentiality: Ensuring the protection of IT assets and networks from unauthorized access, safeguarding sensitive information, and maintaining privacy.
Integrity: Ensuring that changes to IT assets are made accurately and follow approved procedures, preventing unauthorized modification or damage.
Availability: Ensuring authorized users have uninterrupted access to IT assets and networks, minimizing disruptions and downtime.
By implementing software security practices based on these core objectives and adhering to industry standards, organizations can strengthen their security posture, protect valuable assets, and enhance their resilience against cyber threats. It is crucial to allocate time and resources to develop and implement comprehensive software security policies that support a proactive approach to risk mitigation.
4. Training Employees on Secure Software Development Method
Employee training on security practices is the first step towards building a solid foundation for software security. A training program focused on Lean Software Development Lifecycle not only equips employees with knowledge of secure coding practices but also raises awareness of security and error handling procedures during production.
Integrating security into the software development process is like assembling puzzle pieces to create a complete picture of security. Each organization can choose the appropriate methodology, but integrating essential elements will create a robust security system that minimizes security risks.
A security training program provides employees with not only the knowledge but also the skills needed to protect project information and resources. This is a critical factor in addressing potential risks and building a secure working environment.
Employee training not only enhances the security culture but also fosters a security-conscious environment. The need for software security is prioritized, and it also promotes team spirit within the working group.
Cultivating a security culture is the ultimate goal. Integrating best practices into security policies helps shape a comprehensive security culture. Activities such as regular phishing tests and supporting the team in identifying, considering, and mitigating social engineering risks play a vital role in maintaining software security and stability.
5. Automate Your Business Processes
In the realm of software security, speed is a fundamental principle of DevOps, and the focus on Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) systems is primarily to quickly deploy source code to production environments. However, in the security context, integrating automation into security practices is crucial to maintaining and iterating on the use of tools and processes consistently.
Crucially, it is important to clearly identify security activities that can be fully automated and those that require manual intervention. For example, running Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools can be fully automated within the pipeline, but activities such as penetration testing and threat modeling require manual labor and cannot be fully automated.
Automation helps ensure consistency and repeatability in the use of tools and processes, but careful consideration is needed to ensure a comprehensive approach to security. This not only increases efficiency but also allows the team to focus expertise on critical areas that require human intervention.
6. Using Code Reviews to Enhance Software Security
Code reviews play a critical role in protecting software from security risks. By effectively conducting code reviews, developers can identify and fix potential vulnerabilities, contributing to the development of sustainable and secure software.
Secure design is the foundation for developing secure software. From the outset, developers need to consider security factors and apply appropriate design principles to minimize risk.
7. Utilizing Well-Established and Maintained Libraries and Frameworks
A key strategy for enhancing security is to leverage well-established and maintained libraries and frameworks. This approach offers numerous benefits, starting with the reduced likelihood of security vulnerabilities compared to building code from scratch. By using open-source components, you can effectively manage software security, with the potential for quick detection and remediation of vulnerabilities.
By employing securely developed libraries, you reduce the attack surface of your application while simultaneously improving development security. It is crucial to research the reputation of a library or framework before using it. Online tools can help you assess community activity, release frequency, and other metrics, ensuring that you are building on a stable and well-supported foundation. These efforts not only prevent security vulnerabilities but also promote a sustainable and secure system.
8. Leveraging Static Source Code Analysis Tools
Static source code analysis plays a crucial role in ensuring software security. Security vulnerabilities can sometimes be overlooked, especially for experienced programmers. Static source code analysis tools are designed to help bridge this gap.
Before deploying software, using this tool becomes an effective method for detecting and resolving security vulnerabilities. It can be integrated into the automated process to check for vulnerabilities whenever a new version is released.
During the source code security review process, this tool also helps identify areas of concern, which is especially important for large organizations with a large team of programmers who may lack specialized security knowledge.
While not a perfect solution, this tool can be effective in detecting several common issues that lead to security vulnerabilities, such as SQL Injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and sensitive information leaks.
9. ISO 27001 certification
ISO 27001 certification plays a pivotal role in improving the security and confidentiality of the software development process. As an international information security standard, ISO 27001 establishes requirements for the establishment, implementation, maintenance, and improvement of an Information Security Management System (ISMS).
By implementing ISO 27001, you can ensure the security and confidentiality of your software development process.
10. Penetration testing
Penetration testing plays a crucial role in ensuring software security. It is an automated method that helps identify and address potential security vulnerabilities that may exist in a system. To effectively perform penetration testing, it requires a team of penetration testing experts who have a deep understanding of software security and the ability to use hacker-like tools to test the system.
It is important to conduct regular penetration testing, typically monthly, on a small portion of the system or product. This helps ensure that existing vulnerabilities are detected and resolved quickly, reducing the likelihood of external attacks.
Security testing also involves assessing and mitigating risks associated with third-party software components. This places high demands on ensuring the security of source code and products, both from the enterprise and from cooperating partners. Through collaboration and implementing a comprehensive security strategy, businesses can build trust, protect sensitive data, and maintain the security of their software systems.
In conclusion, implementing software security methods is not only necessary but also a critical factor in building a secure and reliable system. The 10 methods presented in this article provide a solid foundation for organizations to strengthen their security posture and mitigate potential risks.
By adhering to these best practices, organizations can not only reduce the risk of attacks but also protect sensitive information and build strong trust with customers.
Taking a proactive approach to software development security is not only a commitment to excellence but also a strategy for responding flexibly in the ever-changing digital landscape of today.
Nexle is a leading software development company based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We are delivering on the world’s largest, most complex projects to transform the way governments, companies and communities work. We have been developing smart, technology-enabled solutions to solve our clients’ toughest challenges, demonstrating a commitment to excellence and a passion for exceeding expectations. Nexle is well positioned to be a partner and co-innovator to businesses in their transformation journey, identify new growth opportunities and facilitate their foray into new sectors and markets. We’re globally recognized for our innovative approach towards delivering business values and our commitment to client success.