Nowadays, digital businesses are capable of making millions of dollars with the strategic use of software. However, that revenue can be overshadowed by the millions they can lose when attacked by cybercriminals, such as when suffering information theft or reputation loss.
That’s why security in the context of software development and operations is key to long-term business success.
To address current digital threats in a secure way, we should start by strengthening software. This entails new challenges that affect the different phases and activities involved in the traditional software development life cycle. In this article, we will analyse each of the SDLC phases, the security problems we may face in each of them, and the most effective ways to solve them.
In order to develop software in a secure way, we need to analyse the security requirements from the beginning. First of all, these requirements mean complying with your organization’s legal framework and information security policies.
Secondly, we have to bear in mind that, while in some industries clients and strategic partners place a lot of value on compliance with security standards, unfortunately in many other cases it is seen simply as something mandatory that needs to be fulfilled in order to do business. Thoroughness in how you apply security standards sounds an obvious element to building secure software, but it is often overlooked.
One of the best ways of reducing costs during the development of software is by applying security principles from the design phase.
To achieve this, you should look to identify threats with the use of threat modelling and by becoming acquainted with business flows. This will lead to developing a software architecture which has identified failing points and appropriate security controls.
In this phase, in order to develop secure code, it is essential that the development team receives training that will allow it to understand the project’s technical details and the way in which they can exploit and solve every vulnerability they may encounter.
In addition, integrated development environments (IDE) have functions and plugins that make it possible to identify deviations from secure development goals while developing software.
In my experience, the most common mistake during this phase is concentrating only on the development of functions in order to quickly send the code to the testing phase. Code is then usually rejected multiple times before the security reviews are approved, which unnecessarily extends the time of development. This could be avoided by adopting a strong secure development approach.
The scope of testing must go beyond functional testing. It has to cover static and dynamic tests, using both automatic tools and manual processes.
Apart from that, during this phase software teams need to design and execute specific manual tests to validate implemented controls, so as to address threats to critical business flows.
Your team must deploy software in a secure environment and infrastructure, both of which must be in line with a security baseline and follow customized hardening policies.
To complete this phase, ensure a third party conducts independent penetration tests and ethical hacking tests to guarantee a flawless revision.
It is essential to bear in mind that security and compliance laws and policies are constantly changing and evolving in order to adapt to current threats. Therefore, those apps that you are currently developing may fail to comply with such standards once they are finished, and may need to be updated.
Continuous deployments, and the discovery of new vulnerable points in technology, lead to the need to evaluate security constantly through penetration tests and vulnerability assessments.
In terms of security, we need to consider software products as dynamic live entities. This means we have to constantly correct vulnerabilities, add controls, and adapt to changing regulations and threats.
This process may be tedious at times, but security adds great value to a project when software development teams correctly implement it – and importantly, hugely surpasses associated costs that can occur if you suffer an attack. Bear in mind the severe consequences that a successful and public cyberattack can have on your organization – from bringing down your company’s long-standing reputation, to destroying users’ trust, generating losses due to financial or information theft and, last but not least, bring about legal sanctions from regulating entities.