How important is building secure software today? With cyberattacks constantly targeting software vulnerabilities, organizations must prioritize using and building the most secure software.

Examples of severe software vulnerabilities that had significant consequences:

Heartbleed (2014)

Heartbleed was a vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library. This flaw allowed attackers to read any memory from systems protected by vulnerable versions of OpenSSL, potentially revealing sensitive information such as private keys, usernames, and passwords. The error impacted a large portion of the internet, as OpenSSL is widely used in web servers.

Equifax Data Breach (2017)

Equifax data breach made one of the largest and most destructive breaches in history. Hackers took advantage of a vulnerability in Apache Struts web application framework which allowed them to enter into Equifax’s system. It led to personal information leaks for 147 million people which included social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses resulting in cases of identity thefts all over the country as well as financial frauds.

WannaCry Ransomware Attack (2017)

WannaCry was a global ransomware attack that impacted 150 countries and over 200.000 computers. EternalBlue is a Windows operating system vulnerability that the malware exploited and it’s widely assumed to have been created by NSA and leaked by the Shadow Brokers group.  The malware encrypted users’ files and demanded a ransom in Bitcoin to decrypt them, causing huge damage in various sectors, including healthcare.

What is secure software development?

Secure software development, often associated with DevSecOps, brings security into all phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC). This means security is included from the beginning, even before any code is written, rather than being added after testing finds major issues.

Traditionally, developers see security as a barrier to innovation and a cause of delays. However, this mindset can harm a business because fixing a bug during implementation costs six times more, and during testing, it’s 15 times more expensive than fixing it during the design phase.

Think about security from the start

Plan how you will include security at each stage of SDLC before beginning your coding process.

Immediately use automation to search for vulnerabilities in the initial stages.

Make security a core part of your culture and code, starting in the earliest development phase.

secure software development

Security best practices in software development

Authentication and authorization

Set up strong authentication to verify user identities and control access to private parts of the program. Use standard authentication protocols like OpenID Connect or OAuth for secure user login. Implement role-based permissions and detailed access controls to prevent unauthorized access to important functions and data.

  • Implement strong password policies and multi-factor authentication.
  • Use secure session management techniques, such as generating random, unique session IDs, and associating them with authenticated user sessions.
  • Implement role-based access control (RBAC) with granular controls.
  • Conduct thorough user identity verification before granting permissions.

Secure configuration

Secure configuration involves applying security measures during the setup of computers and network devices to minimize cyber risks. Hackers frequently exploit security misconfigurations, making them a common vulnerability.

  • Secure default configurations by changing passwords, disabling unused accounts, etc.
  • Disable or remove unnecessary services, ports, and functionalities.

Input validation and sanitization

Two fundamental practices in web security are input validation and sanitization.

Input validation ensures user-entered data matches expected patterns, acting as the first defense against malicious input by rejecting non-compliant data. This prevents attacks like SQL injection and maintains data integrity.

On the other hand, sanitization cleans and filters data to remove harmful elements, making it safe for processing without outright rejection.

The principle of least privilege

As the name suggests, the principle of least privilege limits access to only the data, resources, and applications a user or entity needs to perform their specific task or workflow.

  • Grant users only the minimal permissions necessary for their tasks.
  • Regularly review and revoke unnecessary privileges.

Error and exception handling

Exception handling is how a computer program deals with unexpected events that occur while it is running which may cause the program to crash, thus retaining the smooth flow of operations. When there’s no exception handling, then these events might disrupt the normal operation of the program.

  • Implement proper error handling to prevent sensitive information exposure.
  • Log and monitor exceptions for troubleshooting and security analysis.

Regular code reviews and testing

Set up a process to regularly review code and catch security issues early. Combine automated code analysis tools with human reviews by experts to ensure code is secure. Also, perform thorough security testing, including vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, to verify the effectiveness of your security measures.

  • Perform regular security testing using vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and code reviews.
  • Use automated security tools to enhance testing efficiency.

Data protection

  • Encrypt sensitive data at rest.
  • Implement access controls and encryption for data in transit.
  • Perform regular data backups and implement secure storage procedures.

Secure coding practices

  • Follow secure coding guidelines.
  • Avoid common security pitfalls like inadequate input validation and insecure direct object references.
  • Conduct regular codebase reviews for security vulnerabilities.

Staying informed

Stay updated on the latest security threats by following security blogs, mailing lists, and advisories.

We hope this has given you a clearer insight into certain security aspects and the importance for developers to consider them before beginning to write code.

Besides, it’s important to build secure custom software to lower risks, protect sensitive data, and keep users’ trust.

Organizations can achieve this by following security rules and adding security features at every step of making the software. Making security a main focus from the beginning not only makes the custom software more trustworthy and reliable but also decreases the chance of costly security problems and damage to reputation in the future.

Read more: 7 Ways to Improve the Security of Your Business

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