Software does make our lives easier, but they are not free from its problems. The single biggest issue surrounding software is that of cybersecurity. It might be astonishing to know that as much as $4.2 billion was lost to cybercrime and online fraud in 2020 in the US alone. That calls for a proactive approach to cybersecurity, which goes to every possible extent to ensure that software is safe and secure for the users.
Why is Cybersecurity More Important Now than Ever Before?
No matter how much companies invest in tackling the threat of cybersecurity, digital transformation comes with an obvious security risk. When a company goes online and builds a digital business, they create more surfaces from where the attacks can be launched. In short, if security is not taken care of from the very start, the results for a company can be catastrophic.
This is why, when it comes to businesses, the issue is not whether a VPN is necessary; the issue is more about which VPN solution best fits your needs.
The most important thing to note here is that no matter how cautious a company is about its security, it can never be completely secure if the software they are using is not made securely. One of the things that a business can do to eliminate cyberattacks is the usage of securely developed software is the most important.
The Top 5 Steps for Ensuring Software Cybersecurity
One thing that can never be overstated is that security is not a step in software development. It is an integral part of every single step and must be on the mind of engineers and developers as they write every line of the code.
Here are the five fundamental steps for ensuring the cybersecurity of applications:
Developing a Security-Focused Mindset
Whether you are a developer working on a freelance basis or the head of a team of developers, the first step in developing secure applications is developing a security-focused mindset. The foundation of application cybersecurity is laid with the first lines of code you write. Having a security-focused mindset is crucial to making sure that you are developing an app or writing a code that would ultimately be secure.
The important thing to note here is that even if you have a dedicated security team or professional, the main responsibility of making a secure application still rests on the shoulders of the engineers who are writing the code, and they need to focus on the security aspect of the application from the very start, which is why the DevSecOps development model is becoming more and more prevalent within the development industry.
The most important phase of any software development project is the design phase. This is where the solution for the problem is formulated that is later made into the software. Security needs to be an integral part of the design process.
For example, suppose a user needs to verify their identity before renewing their membership. In that case, the application must make sure that they have the valid session token to do that. If not, they should be redirected to the login page before going further.
No matter how much consideration is given to the security aspect of an application in the development phase, there can still be problems, bugs, and vulnerabilities. They can only be identified by testing and then fixed.
The best practice is to start testing as early as possible. Traditionally, testing followed a waterfall approach where the software was only tested after all the development steps were complete. That is not enough; keeping in mind today’s security requirements, enter shift-left testing.
Shift-left testing is an approach to software testing where testing is incorporated into the development lifecycle from the very start. It was a methodology coined by Larry Smith in 2001 and focuses on testing ‘early and often.’ It is an approach that can identify the problems early on in the development process and let you solve them before they compound over the subsequent stages of development. You can learn more about shift-left testing here.
Even though shift-left testing is a great way to catch security problems early in the development process, vulnerabilities can fly under the radar. These can be identified by using application security testing tools.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools work on the static code and scan every line to identify any known vulnerability or flaw in the code that can be exploited to undermine the app’s security.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools work on the app while running. These tools will identify runtime errors and problems that the SAST tools cannot detect.
Lastly, the ultimate test for any application is to check how good it stands up to penetration testing. In this, everything is used to try and compromise the application’s security. This reveals the real-life problems that the app might face and gives the developer the chance to fix them.
Feedback and Improvement
No matter how strict the security protocol of a company is, some of the vulnerabilities will slip through the cracks and will only be exposed after the product is released. That’s why the process of developing a secure application does not end once it is released. These issues might not be caused entirely by the code written by the developers. Some might arise from the open-source components used in the project.
It is the responsibility of the developer to collect feedback and improve on the areas that are lacking until they have an application with no vulnerabilities in it.
Considering how much we depend on software applications and how bad the results can be if their security is compromised, it is only natural to take all possible steps to make sure they are developed securely. Application security is not a step of the development process, and it is a part of every step. Creating a secure application starts with a security-focused mindset, becomes a secure design, is enforced by testing, and is perfected based on the feedback received after the product is released.
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