Software development companies routinely skip over security issues in the early stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This often results in vulnerabilities being inherited by each subsequent phase in the development of the software. If left unchecked, the final product may be susceptible to repeated security breaches. In this article, we will explore what secure software development is and why it matters.
What Is Secure Software Development?
Security is a vital component in the software development process. The process is complex and includes both best practices and people working together to provide application confidentiality, availability, and integrity. Security aware software development results in software that has built-in security features that are made stronger because security has been planned and executed in each stage of the software development life cycle. This is of particular importance in applications that are used to process information of a sensitive nature or for critical applications.
Why Do I Need To Pay Attention To Secure Software Development?
When security is not integrated into each of the SDLC phases, it opens a business, organization, or corporation to any number of potential online risks. Hackers who take advantage of insecure or poorly secured software and can not only do severe damage to databases but will ultimately cost the user of the software a fair deal of money to recover from a security breach. This leads to more costs as the software user seeks better security to prevent future attacks. The whole idea behind secure software development is to protect the data being collected and stored by the user.
What Are Some Secure Software Development Tactics?
There is a set of best practices for the creation of secure software. Known as the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF), these tactics spell out the fundamental, sound, and secure practices based on documents outlining the practices used for secure software development. These documents are from such organizations as The Software Alliance (BSA), the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), and SAFECode (formerly the Software Assurance Forum for Excellence in Code). The security of software is not addressed by SDLC models, so the SSDF practices are meant to be implemented during each SDLC phase.
The main tactics as defined in the SSDF include the following:
– criteria for software security checks must be defined
– all forms of code are to be protected from unauthorized access or tampering. This is achieved by safeguarding the development, build, distribution, and updates following the “least privilege” principle
– a mechanism is provided to verify the integrity of the software being released. This is done by adding a digital signature to the code throughout the software lifecycle
– the software must be designed to meet all security guidelines and mitigate security risks
– third-party software needs verification that it meets the security requirements
– the compilation and build processes need to be configured to improve executable security
– human-readable code requires review to identify weaknesses and compliance with security guidelines
– executable code requires testing to identify weaknesses and to verify security guideline compliance
– the software has to be configured to include a default secure setting
– each software release should be archived and protected
– weaknesses must be identified, analyzed, and corrected on an ongoing basis
These are just a few of the criteria. For more information, Liventus has a good overview of additional secure software development tools.
What Are Some Risks Of Not Getting Secure Software Development Right?
According to OWASP, risks to poor software development include the following:
Weaknesses in the authentication process of a piece of software can result in user identities being used by hackers. This can compromise passwords, data, keys, and much more.
Sensitive Data Exposure
Hackers who find applications that have not used encryption to protect such information as health records can do much damage. Not only is the data easy to access without encryption, but it can also be stolen, modified, and held for ransom.
The average time it takes to detect a data breach is 200 days. This gives attackers a long time to damage a system without being noticed. Breaches can occur when a system does not use proper logging and monitoring of security issues.
Using Components That Contain Known Weaknesses
Hackers can execute an attack when a system uses components such as frameworks, libraries, and other software modules that contain weaknesses and have the same access privileges as the application.
Fortunately, the secure software development tactics, listed above, have been created in an effort to reduce these and other potential risks that result from software that has poor security features.
How Is Secure Software Development Changing?
As noted, there are standards now in place to protect software users, and in particular, those who require software for collecting and storing sensitive, personal information. Thanks to the implementation of best practices, many governments around the world are legislating and enforcing a variety of data protection measures. This ensures that the standards being set are followed and that manufacturers not using these secure software development guidelines are pushed to change their ways or face huge fines should a security breach be traced to a specific software developer. These measures make it safer for all software application users.
Secure software is safe and reliable. But to maintain this, software developers must implement security features from each step of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Failure to do so can result in security breaches that can cripple a user. To prevent this from happening, software agencies have developed a guideline known as the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF). It contains standards that, when implemented from the start of software development and throughout the development process, ensure that the final product is safe and secure for use.
Without these standards in place, software and the data collected using it would always be at risk. This could prove costly for the users gathering that information. Security breaches also negatively affect public trust. With governments recognizing the importance of secure software development, legislation is being passed to provide enforcement of penalties to deter hackers from exploiting weaknesses.