Security in Software Development

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Rafael Timbó
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Rafael Timbó
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Chief Technology Officer
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Cybersecurity should be at the forefront of all development projects in today's world. Uncover the role it plays in software development here.
Published on
February 7, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

Software development has grown increasingly complex. The rate at which software is being developed and updated has resulted in heightened security concerns. Therefore, organizations must implement cyber security measures to protect software systems from malicious attacks, unauthorized access, and data breaches.

Cyber security plays an integral role in software development, ensuring a safe and secure user environment. That is why developers should incorporate security into the software development process at each step, from the initial design concept to the final release.

This article provides an overview of cyber security in software development, including the software development life cycle (SDLC), security testing, and secure coding practices.

What Is Cyber Security?

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) defines cyber security as the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.

Cyber security emerged in the 1970s when Bob Thomas developed the Creeper virus, designed to exploit computer system vulnerabilities. The virus would copy itself onto other systems and leave a message saying, “I’m the creeper; catch me if you can.” This was the first known example of malicious software.

The Creeper virus caused a lot of public interest and anxiety in equal measure. A programmer, Ray Tomlinson, saw this as an opportunity to create Reaper, which would delete Creeper instead. Tomlinson's Reaper went ahead to become the first antivirus software.

When cyber security first started to gain recognition, the tech community defined it as the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from unauthorized access, theft, or damage. The scope of cyber security and cyber security developers has since expanded to encompass the protection of all aspects of digital information, including software, hardware, networks, and data.

Basically, cyber security is a set of practices and protocols designed to protect computers, networks, and data from cyberattacks. It also involves protecting systems from malicious intent or unauthorized access by implementing security measures, such as authentication methods, encryption techniques, and firewalls.

Cyber security encompasses the following elements:

  • Network security: This includes protecting networks, computers, and data against malicious attacks.
  • Application security: This involves security measures implemented in software applications to protect them against malicious attacks.
  • Data security: This involves security measures to protect data, such as encryption and authentication methods.
  • Identity and access management: This involves security measures to protect user information, such as passwords and biometric data.
  • Cloud security: This involves security measures to protect cloud-based systems, such as security protocols and access control.
  • Operational security: This involves security measures taken to protect the overall security of a system, such as security patching and security awareness training.

The Importance of Security in Software Development

Attackers are constantly trying to find security breaches in software systems. With increasing technological advancements, cyberattacks have become more sophisticated and targeted. As a result, the importance of cyber security measures have become integral to software development to ensure systems are safe from malicious attacks and unauthorized access.

To give you some perspective, a report released by the FBI showed that in 2021 alone, cyber attacks cost the U.S. a whopping $6.9 billion. The report further revealed that software systems contributed the most to this cost. That alone indicates the importance of cyber security measures in software development.

Software security is also essential in ensuring user privacy and protecting a system's integrity. It is therefore important for software developers to consider security measures during the development process.

Moreover, because software is now a critical part of most businesses, organizations need to be aware of the potential threats posed by cyberattacks and put in place security measures to protect their data, systems, and networks. The stakes have never been higher, and software security has become a crucial factor in the success of any modern business.

The benefits of security in software development are significant and worth mentioning as well:

  • Protects the reputation of organizations. When security measures are in place, organizations can protect their reputation from security breaches.
  • Reduces security risks. By implementing security measures, organizations can reduce the security risks posed by malicious actors.
  • Ensures user privacy. Security measures help ensure that users’ data and information remain secure.
  • Provides peace of mind. When security measures are in place, organizations can be confident that their data and systems remain safe from malicious attacks.
  • Ensures regulation compliance. HIPAA, GDPR, and other security regulations require organizations to have security measures in place.
  • Saves the bottom line. Cyber security measures can help organizations save money by preventing security breaches and associated costs.

Stages of Secure Software Development

Secure software development follows a set of processes and procedures designed to ensure a system's security. These processes are often called secure software development life cycle (SDLC).

The security development life cycle is the process of developing software from the initial idea to deployment and maintenance. SDLC has various phases, including planning, design, development, testing, and deployment. The secure software development life cycle incorporates security measures in each phase. Developers do this to ensure that the software is secure and reliable and meets the organization's security requirements.

