Software security—it’s definitely not the sexiest of topics, but it’s an important one. When not prioritized, it can lead to devastating results for developers, stakeholders, and users.
Software security isn’t about strong passwords or authentication. It happens long before, while a product is being built. By implementing best practices early in the design process, software developers can embed rigorous security measures into every aspect of a product's design.
In this post, we’ll share 6 critical strategies for improving and maintaining software security.
The importance of software security
Customers depend on their applications being secure. Software security protects against malicious cyberattacks, hacking, and other online risks. It’s a prevention method that addresses security early rather than waiting for security issues to occur.
The number of cyberattacks increases every year with no sign of slowing down. More and more of our business practices and personal lives are moving online, which means there are more and more opportunities for hackers to exploit.
This is why it is critical that software designers understand the gravity of software security and put security protocols front and center in the design process. When issues and vulnerabilities get spotted early, you can address them quickly and with fewer costs.
How to improve and maintain software security
Software security is an ongoing process. You always need to work to improve your security by investing in training, making security part of your software design process, and meticulously testing for potential vulnerabilities.
Follow our 6 strategies to improve and maintain your software security.
1. Make security decisions at the design level 🛠
The best way to prevent a security risk is by building security into the earliest stages of development. Keeping software security top-of-mind while making any design decision will prevent attacks from disrupting your product.
Putting in the time early in the design process will save time later on, and it’s much more cost-effective than a break/fix method that deals with issues as they occur. You can safeguard the security of software and prevent security breaches as well as dangerous software defects if everyone on your team addresses security throughout the design process, especially when making big product decisions.
Just like keeping customer needs at the forefront of decision making, consider security every step of the way. A security breach or application downtime could negatively impact your stakeholders and users severely.
2. Invest in team training and education 📚
Security is only as strong as your weakest link, which is why it’s so important to invest heavily in employee training. Regularly training your team in software security best practices will ensure everyone is on the same page about what’s expected, where in the software development life cycle (SDLC) security is addressed, and how to keep up with the evolving security landscape.
Malicious attackers are always coming up with new ways to disrupt and exploit software, so it’s important that teams are regularly trained and updated about how to keep up with security requirements.
Don’t only train new employees in computer security. You should provide secure coding training and other safety tutorials for all software engineers, no matter their rank or experience. Require mandatory participation and ensure compliance. Everyone needs to be on the same page about how important software security is in the design process. This means introducing new training and reviewing basics multiple times a year.
Have team members complete test runs or simulations of phishing attacks that will help them improve intrusion detection. The sooner they can shut down an attack, the less damage will be done. Practicing this exercise regularly will ensure the entire team knows exactly what to do in the event of a cyberattack.
3. Have set policies and procedures in place 📝
Your policies around security need to be clear and available to all team members. Ensure you have thorough protocols in place to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
What are your current processes for ensuring software security is addressed throughout software development? Who is in charge of maintaining and updating these protocols and security controls? Does everyone on your team know about these protocols, and are team members up to date on what’s expected?
4. Embed software security within your SDLC 🔄
Make software security part of your software development life cycle (SDLC). Intentionally including it in your SDLC will make sure building secure software is an aspect of your standard business practices.
Ensuring security is adequately represented in your SDLC will take time, but it’s well worth it. Put in the time upfront for tasks like searching for security vulnerabilities, security remediation, and code review, completing a risk analysis, and conducting software composition analysis. The sooner you can address bug fixes and vulnerabilities, the better.
5. Complete risk analysis and rigorous testing 📈
Test, test, test. The sooner you spot a vulnerability, the sooner you can begin fixing it. The more you test, the more likely you are to find issues, vulnerabilities, or software defects that cybercriminals are going to exploit.
Complete thorough risk analysis and various forms of testing early and often. Use a variety of analysis techniques for application security testing, such as penetration testing (or pen testing), which can identify the many ways your system’s vulnerabilities can be exploited.
6. Implement least privilege access 📲
The principle of least privilege (PoLP), also known as the principle of minimal privilege or the principle of least authority, is an information security concept and practice that gives modules (such as users, programs, or processes) the bare minimum level of access or permissions required to perform their or its standard job functions.
Least privilege refers to a person or program’s authority to bypass security restraints. It’s a cybersecurity best practice that protects privileged access to high-value data and assets. Such access should only be given out on a need-to-know basis to safeguard against security issues.
An intern or temporary employee won’t have the same access as a manager or business owner. They’ll only be given exactly as much access as is needed for them to complete their job.
Privilege creep can also be detrimental to your security. This happens when access control and other privileges are not revoked by administrators once they are no longer needed, such as at the conclusion of a project or after transitioning into a different role. Ensure you have protocols in place for how leaders within your business keep track of access. How often do you assess your user privileges? Who is responsible for this task? Will you put security teams in place?
A quick recap and additional resources
Let’s go over these critical software security steps one more time!
1. Invest in team training and education.
2. Make security decisions at the design level.
3. Have set policies and procedures in place.
4. Embed software security within your SDLC.
5. Complete risk analysis and rigorous testing.
6. Implement least privilege access.
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