What is Secure SDLC, And Why Should You Care?

What is Secure SDLC, And Why Should You Care?

Many organizations have processes in place ready to create, develop, release, and continue to maintain function applications and software programs. The problem is that there are increasing concerns, not to mention business risks surrounding insecure software development. These concerns and threats have highlighted a need to make security a part of the development process as a whole, rather than an afterthought at the end of a project. Having a proper Secure Software Development Life Cycle – or Secure SDLC – in place has never been more critical for organizations.

What is Secure SDLC? And Why is it Important?

As mentioned before, SDLC refers to a Software Development Life Cycle. This is the framework used to define the process organizations use to build their applications. The life cycle encompasses everything involved in the process from the inception of the idea to the decommission when the app is put to rest.

There have been several standardized SDLC models produced over the years, including Agile, Iterative, and Waterfall. These methods are used in a variety of ways to suit individual needs and circumstances for organizations. It’s safe to suggest that, in general, SDLCs all include several similar phases, including;

  • The planning and requirement stage
  • Architecture and effective design
  • Test planning
  • Writing the code
  • Testing the end result
  • Releasing and maintaining the finished product

There was a time not that long ago when organizations would make security among the last stages of testing before releasing an app or system. The after-the-fact approach to security caused several issues and breaches, most of which weren’t discovered until it was much too late (if at all). It is much better to approach security as part of the development process and actively include security in the SDLC to find and fix potential vulnerabilities early.

Making security a core part of the process is the idea behind the Secure SDLC. Secure SDLC means that security activities such as code reviews, penetration testing, architecture analysis, and more are all included in the development. The main advantages to using a secure SDLC approach to development and testing are;

  • Find and fix flaws in the system as early as possible
  • Reduce costs by saving money on resolving issues by removing them early
  • Stakeholders becoming more aware of the importance of security
  • Overall reduction of risks across the business for an organization

How Does a Secure SDLC Work?

In general, implementing a Secure SDLC is as simple as including security-related procedures to the development process you currently use. An example of this could be writing security requirements while collecting functional requirements. Another example could be undertaking an architecture risk analysis as you design the SDLC.

There are a number of Secure SDLC models out there to choose from if you need a template to work with. Some of the most common are;

  • MS Security Development Lifecycle; the MS SDL was among the first Secure SDL models created. It was developed by Microsoft and can be implemented seamlessly into a standard SDLC.
  • NIST 800-64: The NIST 800-64 also adds security considerations to a standard SDLC model. The standards for this model were developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and were made for federal agencies in the United States. That is a sign of how secure and trustworthy they are.
  • OWASP Comprehensive, Lightweight Application Security Process (CLASP): The CLASP is based on the MS DSL and can be easily implemented by any organization. The model maps out security activities to different organizational roles, so everyone knows what is expected of them.

How to Get Started With a Secure SDLC

There are several things that developers and testers can add to their daily routine to bolster security processes at the organization, such as:

  • Take the time to educate yourself – or your peers – about security, including how to code securely and the frameworks that can be used for protection.
  • Make security a key consideration when building and planning test cases.
  • Use code scanning tools to ensure that code is clean and safe. Coverity, AppScan Source, and SecureAssist are all great options for this.

While developers and testers are an essential part of the process, management has to be involved in creating a strategic approach that will really work and add value to the organization. Decision-makers must be involved in the process. Here’s how key stakeholders can get started with helping to establish Secure SDLC policies;

  • Undertake a gap analysis in order to find the activities and policies that currently exist and how effective they are, if at all.
  • Put together a Software Security Initiative (SSI) using achievable and realistic goals. The goals should use definitive metrics to determine success. The processes for any security activities should be put together alongside the SSI.
  • Invest in training current employees and hiring new employees and invest in getting the appropriate tools for security.
  • Get outside help as and when needed

What Next?

So, your organization has a secure SDLC in place? That’s excellent news and a fantastic start. There is always going to be some room for improvement, however. There are things you can do even if you already have Secure SDLC. One way you can get a gauge on how your system stands up is by comparing it to other organizations. See how different organizations put together their own security programs, what they do, and how well they perform. The experts can help you with that.

The experts can also help you to refine your Secure SDLC and improve how well it performs. Just because you have one in place doesn’t mean it’s as effective as you want – or need – it to be. Have someone go over your Secure SDLC and double-check to make sure everything is working correctly to get the secure development environment that you want, need, and deserve.

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