In this article, we will discuss security in SDLC in four key stages as follows:

Mapping Security Requirements

The first step in the secure SDLC process is mapping security requirements. During this stage, you devise a plan for how you need to secure the software.

This involves:

Understanding the current security risks and threats. You first need to identify the security threats your software system will likely face. This includes understanding potential network vulnerabilities, identifying malicious actors such as hackers and cybercriminals, and assessing the potential damage a breach or attack could cause.

Identifying areas where security needs improvements. Once you've identified the security risks and threats, you need to identify areas of potential vulnerability where security needs improvements. This involves looking at the architecture of the software system, looking for any potential weaknesses that a hacker could exploit, and assessing the security controls in place. If necessary, you should implement new security controls to strengthen the system.

Defining security goals and objectives. Once you've identified the security risks and threats, you need to set security goals and objectives. You should tailor these to the software system's specific security needs and consider any legal or regulatory requirements. You should also consider your organization's goals and objectives in setting security goals.

Creating a security policy that outlines the security measures. The security policy should be comprehensive and identify all the measures that need you must take to ensure the system's security. This should include steps such as implementing security controls, monitoring activity in the system, and responding to potential threats quickly and effectively.

Software Design

The second step in the secure software development life cycle is designing secure applications and software. Once you’ve mapped out the security requirements and created a security policy, it’s time to start designing the system. This involves:

Using secure coding best practices. In order to create resilient and secure code against attack, it is important to follow secure coding best practices. This involves using secure programming languages, following security guidelines, and avoiding potential vulnerabilities. Where appropriate, you should use secure coding techniques such as input validation, authentication, encryption, and access control.

Ensuring secure architecture. The software architecture should also be designed with security in mind. This involves ensuring that the code is structured properly, that the software components are isolated, and that security protocols such as authentication and encryption are implemented.

Design review. Once the software design is complete, you should review it to identify any potential security vulnerabilities that you may have overlooked and make recommendations for improving the system's security.

Software Development Process

Now that you’ve designed the software, it’s time to build it by writing code and programming it. This stage involves:

Writing code that meets security requirements. The code you write should be robust and secure. This means it must meet the security requirements outlined in the security policy, such as using secure coding best practices, following security guidelines, and implementing proper authentication and encryption.

Testing to ensure code meets security requirements. It is important to test your code to ensure that it meets security requirements. This involves running tests to check for potential vulnerabilities and ensuring that the code is properly structured and secure against attack. For instance, you can use code reviews to identify any potential weaknesses or bugs.

Testing deployment scenarios. Before you deploy the software, it is important to test various deployment scenarios to ensure that the software will function properly in all environments. This includes testing for potential security issues, such as ensuring that authentication and encryption protocols are working properly.

Software Deployment and Support

Your job as a developer does not end after the software development process. Deployment and support are important aspects of software development, and they involve:

Deploying the software. Once you’ve tested the software thoroughly, it is time to deploy it. This involves transferring the software from development to production, ensuring that all security protocols are in place, and keeping up with any security updates or patches.

Providing post-deployment support. This is probably the most crucial part of the secure software development process. After deploying the software, it is important to provide ongoing support and maintenance to ensure the system remains secure. This includes monitoring activity in the system, responding to any security incidents quickly and effectively, and keeping up with software updates and security patches.

Further Resource: Alternative Staff IT Companies

Secure Coding Practices for Software Development

As mentioned earlier, it is important to follow secure coding best practices when developing software. These practices ensure that the code is secure, resilient against attack, and meets security requirements. Some of these practices include:

Provide Security Awareness Training

Security awareness training is one of the key security best practices that project managers can offer software developers in their development team. This involves educating developers on security topics such as secure coding principles, attack mitigation strategies, security protocols, and security best practices. This helps developers to create secure code that is resilient against malicious attacks.

Bootcamps, certifications, and courses can help developers gain the knowledge and skills they need to create secure code.

