4 Best Practices for Secure Application Development

Gaurav Belani
Published 01/11/2022
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Digital Cloud in Human HandWhen starting a new application development project, security must be top of mind, especially with the growing number of security threats, such as cyberattacks, data breaches, and more.

This post will walk you through what application security means, why it matters, and the different strategies to ensure secure application development in an organization.



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What is application security?

Application security is the process of making different types of applications secure by identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities in your application’s code. It’s meant to protect your application from malicious attacks using various techniques and security testing tools.


Benefits of application security

Nowadays, almost every business has a web or mobile application which powers nearly everything they do. So, keeping them secure is a must. Here’s why companies should invest in securing application development:

  • Reduces risk from both internal and external sources
  • Prevents sensitive data from getting leaked
  • Complies with secure application development practice and industry standards
  • Increases the overall security of your application
  • Reduces the cost of identifying and protecting apps from security vulnerabilities
  • Boosts trust from investors and lenders

In addition, application security prevents data breaches. In 2020, there were 3,950 confirmed cases of data breaches.

But, what is a data breach?

A data breach is an incident where an unauthorized person steals confidential and sensitive information of an organization. For example, employees checking the documents they were not supposed to, severe malware attacks that expose tons of personal records, etc.

These breaches can either happen by accident or when someone intentionally attacks to get confidential information for the wrong purposes. Plus, it’s becoming more common worldwide due to the rise in digital data, remote working, and cloud computing.


4 best practices for secure app development

Now that you’re aware of what application security is and its benefits in building a secured application let’s get into four powerful strategies to secure your next application development process.


Create application security requirements

First and foremost, you need to create security requirements for your application. App requirements are goals set out for an app of what it should be or how it should perform. In other words, it is the foundation on which the quality of the application depends.

For example, an application might allow customers to sign-up without any one-time password (OTP). Or, it can enable them to solve queries without calling customer representatives.

Just as you define these goals for the final app, you must also include the security requirements.

Having clear, consistent, and measurable app security requirements are crucial for deploying secure applications effectively. Developers and designers can’t meet app security goals unless they are specific and achievable.

Before building such requirements, ask yourself:

  • What kinds of vulnerabilities do you want to prevent?
  • What measures will you take if those vulnerabilities occur?
  • How will you measure if your requirement is fulfilled?
  • Can we test the particular requirement in the final application?
  • Do all the people working on this requirement understand its intent?
  • Can someone interpret this requirement in any other way?
  • Is each security requirement applied consistently across the board?


Use security-focused frameworks such as OWASP

The current level of security is insufficient to secure applications as developers aren’t aware of the threats lurking, waiting for the hackers to exploit them. This is where security-focused frameworks come into play.

Security frameworks guide all developers to create secure applications from the start. It is a go-to document that clearly defines the policies, procedures, and processes regarding cybersecurity practices. Further, it explains how information, services, and systems are managed within your company to prevent hackers.

In a nutshell, security frameworks aim to reduce risk levels and applications’ exposure to vulnerabilities. So, it’s crucial to remain up-to-date on your framework. This, in turn, makes the clients, stakeholders, prospects, customers, and business partners feel confident about your application.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is an international non-profit organization that focuses on improving the security of applications by making the materials (such as documentation, tools, and forums) readily available on their website to app developers.

The Security Knowledge Framework (SKF) is the part of OWASP that helps you build more apps by:

  • Informing about the possible risks before you write a single code of line
  • Setting up effective security requirements for your app
  • Providing you the required information as and when you need


Integrate Security + DevOps = DevSecOps

DevOps is an integral approach in application development. It provides the tools, resources, and practices that allow organizations to reduce the time required for creating apps.

However, it’s not enough for today’s software companies to implement faster and innovative app development techniques. They need an approach that also considers cybersecurity to keep their apps safe from hackers.

DevOps doesn’t take security into account. This is why the concept of DevSecOps was introduced.

DevSecOps is an app development approach that integrates security (Sec) into DevOps. It emphasizes the importance of security at each app development stage and implements continuous and automated security components at the earliest.

In addition to improved app security, DevSecOps helps your company achieve the following benefits:

  • Improved recovery speed due to early threat detection
  • Reduced time for security checks due to automation of cybersecurity activities
  • Enhanced threat hunting and monitoring
  • Higher customer value due to improved security

Here’s how you can integrate security into DevOps successfully:

  • Ensure your developers know the basic principles of secure coding and testing. Plus, check whether they’re meeting the security requirements.
  • Make sure the DevOps and the security departments communicate and collaborate. The security metrics and dashboards should be transparent and made available to developers to check code quality.
  • Hire professional security officers who can train your DevOps team to become security-conscious during the integration.
  • Deploy a version control system before adopting DevSecOps practices. A version control system tracks the changes in the application’s code, checks who has made those changes, and whether that person has the authorization to do so.

So, choose a system with different change control tactics, identity verification mechanisms, metadata collection for code versions, and digital signatures for application development and client communications.


Use application security testing tools

Application security testing is an effective way to reduce the cyberattacks on applications and protect them from damage. In other words, it checks whether the application is vulnerable to cyberattacks and evaluates the risk and threats that will negatively impact the business.

Application security testing tools provide such testing services throughout the deployment cycle. Mainly, there are three types of security testing tools:

  • Static application security testing (SAST) tools: These tools assess the source course while at rest to identify and report weaknesses that can result in security issues, such as input validation, race conditions, numerical errors, and SQL injection vulnerabilities. It works on many different languages for mobile apps, such as JavaScript, Python, .Net, etc. Some examples include Klocwork, SpectralOps, Veracode, LGTM.COM, and Reshift.
  • Dynamic application security testing (DAST) tools: These tools examine the code while running. The purpose of DAST is to detect weaknesses during runtime, throwing a variety of attacks at the application. This way, it can identify the situations during which the software can be exploited. Examples include GitLab, Beagle Security, HCL AppScan, StackHawk, and more.
  • Interaction application security testing (IAST) tools: These tools use both static and hybrid testing to create a hybrid security testing system. IAST analyzes the code for vulnerabilities in the running application. They leverage various testing techniques to develop advanced attack situations and perform dynamic analysis.


Wrapping up

Undoubtedly, application security is becoming a massive concern for developers with the increasing security threats and malicious cyberattacks. But we’re sure these four best practices can reduce your worries and help you build a secure business application.