Best Practices for Securing Your Development Projects

May 4, 2023 —External Contribution

In today's technology-driven world, data breaches and cyberattacks are increasing dramatically. According to CheckPoint Research, cybercrimes increased by 38% in 2022 as compared to the previous year. Therefore, it's important for developers to take proactive measures in order to secure their development projects.

Not taking cybersecurity seriously can cost your development firm a whole lot of money. Recent cybersecurity statistics show that a data breach can cost a small business somewhere between $120,000 and $1.24 million.

These numbers highlight the critical need for developers to prioritize security and integrate it into all development stages. In this article, we'll explain the best practices that you can follow to secure your development projects and ensure the protection of your data.

#What is Secure Software Development, and Why is it important?

What is Secure Software Development? Secure software development is a comprehensive process that involves designing, developing, and testing software applications while prioritizing security at each stage. The main objective of this process is to create software products that are resistant to different types of cyberattacks.

#Importance of Secure Software Development

As mentioned already, cyberattacks and data breaches are becoming more commonplace, making it critical to follow secure development practices.

Here are some important reasons why secure software development is important.

  • Shrinks Attack Surface: Developing software with security in mind reduces the attack surface of your project. It minimizes the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks and ensures data protection.
  • Prevent Financial Losses and Reputational Damage: Integrating security into each step of development reduces the likelihood of security breaches. It can help you prevent financial losses and safeguard the reputation of your organization.
  • Ensures Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, and other data privacy laws is crucial for organizations that handle sensitive data. Secure development ensures compliance with such regulations and avoids legal issues, such as fines and investigations.
  • Saves Money: Investing in secure software development can help your organization save money in the long run. The cost of fixing security vulnerabilities after the product is released can be much higher than fixing them during the development process.

#Securing Development Projects: Best Practices to Follow

Here's a list of the best practices you should follow while developing software products to ensure security.

#Define the Security Requirements of Your Project

Defining the security requirements of a project should be the first step to take in secure software development. It involves identifying the potential risks and vulnerabilities that the software might encounter during its development and deployment phases.

The following is the list of tips that will help you define the security requirements of your project.

  1. Conduct Threat Modeling: Threat modeling is the process of identifying the possible threats that a product can face and assessing their potential impact. It'll help you prioritize security requirements based on the level of risk associated with each threat.
  2. Identify Compliance Requirements: Determine the regulatory and compliance requirements that the software product must adhere to and make sure that your security requirements align with them.
  3. Define Security Objectives: Set clear and measurable security objectives that your product must meet. For instance, if the software involves the processing of sensitive data, the security objective could be to ensure that it's protected from unauthorized access. Especially when it comes to eCommerce, ensuring eprocurement systems, CRM, and other technologies meet their security objectives can help protect their businesses from security threats and breaches that can cause significant damage.
  4. Document Security Requirements: Once you have defined all the security requirements, you'll need to document them in a clear, concise, and consistent manner. This way, you'll have a record of everything that you need to follow throughout the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) in terms of security.

#Employ Secure Development Tools

Every project requires different tools, such as repository apps, frameworks, and open-source libraries, to carry out the development process. If you use third-party tools that aren't secure, you'll make your product vulnerable to cyberattacks.

According to recent statistics, 7 out of 10 applications have an open-source library with at least 1 security flaw. Therefore, it's important to perform research carefully and choose secure options offered by trusted and well-established service providers.

Additionally, it's also important to keep all third-party tools up to date, as updates often contain security patches that address vulnerabilities. It'll help you minimize the attack surface of your project and protect it from potential cyber threats.

You should also determine the programming languages or frameworks, such as Laravel, C++, Java, Antlers, C#, and JavaScript, that you'll use for your project. It'll provide you with many benefits, such as maintainability of code, ease of development, and clear coding standards.

#Outline Secure Coding Practices to Follow

Outlining secure coding practice is important because it'll provide your development team with a set of standards to follow in order to write code securely. It'll reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities being introduced to the project during the development stage.

Here's a list of steps to create a template outlining secure coding practices.