Identify Potential Security Threats

It is important to identify potential security threats when developing software. This involves analyzing the security requirements of the system, identifying potential points of failure, and assessing the security risks associated with each requirement. This helps developers identify security issues before they arise, enabling them to create a secure coding strategy to mitigate security risks.

Use Static Code Analysis Tools

Static Code Analysis is a security practice that involves scanning source code for security vulnerabilities and malicious code, such as SQL injection attacks or buffer overflows. This helps developers identify security issues early in the development process, allowing them to remediate security vulnerabilities before they become an issue.

Popular tools such as Veracode, Coverity, and Checkmarx can help developers scan their code for security vulnerabilities.

Utilize Well-Known Updated Frameworks and Libraries

Frameworks and libraries are commonly used to develop software, and it is crucial to ensure that the code you use is secure. To do this, it is essential to use well-known, updated frameworks and libraries that are security tested and patched on a regular basis. This helps developers ensure that the code they are using is secure and up to date.

Frameworks such as React and Angular are popular choices for developing software without compromising security. Similarly, libraries such as jQuery can be beneficial when developing software.

Follow Standards for Secure Code

Coding standards are security guidelines developers should follow to ensure that the code they write is secure. These standards eliminate security vulnerabilities, reduce risk, and ensure security compliance. Following security standards is a key security best practice for software development, as it helps developers create secure code that meets security requirements.

Abide by Secure Coding Guidelines

Finally, abiding by security coding guidelines is a critical security best practice for software development. This involves following security protocols and standards, using secure development tools, and proactively addressing security issues before they become an issue.

OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) has published security best practices and guidelines for software developers. Following security guidelines from trusted sources like OWASP is a key security best practice for software developers. These guidelines include the following:

  • Input validation. This involves validating the data received from users and third-party sources to prevent malicious code from entering the application.
  • Output encoding. This security practice involves encoding user data before displaying it on the web page to prevent malicious code from executing.
  • Secure data storage. This involves securing user data from unauthorized access and ensuring that sensitive information is encrypted.
  • Robust error handling. This involves setting up effective error management systems to quickly detect and respond to security incidents.
  • Session management. This involves implementing secure session management protocols to protect user sessions from hijacking.
  • Authentication and authorization. This involves implementing secure authentication and authorization protocols to ensure that only authorized users can access the application.
  • Security testing. This involves proactively testing the application for security vulnerabilities and ensuring that any discovered issues are quickly fixed.

What Is the Function of Cyber Security in Software Development?

The role of cyber security in software development is crucial. Cyber security helps to ensure that the software being developed is secure and compliant with security regulations. This involves using security tools and practices to identify security risks, mitigate vulnerabilities, and implement security measures.

Security and Development Teams Working Together

Security and development teams must work together to create secure software. This involves security teams providing security requirements, tools, and guidance throughout the development process. Meanwhile, development teams must use security best practices to create secure code and verify security requirements are met. By collaborating, security and development teams can create secure software.

Security Evaluation of the Software Development Lifecycle

Security evaluations of the software development lifecycle are an important part of security practices involving evaluating security risks, mitigating vulnerabilities, and verifying security requirements. These security evaluations can help identify security issues early in the development process, allowing vulnerabilities to be addressed before they become an issue. This is a key security best practice for software development, as it helps keep software secure and compliant with security regulations.

Built-In Security for Coding

Cyber security in software development involves using built-in security for coding, using security tools, and following best security practices when writing code. Built-in coding security helps ensure that the code written is secure and compliant with security requirements. This is a key security best practice for software development, as it helps to create secure code that meets security requirements.

In conclusion, security and software development go hand in hand. By following best security practices, security teams can provide security guidance and tools to ensure software development security. Likewise, developers must use security best practices to create secure code and meet security requirements. By leveraging security teams and tools, developers can create secure software that is resilient against malicious attacks and compliant with security regulations.

Write Secure Code With the Right Team

Do you have a software development project that needs  cyber security engineers who understand security best practices to join your team?

At Revelo, we have a pool of the best developers  skilled in security best practices and can help you create secure software.  Get in touch with us today to hire the best  cyber security developers.

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