Developing software involves many considerations. You need to get the coding to work, make the product user-friendly, ensure that it serves its purpose, and plenty of other points, too. In 2021, though, the top priority must be security. Secure software development has become the center of attention and is an area at which you must excel if you hope to have long-term success with a software product.
Secure software development isn’t just a series of steps to follow. It is a commitment to an end goal that should permeate the entire development process. Best practices should be established and everyone involved needs to be on board with what is required. To aid in making secure software development a reality in your organization, here are eight tips to help with secure software development.
1. Make it the top priority
Following the craziness of 2020, we’ve learned many lessons. One of those lessons is that cybercriminals will exploit anything, even a global pandemic, to steal data. Last year broke records when it came to cyberattacks. This should be a wake-up call for any software developers who aren’t putting secure software development at the top of the priority list. As always, the first step towards any solution is making the effort to solve the problem. Software developers in 2021 should all give great attention to incorporating best practices when it comes to security.
2. Testing, Testing, Testing
Hackers very often get in by exploiting vulnerabilities in software code. That is why having the strongest, most secure code possible as the basis of your software is so important. How can you ensure that your code is as secure as possible? By making a major commitment to thorough testing.
Dan Levin @ Liventus emphasizes the importance of testing vulnerabilities via outside sources in its secure software development guide. This includes conducting static code analysis with outside vendors and bringing in experts for your dynamic code scanning. You can do all the testing you like as a developer but there is always a chance you are too close to the project. Bringing in another set of eyes (or many sets) is a way to be stronger on secure development.
3. Get hacked
A basketball team can play 5-on-5 in practice all day long but they won’t truly know what they need to do to get better until they hold a scrimmage with another team. The same is true for software development. You can test and check all you want but until you go up against a hacker, you can’t be sure how secure your software is.
Ethical hackers, also known as White Hat hackers, are people with all the skills of a hacker but, instead of a life of crime, they provide a service to developers. These hackers will do their best to get into your system and help identify vulnerabilities. It is much better that these people do it in development than real hackers with bad intentions down the line.
4. Keep up with third-party apps
Much of the software developed today doesn’t exist as standalone software. Many need to use third-party apps or web apps in order to provide the user with the best results possible. Even though it’s great that software can team up with other apps to be better, it creates another possible access point for cybercriminals.
Keeping up with the security updates, patches, and news from third-party apps is important to software developers. Not only does this keep you abreast of the latest threats to compatible plugins, but it may also alert you to something that threatens your own software.
5. Stay up-to-date on regulations
If you deal in software that will be used in a regulated industry, get informed and stay informed about the latest regulations of that industry. Industries like finance, healthcare, and manufacturing all have their own regulatory requirements that need to be complied with.
Many of these regulations deal with data security and quality assurance for all the tech in the industry, including software. For the industries above, secure software development means keeping up with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and ISO/IEC 27001, respectively.
6. Go all-in on authentication
Two-factor authentication (username and password) is no longer enough if developers want to create software that is on par with the most secure software available in 2021. Today, it is all about multi-factor authentication (MFA).
MFA used to be considered as too difficult or intense for consumers or employees not dealing directly with sensitive information. Fortunately, MFA has become so common these days that most people understand it and are used to it. There shouldn’t be any excuse in this day and age for not using MFA with any software that deals with sensitive data.
7. Encrypt all PII
Personally identifiable information (PII) refers to any sensitive data that can be connected to an individual. This includes credit card numbers, social security numbers, health data, and more. With any software that deals with PII, all this sensitive information should be encrypted and only accessible by authorized users with the data key on the back end. The better the encryption is, the more secure the PII will be. It is a key secure software development best practice in 2021.
8. Don’t forget the human aspect
The technical end has many factors to ensure secure software development. We can’t forget, though, that developers themselves are human. This means they need to be on-boarded correctly and periodically trained to test for knowledge of standard operating procedures and updates on the newest best practices. All the technical wizardry in the world won’t help keep software secure if the developers employing it aren’t properly and regularly trained. This is an oft-overlooked piece of secure software development that needs more frequent thought.
Secure software development is crucial in 2021 but it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a commitment and a concerted effort from everyone involved in the development process to make it happen. It can be tedious and sometimes difficult but, when you look at the alternatives, it will always be worth it.