Software Development Best Practices That Ensure Online Safety
Businesses and software developers are taking more responsibility to develop secure systems from the onset.
“To develop secure applications, developers should practice secure coding, integrate proper security measures and consider security risks during development and in daily operations. ”
Regardless of the devices, developers use to create software, they embrace secure development practices to protect users online. A recent post by Forbes acknowledges that as enterprises race to transform their business digitally, security must be a priority. This post highlights the software development practices that developers use to ensure safety online.
Embrace Shift Left Testing
The shift-left testing approach includes security tests as early as possible during development. The approach empowers both operations and development teams through processes and tools to share the responsibility of delivering secure software.
With shift left testing, businesses can release new software often since it helps eliminate common security bottlenecks and bugs. In a conventional continuous delivery pipeline, testing is the fourth step of the software development lifecycle. However, shift left testing lets developers include various aspects of testing in the development stages, which literally shifts security to the left.
How to Implement Shift Left Testing
In every organization, shift left testing is different. Variables such as current processes, product risk exposure, organization size and the number of personnel influences how developers approach this shift.
Nevertheless, the following three steps provide a great starting point:
Step 1 – Put Security Policies in Place
In the shift-left testing approach, having security policies in place is a good starting point. Such policies can consistently and automatically set boundaries before developers start working, delivering critical details for efficient and secure development.
The security policy should include the agreement regarding the coding standards. Such standards set the configurations and languages the developers use in specific situations. The developers should be reading from the same script.
It makes it easy for them to review code and ensures the code is of a higher quality. When the policies are in place, it decreases bugs in the software by embracing best practices that help developers avoid bad coding practices.
Step 2 – Include Testing Early in the Software Development Lifecycle
As developers become aware of secure coding practices, it will be wise to re-evaluate the SDLC. Knowing the current practices will assist in establishing small steps that developers can take to include testing earlier in the development process. Also, developers will be able to identify tools that may be appropriate for their codebase.
One possible strategy developers use is to embrace agile methodology that works through small code increments. This covers each feature with appropriate tests. In some organizations, a drastic change to shift left testing is not possible. In such cases, developers can agree to write unit tests for every feature.
Step 3 – Integrate Security Automation
With shift left testing, developers scan for security vulnerabilities more often. Thus, the developers should accept security automation tools. Such tools rely on software processes to investigate, detect and fix external threats to software.
Security test automation helps speed up the development process and helps developers decrease the time to market.
At the end of the day, the shift left testing approach is a culture change with tooling as one of the key elements. To succeed, developers should embrace the approach with the intention of increasing the speed of the feedback loop. In guaranteeing online security, the development, security and operations must collaborate and share the testing workload.
Bring Everyone Aboard
Today, some small businesses relate security to a small specialized team. The approach is no longer viable in the current business setting. For instance, the increase in cybersecurity skill gaps makes it hard for security teams to catch up with business growth. So, having a dedicated security team during the development process is a bottleneck.
The current best practice for developing secure applications is through DevSecOps. It acknowledges that everyone involved in the development of web applications is responsible for security. In this approach, developers write secure code while QA engineers apply security policies. As well, all the executives make decisions with security in mind.
Thus, the DevSecOps approach requires everyone to understand security threats and potential vulnerabilities and be responsible for application security. Although educating all the stakeholders on the importance of security may take time and effort, it pays off by delivering secure applications.
Most cyberattacks exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated software. To thwart such cases, developers should ensure their systems are up-to-date. A common and effective practice for delivering secure software is through regular patching.
On average, 70% of software components developers use in applications are open source. Thus, they should have an inventory of those components. It helps developers ensure they meet the licensing obligations associated with those components and remain up-to-date.
With a software composition analysis tool, developers can automate the task of creating an inventory or software bill of materials. The tool also helps developers by highlighting both licensing and security risks.
Training employees should be part of the security DNA of an organization. Organizations can protect their assets and data by having well-organized security training for employees. The awareness training includes secure coding training for software developers. Developers can also simulate phishing attacks to help employees notice and stop social engineering attacks.
Enforce Least Privilege
Developers ensure online safety by enforcing the minimum access privileges necessary for users and systems to do their tasks. By enforcing the least privilege, developers significantly decrease the attack surface by avoiding unnecessary access privileges resulting in various compromises.
It includes eliminating “privilege creep” that occurs when administrators fail to revoke access to resources that an employee no longer needs.
When ensuring online security, developers do not have a silver bullet. However, they can ensure users and organizations are safe online by sticking to the best practices. These practices include the shift-left testing approach, including everyone in the security practices, often updating the software, training both developers and users and enforcing the least privilege for users and systems.