The creation of software products is a complex affair filled with numerous security risks. Cyber attacks, data leaks, and tons of malware threats all require proper and timely countermeasures. Security in software development is essential to every software development service provider expecting to offer reliable solutions for clients and stimulate brand loyalty.
The same tenet goes for individual entrepreneurs looking to hire a dedicated software development team. But how does one gain complete confidence in the efficiency of cyber protection measures offered?
This brief guide provides an overview of the basics of security in software development to help you stay sharp and prepared in the face of all sorts of potential risks.
What is Software Security All About?
In its simplest terms, security in software development is a collection of efforts and solutions focused on the protection of products from malicious or unintentional manipulations. Any commonly used digital solution today must have measures in place to prevent unauthorized access, change, or destruction of the data and code contained within it. This is why firewalls, encryption, authentication, and authorization protocols exist in the first place.
Modern cyber protection methods, however, stretch beyond the direct effect, and also allow you to detect and respond to many potential threats in advance. This is handled through predictive analytics, real-time intrusion detection, and incident response systems.
It’s important to keep in mind that cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Staying up to date on its latest trends and technologies is essential for all companies that offer any kind of desktop, mobile, cloud, or web development services.
Staying up to speed enables providers to better identify potential threats and offer their clients competitive protection of personal and/or corporate data. With timely knowledge, you can ensure that your software is secure and your users are safe.
Why is Security Important in Software Development?
When it comes to security in software development, it’s important to remember that prevention is better than cures. It’s always more profitable in the long run to invest in proper measures beforehand. Why should you focus efforts and costs on this aspect even if you haven’t felt the need for action or prevention just yet?
The ultimate importance of security in software development must not be underestimated, and here are just a few reasons why:
- Firstly, having secure software can help to preserve your company’s reputation and credibility. If you compromise the data of a customer in any way, you lose that customer, never to retain them again. On top of that, further business growth and new customer attraction will be complicated by that.
- Secondly, reliable products keep your customers’ accounts safe. This especially concerns commercial solutions that collect financial data. With the recent increase in data breaches, everybody is taking a risk when they share credit card credentials and banking passwords. It’s every provider’s task not to contribute to that risk.
- Finally, solutions with reinforced protection can help your company avoid legal action. If your system is breached and customer data is stolen in a major way, you could be liable for huge legal fines and damages. Timely measures should just keep you clear from lengthy, reputation-shattering legal processes.
How Does Security in Software Development Work?
Security in software development requires a multifaceted approach, including the timely employment of the right tech tools and regular updating of the operating system and underlying applications. It also involves writing secure code, setting up permissions and authentication processes, and monitoring your system for any suspicious activity.
Beyond this, it also works by incorporating various measures in terms of software development life cycle (SDLC) workflows, such as:
- Safe coding practices
- Penetration testing
- Combined static and dynamic code analysis
- Limited access control
Diving a bit deeper, you may centralize your efforts and initiatives by composing a common development cybersecurity policy that would govern all cybersecurity in software development.
Why is it Important to Introduce a Cybersecurity Policy?
Companies that want to provide safe software must create the groundwork for its continuous production. A well-crafted software protection policy allows companies to prepare and keep personnel, internal procedures, and technological infrastructure in accordance with the same standard of cybersecurity in software development.
Such a policy is essentially a set of guidelines that detail all the approaches, procedures, and actions taking place in terms of the whole SDLC, consolidating certain processes (those related to cyber protection, in our case) to turn it into the secure software development life cycle (SSDLC).
The clear understanding of staff duties based on a set of explicit rules, in-depth professional training, and employee screening are major aspects of keeping up with the policy. The common policy is also a great tool for the distribution and consolidation of SDLC workflow responsibilities.
The main gist of the policy, however, is made up of processes necessary to protect digital products, most of which should always include:
- The choice of tech stack (picking programming languages and other tools that offer the best protection in a certain digital environment)
- Code storage management and version control (achieving secure repositories for code storage and management; tracking all instances and sources of code change)
- Data storage management (protecting data through encryption and reinforced repositories)
- Data interaction management (securing processing, transferring, and sending of data)
- Separation of development (emphasizing the exclusive roles of development constraints and development cybersecurity responsibilities)
- Verification (making sure that every feature is requirements-compliant and every SDLC stage is complete according to common methodology)
- Operational environment management (ensuring the wholeness and consolidation of environments)
- Access control (breaking access rights down into levels for reliable segmented access to project-critical assets)
Given all the above, it’s best that you put time and effort into the summarized outline of all necessary measures to be taken during the SDLC.
Security in Software Development: Overview of Best Practices
Let’s go through the basic security practices in software development you should know of as well as some more in-depth pro tips on specific techniques.
Turn to Reliable Professionals Only
If your project is to be handled by hired professional developers, your first and foremost task is to find out how to build an effective software development team. Make sure the team has many years of field experience and is aware of all the necessary measures for protecting your applications.
For this, go through their portfolio, check out any reviews and testimonies they have on the site, look for certificates and major partnerships, and never be shy to contact your potential future provider for a free consultation. The provider’s attitude towards the importance of security in software development often says it all.
Prioritize Software Protection from the Get-go
Cybersecurity requirements come first. Security in software development is crucial in general, but it is no less paramount to give it the right time, place, and format. The pro tip here would be to make the implementation of protection measures one of the earliest parts of your SDLC. Above all, this means the timely introduction of static and dynamic cybersecurity testing approaches at the proper stages of SDLC.
