In today’s information age, software security isn’t just plug and play anymore. As technology usage and capabilities increase, more and more software security threats pop up.
It’s never been an excellent approach to overlook software security. But nowadays it’s an expire and obsolete idea.
Software security is not a feature you can plug in at the end of a software project anymore– it’s something that’s critical during the entire software lifecycle. Software security shouldn’t be an afterthought–it must be implemented during each phase of the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle):
Security must be carefully planned for, implemented, and tested during each phase, in order to build secure software. Every coder makes some coding mistakes unintentionally here and there, and even a tiny mistake can create significant software issues and vulnerabilities if it’s not found and fixed. For example, buffer overflows, format string vulnerabilities, integer overflow are some typical examples.
The above image shows the classification of some common vulnerabilities that are found in software. We can say that software security shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it’s risk management. So, the risk can be analyzed first, and it can become easier to fix if any issue arises later on.
Here are nine of the most important software security practices that you should consider during your next software development project.
Software security practices involve dealing with risks associated with the effects of errors and vulnerabilities. No software is perfect, but if any crash occurs, the software must fail safely with minimal/no damage to confidentiality, availability, and integrity.
Below are some important software security practices that you should consider while developing software or applications.
Ensure that all software users are granted proper access to the system. Not more, not less. Give them the level of access which is needed to perform their job. Enforcing the principle of limited access reduces the attack surface and eliminates chances of unnecessary access rights, which can cause huge problems later on. For example, for someone running SQL servers, don’t assign application users with admin rights unless it’s mandatory.
Plan time to do code analysis—it helps in detecting issues early in the software development cycle. Code analysis gives immediate feedback to developers regarding issues in the code which otherwise might not be noticed until much later. Keep in mind there are two different types of code analysis:
Static code analysis, also called static analysis, examines the code without executing it. It looks for weaknesses in the code which might lead to vulnerabilities. It can be done through manual code reviews, and also automated tools are available (OWASP maintains a comprehensive list of free and paid code analysis tools at https://owasp.org/www-community/Source_Code_Analysis_Tools).
Dynamic code analysis is another method that is used for analyzing software and apps. Unlike static code analysis, dynamic analysis actually executes the code and analyses its behaviour while running. It’s divided into multiple steps, such as preparing input data, executing a test program, gathering all the mandatory parameters, and finally analyzing the output it gives.
One of the most fundamental, important steps you can take to ensure the security of your software is implementing proper data validation, especially in user-provided data. This provides several benefits:
Software security testing should be implemented to uncover mistakes, vulnerabilities, threats, or risks related to the software application. Security testing is used to identify all the loopholes and weaknesses in your software which can negatively impact your software users and your brand reputation.
Usually two types of security testing are implemented, namely:
White box testing, often called clear box testing, is a process in which the tester thinks like a hacker and tests the internal structure, design, and implementation of the software or application. In this testing, the code is visible/accessible to the tester.
Black box testing, also called behavioural testing, is a type of software testing method where tester tests the software or app without having access to the code or internal workings of the software. The tester is typically given the same level of access to the software that a typical user will have.
In either case, the tests are done from the users’ point of view, which helps expose any issues users may encounter.
Penetration testing, sometimes called pen testing or ethical hacking, refers to attempting to hack software applications, networks, or web applications to find existing vulnerabilities, threats, or any other risks which can be exploited by an attacker.
The reason behind performing pen testing is to find all the security vulnerabilities in the software or application being tested so that they can be solved before publication.
The old saying that you can’t manage what you can’t measure is true with software security, too. Specific software security metrics should be taken into consideration to ensure the accountability, management, and visibility of your initiative towards software security. For example, metrics could include the time required to solve vulnerabilities, rate of flaw creation, number of automated tests, number of tools that will be needed or used, application block rate, and so on. It’ll help you assess your security measures over the long run.
Software patches are usually small adjustments to the source code of the software. A patch updates a component of the software, usually to fix an error or a bug discovered after the release of the software.
Attackers exploit known vulnerabilities that linger in old and out-of-date software because that’s often the easiest and fastest way to breach a system. To protect your organization and users from such attacks, you’ll want to:
Just as it’s essential to secure code and perform testing to find vulnerabilities or other issues, it’s equally important to secure your infrastructure if you want to keep your software security intact. It’s critical to build a plan for your network and devices that are used.
Once your software is ready and everything is tested for publishing, it’s best to sign it using a code signing certificate from a trusted code signing certificate providers.
Software signing will help your users bypass unwanted “Unknown Publisher” warnings while helping them identify that it’s coming from the trusted source. If somehow anyone tries tampering, users will get a warning message.
There’s no magic potion when it comes to securing your software projects. But you can definitely take proper measures by sticking with some of the best software security practices.
In this article we’ve covered 9 software security best practices followed by many organizations worldwide to keep their software development processes secure and intact. Now, it’s your turn–start applying these tips to take your software security to the next level.