Importance and Principles of Secure Coding

Importance and Principles of Secure Coding

Importance and Principles of Secure Coding

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The era of the digital revolution in technology has created an abundance of opportunities for companies, professionals and consumers with innovations in every sector and aspect of society imaginable. Technology has presented ways to rewrite the nature of our economies and the nature of our existence in a socially and consciously constructive way. But anything that can be used for positive forces for creation can also be used for negative forces for destruction. The same is true with our digital technology applications and the very code that can be exploited for those purposes. As we have seen, hackers, phishers and malicious attackers can breach these vulnerabilities and cause mayhem to organizations and the society at large. These problems are growing to be very serious threats and the number of successful attacks mounted is increasing as criminals are always crafting ways to gain access and respond to security/policies/strategy with new tactics. This is why organizations need to write code securely with vulnerabilities top of mind from the very way code is written and application layers are developed. In this post, we examine the importance of secure coding and the principles involved in maintaining secure code and secure coding practices.

Threat Mitigation Through a More Proactive, Thoughtful Approach

Security breaches are serious business. An estimated $101.6 billion will be spent on cybersecurity software, services and hardware by 2020 by organizations, according to data reported from BBN Times. The number of attacks has increased over the years to an overwhelming degree for organizations. For about 48 percent of data security breaches, malicious hackers were responsible, while the rest were created by human error. A more thoughtful and proactive approach to writing secure code can mitigate these threats by reducing vulnerabilities, particularly at the application layer. Writing code securely now means writing code so vulnerabilities are detected and fixed as they’re written. Using threat modeling tools in your organization can help determine the greatest risks to your organization. This can save time in remediation later on when bugs are inevitably found. Perform source code analysis of both new designs and legacy applications/code prior to analyzing their risk potential.

Reducing Complexity in Application Layers

Many vulnerabilities exist at both the security policy/protocol level and the development level due to the complexity of architecture in source code and related functionality. This is because the complexity creates a window for individuals in the organization to ignore security measures. The more complex a system, the more opportunity for failure in the protocol. Many separate processes or other digital tools may be used in an application for functionality. If there are too many, the protocol and policy measures may be ignored or overlooked. To avoid this, make processes more simple for all involved so secure practices can be implemented securely at all levels. Reuse known trusted components and avoid complexity by centralizing an approach with the fundamentals of secure code part of the development. Integrate security tools within development environments like IDE, source repository, bug tracking logs and more.

Back Up Simple Architecture with Complex Layers of Security: Defense in Depth

In addition to making the architecture design more simple in terms of development practices, you also need to balance your approach to security with defensive in-depth principles and layers of security to create fail safes. If one process fails, is there a layer that will catch whatever slips through? Practicing secure coding with defensive in-depth principles in mind means weighing various risks posed and attempting to plug discovered and potential holes. Layer defense tools to minimize this and decide how many layers and tools are needed. Use a sensible variety of SAST, DAST, Pen-testing, RASP and IAST directly within the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Ensure admin tools and interface won’t allow unwanted access by non-admins.

Secure Coding Through Proactive Approach to Permission, Whitelisting and Obscurity

Businesses that run a lot of software or IT teams that support them and are concerned with security should also proactively sort permissions, whitelist elements of systems/application and avoid security by obscurity. Companies that rely on things like JavaScript, SQL, and CRM are challenged by not knowing what threats to expect and how to prepare for them. Make sure to limit permissions to the very least amount possible throughout the organization. Only permit users to use functions that are necessary to them, nothing more. Give users the least amount of access possible and only where appropriate for the needs of the organization and the scope of each user’s specific role. Whitelisting is another proactive tactic for secure coding principles. This essentially means you define allowed practices and reject everything else. As new malware is developed, there will be limited risks and ways to penetrate security. The last bit to understand is that security through obscurity, a principle put into place by many already across several organizations, does not tend to work. Time and again, organizations fail with this principle. Changing passwords frequently is not enough. Cleaning inputs and securing databases should be implemented for an additional layer. Also track flaws and inconsistencies. Analyze this data and work on the assumption that your code has already been taken. Just having that mindset can keep organizations on their toes with security to prevent data breaches.

Secure coding is a practice that your business cannot ignore. You have to apply secure coding to maintain security. Keep a mindset that systems are already breached and you are looking to minimize damage and identify threats, vulnerabilities, bugs and glitches now rather than later. These lessons are best learned before a data breach rather than after.

About the author:

Justin Soenke is a trend-based serial entrepreneur and thought leader in the areas of cyber-security, web design, SEO, social media, eCommerce and managed IT. Justin has overseen the creation and success of over a dozen companies in the technology, security and media sectors, and is the contributing source for his SB Design Blog, SB Tech Blog and SB SEO Blog among regular contributions to many outside blogs and websites, all for our clients.

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