6 Tips for Secure Enterprise Software Development

Many software development teams build robust and secure software by taking a security-first approach. However, it's not easy to integrate security right into the foundation of the application.

Considering the surge of recent cyberattacks targeting vulnerabilities, it’s now critical for organizations to only use safe and secure software. From Solarwinds to LastPass to Log4j, we don’t have to look far to learn about the fallout from software-related cyberattacks.

As technology is now at the epicenter of every business process and relationship, developing secure software is imperative to ensure compliance and business relevance. It’s now more important than ever before as it’s not firewalls or intrusion detection systems behind the headlines; it’s vulnerable software.

Based on our many years of experience with providing custom software development solutions to other businesses, we’ve put together Top 6 tips for secure software development.

Contents

What Are the Most Pertinent Software Security Risks?

Before discussing secure software development, it’s critical to understand common security risks software developers face today. Some of the risks listed below can be easily avoided but often appear time and again (especially the use of legacy software).

Legacy Software

If you go through security events over the last few years, legacy software will come up before long. Most often, it comes down to coding without following cybersecurity best practices. Furthermore, a lack of frequent updates also leads to security events and data breaches.

Poorly Written Code

Believe it or not, poorly coded software is relatively common and a massive challenge to secure. For example, the software will be highly vulnerable to an attack when coding best practices like error handling, input validation, and output encoding aren’t followed.

Lack of Active Maintenance

Whenever an application isn’t being updated or supported by a small team, the likelihood of the software having vulnerabilities is high. Hackers may be able to access sensitive data stored on enterprise servers whenever they exploit these vulnerabilities. In fact, it could be the tipping point that leads to a variety of serious security issues.

Insecure Password Storage

Even in 2022, we come across passwords stored in a manner that makes it easy for attackers to steal, decrypt, and use to initiate more attacks. As such, it’s vital for all software to boast robust cryptography to protect passwords.

Vulnerable Web Services

Software-related web services store user data, including personally identifiable information, on external servers. Threat actors can exploit this data to initiate a broader attack at scale whenever this data isn’t adequately secured.

secure software development lifecycle
Secure SDLC

How Do You Develop Secure Software?

To build secure software, developers must follow cybersecurity best practices during the software development lifecycle (SDLC). It’s the ideal approach to improving security and compliance, as the team will integrate best practices into all the stages of the SLDC and during the maintenance phase.

Key benefits of following this approach include the following:

  • Highly cost-effective as identifying vulnerabilities early mitigates risk and ensures the release of quality applications.
  • Improved security as continuous monitoring leads to better application quality and reduced risk.
  • Regulatory compliance as SLDC demands a meticulous approach to security-related laws and regulations.

 

Other benefits include continuous security training, consistent application of security policies and best practices, and enhanced brand value.

1. Engage in Security Awareness Training

Your software development team must be reminded and updated on what they are up against. This should be a regular activity that goes over common attack vectors and the steps software engineers need to take to avoid them.

Security training workshops must include information about common mistakes programmers make during the SLDC, vulnerabilities to keep an eye out for, and what hackers can do to exploit them.

Even the best senior coders in the world make mistakes. However, sharing their knowledge and experience will help younger software developers avoid repeating the same mistakes. Make security and awareness training part of your organization’s culture and identify and rectify vulnerabilities before bad actors do.

2. Conduct Code and Design Reviews

Engaging in code reviews and design reviews early in the SLDC helps highlight features exposed to potential security risks before implementation. This approach provides an opportunity for developers to resolve security vulnerabilities cost-effectively before the product is live.

Engaging in this activity regularly helps the development team adopt a defensive mindset. In this scenario, they will write as little code as possible and run unit tests for all areas that cause concern.

However, every change made to the design or the code must be checked and tested again. This is because any change, no matter how minor, has the potential to introduce new security vulnerabilities.

It’s also crucial for software development teams to review security requirements regularly to ensure that secure coding practices are followed without any compromise.

Are you looking to build a highly secure custom enterprise software application?

3. Threat Modeling and Risk Assessment

Threat modeling risk assessments help development teams identify potential vulnerabilities using a real-world attacker mentality. Simulating possible attack scenarios and implementing countermeasures to the software design will go a long way to mitigate risk and ensure security, privacy, and compliance.

This approach also helps organizations develop robust incident response plans. Examining code from all angles using a comprehensive review or analysis process also helps keep your application compliant and secure after release.

This is also an excellent time to set secure defaults to closely align with other platform security features. This is much easier than educating various administrators later.

4. Secure Coding

Secure software development depends on established secure coding guidelines and standards. Experts who take industry best practices into account must define these secure coding guidelines and measures.

Secure coding guidelines will also encourage the creation of improved design principles that will minimize potential vulnerabilities when the software goes live. Establishing a standard set of rules will also dictate what kind of code programmers will write and the enforcement of reliable testing methods throughout the SLDC.

5. Verification and Validation

During the SLDC, it will help to leverage the V-Model that promotes the execution of processes in a sequential (V-shaped) manner.

 

using V model for secure software development

This approach, an extension of the waterfall model, ensures that testing occurs during each corresponding development stage. In this scenario, each step in the SLDC directly relates to a testing phase.

6. Secure Release

When software products go live, several instances will be running in concert across different environments. Before long, you will find that some users will update to new versions and patch their software while others won’t.

As such, organizations must implement environment management protocols, real-time monitoring, incident response plans, and ongoing security checks. This approach will help fortify your software after release.

At this juncture, it’s also important to engage in penetration testing. In this case, the best way forward is to hire an ethical hacking team to identify potential risks missed by in-house security teams.

These white hat security experts leverage the tools and tactics used by hackers to evaluate your security posture. Most often, it’s best for companies to engage in some form of penetration testing every month to stay a step ahead of bad actors.

Doing all this throughout the SLDC helps developers understand and remain alert to common vulnerabilities. By avoiding repeat occurrences, software engineers can enhance the SDLC. 

Final Thoughts

Regardless of which phase you are in, staying current with security and industry best practices will help developers write better code, design better architecture, and build cutting-edge (and secure) software products. So, even if you’re in the middle of a build, you can still adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity.

Secure software development demands much more than writing clean and secure code. In a sense, it’s a holistic approach to implementing security best practices into daily workflows right from the beginning of the SLDC and long after release.

It’s a process that never ends, and developers will be well served to continuously look for ways to improve and make digital products more secure. After all, hackers never take a day off, and software engineers must be just as relentless in keeping their software products safe.

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