How to Make Your Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) More Secure

By Pratik Dholakiya
 

Software Development Life CycleMost enterprises have set up a software development life cycle that clearly defines the process used to build an application and manage it through the lifecycle. The process helps organizations streamline their development process. 

However, the business risks associated with insecure applications are enormous. It can lead to loss of data and goodwill. Moreover, as cybercriminals are using sophisticated techniques to exploit vulnerabilities, it’s getting challenging to trace and address these attacks. 

Another point to note is that by the time these issues are tracked, it’s too late. Most SDLCs include the following phases – 

  • Planning
  • Defining requirements
  • Designing and prototyping
  • Software development
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Operations and maintenance

In general, the security-related activities are performed during the testing phase, which comes later in the process. This not just multiplies the business risks but also proves to be costly. 

A report by Systems Sciences Institute at IBM revealed that the cost of fixing a bug during the implementation stage is six times more than the one identified during design. The cost just keeps on increasing hence.

DefectsTable

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/IBM-System-Science-Institute-Relative-Cost-of-Fixing-Defects_fig1_255965523 

Hence, it’s better to apply security into all the phases of SDLC, allowing developers and security teams to spot issues before they manifest as big problems in the deployment phase. 

This post offers clear guidelines on how you can create a secure SDLC, allowing you to deliver secure software program releases with state-of-the-art features.

  • Start with the Security Assurance Activities

A secure SDLC has security assurance activities as an integral part of the process. This ensures high awareness of the security considerations by stakeholders, a more secure software, early detection of flaws, and cost reduction because of the early detection and resolution of issues.

Security assurance activities include the following – 

  • Architecture Risk Analysis 

Data reveals that 50 percent of the software defects and vulnerabilities are caused by architectural design flaws. Such flaws represent an error in the architecture and are tough to eliminate at a later stage in the SDLC. Hence, these security needs should be addressed early in the SDLC. 

An architecture risk analysis can help you strengthen your foundation in architecture security and build more secure software. As a part of this analysis, security experts will review your application design in-depth and look for vulnerabilities. They will also perform security reviews to test the actual feasibility of the identified threats.

  • Code Review 

Reviewing the code helps in identifying and addressing security and quality defects in code as it’s being developed​. During the coding stage, the development team can use code reviewing tools to build better code without slowing them down. We will see more on these tools further in the post. 

  • Penetration Testing 

Penetration testing allows developers to spot vulnerabilities in their applications and software before the hackers do. Simply put, it tests how vulnerable the underlying network configurations and operating systems are. 

Hence, penetration testing helps developers detect and fix vulnerabilities and data breaches in time, outsmart automated hacking tools, and detect weak practices within the organization. 

  • Conduct Threat Modeling 

Threat modeling is straightforward and cost-effective to integrate security in the design phase of the SDLC. It helps developers and security teams identify and manage the threats in the early development stages of the life cycle. 

It involves planning for appropriate mitigation before it becomes too harmful or tough to eliminate. The most obvious benefit of conducting threat modeling is that it improves an organization’s security posture by identifying the threat actors and how they influence an application’s security. Once spotted, these threats are resolved through security controls and mitigations, thus embedding security in the design phase and reducing threats before code has been written.

  • Increase Awareness on the Best Coding Practices

Most development teams perceive security as something that introduces hurdles in their processes and forces them to rework. But security doesn’t hold back the software development process. On the contrary, working on building a secure SDLC is the most efficient way to embed security into different stages of the development process and get a secure and innovative product to the market. 

Why is security a stretch for developers? That’s because most of them aren’t aware of the actual ramifications of their decisions. Many of them lack training on the foundational lessons of application security.

Hence, all the stakeholders should begin by educating themselves on secure coding practices and frameworks that can ensure better security. Organizations should adopt practices like red team exercises where the developer is put in the role of a hacker. This will help them learn about hacking techniques and change their mindset towards security. 

Further, it’s critical to equip developers with a software composition analysis (SCA) tool that will help them stay on top of the most recent open-source vulnerabilities. 

  • Use Code-Scanning Tools 

Investing in code-scanning tools for static analysis, dynamic analysis, and interactive application security testing can help organizations move towards a secure SDLC. Fortunately, we have a variety of code-scanning tools that can help developers accelerate development and increase security and quality through all the phases. 

For instance, a fast and accurate static application security testing (SAST) solution can help your development and security teams address security and quality defects early in the SDLC. This can help them spot and manage security risks across the application portfolio and comply with the security and coding standards.

Similarly, a dynamic application security testing (DAST) solution tests products during operation and offers feedback on compliance and general security risks.

 

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  • Don’t Forget about Open Source Security

Most developers are fond of open source software as they feel it comes with no hooks attached. But that’s not the case. Open-source software lacks a traceable software development life cycle. Moreover, open-source vulnerabilities are on the rise. 

Vulnerability Table

Source: https://www.whitesourcesoftware.com/open-source-vulnerability-management-report/ 

Hence, it’s important to address the risk of open source components with known vulnerabilities. As mentioned earlier, use automated technologies like a software composition analysis (SCA) tool that can track open source usage and alert developers in real-time. These tools also provide actionable prioritization and remediation insights. 

Summing Up

Organizations are constantly on their toes to deliver innovative software solutions and gain an edge over the competition. However, making sure that the applications are secure is a challenging task, let alone developing them. 

SDLC allows businesses to streamline their development process. However, instead of waiting till the testing phase (when the delivery deadline is close) to spot an issue, it’s wise to embed security into all stages of SLDC. This will ensure that your application isn’t susceptible to attacks by nefarious users or hackers. 

Use the information shared above to make your software development life cycle secure and reduce the business risks.

(Featured Image by Freepik)

About The Author –

Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of Growfusely. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. Pratik has spoken at the 80th Annual Conference of the Florida Public Relations Association, Accounting and Finance Show, Singapore, NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee, and other major events. As a passionate SEO and content marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, YourStory, and Inc42, to name a few. He can be reached at Twitter @dholakiyapratik