  1. Identify a Coding Standard: Choose a coding standard that is relevant to your industry or software product. For instance, if your software product involves web development, OWASP is a good standard to follow. Other popular coding standards and security resources that can be used include NIST, CWE, MISRA, CVE, and CERT.
  2. Define Secure Coding Practices: Based on the chosen coding standard, define a set of secure coding practices that developers will need to follow. Cover all stages of software development, including design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.
  3. Conduct Security Reviews: Conduct regular security reviews to make sure that everyone on the team is following all the defined secure coding practices. You should conduct these reviews at all stages of software development.
  4. Update Secure Coding Practices: Update your outlined practices regularly to keep up with the evolving security threats and vulnerabilities. It'll help you keep your project secure throughout its development lifecycle.

#Implement the PoLP (Principle of Least Privilege)

The PoLP is based on the idea of giving users, processes, or devices only the minimum level of access to resources that they need to perform authorized activities. It'll help you significantly reduce the risk of damage caused by unauthorized access, malware, or other security threats.

You can use the following steps to implement PoLP successfully.

  • Develop different user profiles with different access control levels of permissions based on their job duties.
  • Assign roles and permissions to each user depending on their responsibilities to control access and prevent unauthorized activities.
  • Review user permissions and access to sensitive data regularly, and revoke access when it's no longer needed.

#Use Rigorous Quality Assurance and Testing

Quality assurance and testing are critical components of secure software development. They allow you to identify and fix vulnerabilities in software applications, which cybercriminals can exploit. It'll minimize the chances of a security breach, data loss, or other forms of cyberattacks.

You can also use third-party services to perform quality assurance and testing, which includes vulnerability scanning and penetration testing. They'll help you identify weaknesses in the product that may have been missed by in-house testing efforts, providing an extra layer of security.

#Educate Your Employees

Cybercriminals are always trying to exploit human errors to gain access to sensitive organizational data. Recent statistics show that 82% of data breaches take place because of human error.

That's why you should provide regular training and education to your employees to ensure that they understand the importance of cybersecurity.

The following tips will help you create effective training programs to educate your employees.

  • Identify potential security risks that employees may face, such as phishing scams, social engineering tactics, or password theft.
  • Develop a comprehensive training program that covers these risks and makes it mandatory for all employees, including new hires.
  • Update your training program regularly to make sure it includes the latest threats and best practices.
  • Encourage employees to report any suspicious activity or security incidents promptly.
  • If you're working with remote teams, ask them to use a VPN service for mobiles, laptops, tablets, or any other device they use to access your company network.
  • Encourage your employees to follow the best password management practices, such as creating strong passwords, setting a unique password for each account, utilizing the power of multi-factor authentication, and using password managers.
  • Appreciate/reward employees who demonstrate good security practices and reporting. It'll keep them happy and satisfied and encourage them to prioritize security.
  • Conduct regular security audits to identify any areas where employees may need additional training or support.

#Implement an Incident Response Plan

Implementing an incident response plan is critical to minimizing the impact of a security breach or cyberattack. It's a set of procedures that outlines your response to security incidents, including how to detect, analyze, contain, and recover from them.

To create an effective incident response plan, you can follow the steps listed below.

  1. Identify the types of incidents that your project can fall victim to and prioritize them based on their potential impact.
  2. Develop a response strategy based on the identified incidents that include steps to contain the incident and recover from it.
  3. Define the roles and responsibilities of each member of the incident response team, consisting of IT, security, and legal professionals.
  4. Your plan should include communication protocols that outline how to notify stakeholders about the incident and how to keep them updated on the response process.
  5. Review and update your plan regularly to ensure that it is effective and relevant. You can run simulations of potential security incidents and conduct post-incident reviews to identify areas for improvement.

#Final Words

Securing development projects is essential for protecting sensitive information and preventing potential security breaches.

By prioritizing security in all stages of the development process, you can ensure that the software products you create are secure and reliable.

We hope that the best practices discussed in this guide will help you in improving the security posture of your development projects.

This article was published in collaboration with cybernews.

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