Some of the best tools for QA-related development security testing are:
On top of that, dedicated teams must document the cybersecurity requirements of the product in development as a separate part of functional requirements. Lastly, design stages must involve timely risk analysis to identify potential flaws and problematic areas early on.
Top efficient risk analysis tools today include:
Apply Static Code Analysis Tools
Using static code analysis tools is one of the best security practices in software development protection. Tools like SonarQube and others mentioned below can help you step up your code inspection practice. Alternative to dynamic code analysis, where you are limited to finding flaws in runtime environments only, the static approach allows one to pinpoint the exact locations of code vulnerabilities.
Static code analysis tools you should try:
With proper automated tools, specially-trained software assurance developers may identify vulnerabilities at an early stage of the SDLC fast, before digital products are released into full-on production. Furthermore, these tools can provide developers with valuable guidance on how to reduce the risk of data breaches or other malicious activities in the long term.
Additionally, these tools can be used to ensure compliance with industry standards and internal policies. In summary, using static code analysis tools is a powerful way to ensure that software development projects are secure and compliant.
Frequent and Automated Preliminary Analyses
Regular audits and assessments can help identify potential security flaws before they can be exploited. The goal should be to create a secure environment where the risk of exploitation is minimized.
Some of the top well-tested audit tools for security in software development you should check out include:
A well-defined set of policies and procedures helps to promote systematic practices of security in software development throughout the life cycle of the software development project. By doing so, organizations can ensure that their development teams have all the resources needed to deliver secure products in a timely manner.
Watch Your Patches, Firewalls, and Encryption
Never downplay a simple and routine yet paramount process of patching. Vulnerabilities are to be fixed as soon as they are discovered. A firewall can be a digital or hardware solution that keeps guard between your servers (or project devices) and a wide internet filled with threats of unauthorized access.
The top firewalls you should check out are:
Lastly, data encryption helps you complicate data access to confuse would-be hackers by turning readable data into unreadable structures. The reverse process of decryption stays on your side only.
Some of the best data encryption tools out there today include:
Introduce Security Awareness Training
It’s important to educate yourself and your team on the basics of software protection, as well as provide more in-depth information on specific techniques. Security awareness training provides a great way to ensure that everyone involved in software development has a good understanding of the fundamentals of security in software development. This training can also help you assess the risks associated with any given project and create strategies for mitigating those risks.
Additionally, this sort of specialized training should include best practices for software protection, such as safe coding and authentication. Finally, security awareness training can also provide resources that developers can use for further reference and research.
Use Security Code Reviews
Code reviews help programmers identify potential threats before the code is released by looking at the code from different angles, such as for potentially malicious code or data leakage flaws.
Some of the most convenient code review tools you can get are:
Frequent reviews also allow developers to enhance code quality and usability by ensuring that all coding rules and standards are observed. Further, code reviews can be used to encourage open discussion among teams on the best approaches to use when developing software, thus improving communication and collaboration.
Employ Penetration Testing
Penetration testing is the practice of utilizing a team of security experts to try to hack into a system. In doing so, these experts utilize a wide range of tools and techniques to try to find vulnerabilities that could lead to a data breach.
The idea behind penetration testing is to find vulnerabilities as soon as possible, as opposed to waiting until they’ve been exploited. Ideally, organizations should perform penetration tests on their production systems as well. By doing so, organizations can identify and fix any potential vulnerabilities before they’re exploited in a real-world scenario.
The top reliable tools you want to use for penetration testing include:
Penetration testing can also be used to test a new product or service before it’s released. In doing so, organizations will be able to identify potential vulnerabilities and fix them before the product or service goes live.
Stay Agile and Proactive
One of the biggest advantages of Agile software development is the ability to remain proactive. Make sure that you’re up-to-date with the latest best practices, tools, and technologies. Another important way to remain proactive about software protection is to create a culture where individuals feel comfortable raising security concerns and issues. This helps to ensure that any issues are dealt with as early as possible and that they’re not swept under the rug. It also helps to keep software safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Use Secure Default Settings
Never go with the default system protection settings set in third-party products out of the box. Always consolidate all the basic configurations (especially those concerning your personal and/or corporate data) with a specialized provider.
Further, this includes configuring the firewall to block all unnecessary incoming connections, enabling encryption for all communications, disabling remote root login, and more. These settings should always be checked when deploying your software development protection solution.
Additionally, software updates should be applied regularly to ensure the latest security patches are in place. With secure defaults in place, your applications will be better equipped to handle external threats and reduce any potential risks associated with your software development projects.
Watch Access Levels and User Privileges
Based on the best practices of security in software development, you may want to restrict administrative privileges for high-level users of the project-related system(s). Your task is to narrow down the potential attack surface by constraining the users that may reach sensitive data. Thus, you minimize the risks of the data breach.
Also keep in mind must-have two-factor authentication. By simply requesting not one but two pieces of input information (e.g., a password and a code sent to one’s mobile phone), you build that essential brick wall between the internal system and frivolous unauthorized users.
The ultimate importance of security in software development cannot be overestimated. Digital product creation is a very delicate process that must be protected at more than one level. Thankfully, there are best practices and pro tips to keep your digital protection sturdy and sensitive data impenetrable. The above tips and recommendations should paint you a good picture and, at the very least, set you off in the right direction.
If you are greatly concerned about the safety of your future software development project, however, you need to make sure you hire a professional team that knows this area inside-out.
At NIX United, our team has been reinforcing security in software development projects of all scales and purposes. Pick a reputable partner that prioritizes all-around protection to avoid many problems down the road and ensure that your digital app is safe for end users and your brand.