Why Security and Privacy Should Be Top Priorities for Software Development Teams

Ask a typical software developer to name their top priority when writing code, and the answer is likely to be ‘creating new features’. Striving to produce code that fulfills a need and adds real business value, developers tend to focus on creating as much functionality as possible. They want their code to be both efficient and elegant.

What is less of a priority, unfortunately, is security. Many developers simply don’t see this as an area of focus and believe it to be the responsibility of others. The issue was highlighted in a recent report compiled by Evans Data, which explored the attitudes of 1,200 active developers. It found that just 14% of the group consider security a priority when coding. While the result is alarming, it confirms that security is simply not on the radar screen for most developers. They don’t see that they have a role to play when it comes to tackling common vulnerabilities or issues.

As a software developer, it’s important to prioritize security in every aspect of your work. A security breach can have serious consequences for your business, your customers and your reputation.

Remote work makes vulnerabilities more dangerous

If you’re like most businesses with remote employees, you can’t use software with security holes. Make sure the software you choose is built to be secure from the ground up.

If your employees work remotely from home and coffee shops, security is critical for your company’s intranet.

With remote work on the rise, it’s only a matter of time before hackers find even more vulnerabilities in remote teams’ applications.

Software vulnerabilities are a big deal

If cybersecurity isn’t your top priority, your business is at high risk. The consequences of a data breach can be huge and far outweigh the fines. Here are five ways your software can put your business at risk if you don’t make cybersecurity a priority.

1. Not all custom software developers prioritize cybersecurity

Most people expect all software developers to prioritize cybersecurity during development. Although overall security is a shared responsibility, software developers have a direct responsibility to protect applications to a certain extent.

Unfortunately, some software developers prioritize speed over security. Sometimes clients rush developers to complete a project in an unrealistic timeline. However, this is not an excuse to avoid safety protocols. However, it does happen and some of your software applications may lack protection.

Unless you are a developer, you cannot decide whether an application is secure or not. Your best bet is to hire a software security firm to analyze the app and deploy the app only if it gets the green light.

2. Third-party software may contain backdoors

Backdoors are always a potential problem in software. As with vulnerabilities, unless you’re a developer, there’s no way to identify a backdoor. Even so, if the code is not open source, not even a developer can analyze the code.

While backdoors can be lifesaving in some situations, ethical software developers don’t create them because they can be exploited. Not all developers have ethics.

3. Loss of important company data

Most people know that data breaches usually come with heavy fines. Other problems can be much worse. For example, your reputation could be negatively affected, and if you don’t have an up-to-date backup, you could lose important data forever.

A vulnerability is all it takes for a hacker to use ransomware to gain control over your company’s files. Ransomware encrypts your data and holds it hostage until you pay a large sum of money. Some companies pay ransom, however, there is no guarantee that you will get your files back.

While backups aren’t specifically a part of cyber security, they play a huge role in recovery after a security breach. Without backups, you are always at risk of losing important company data.

4. Hackers are relentless when it comes to their access

If your business uses software that can provide hackers with valuable information, you’re at greater risk. Even with proper security measures in place, hackers will continue to try to break those security measures.

For example, applications developed by SAP serve many large businesses, including NATO members. Hackers are constantly working hard to learn SAP software to find vulnerabilities to exploit.

Here are 10 essential steps to follow to secure your software applications and prevent security breaches:

1. Perform regular security testing:

​​Security Testing is a type of Software Testing that uncovers vulnerabilities, threats, risks in a software application and prevents malicious attacks from intruders. The purpose of Security Tests is to identify all possible loopholes and weaknesses of the software system which might result in a loss of information, revenue, and reputation at the hands of the employees or outsiders of the Organization.

Regular security testing is essential to detect vulnerabilities in your software and fix them before deploying them. This includes penetration testing, code reviews, and other types of testing to ensure the security of your applications.

2. Implement proper authorization and access controls:

Access control and whitelisting are among the first and strongest measures to safeguard corporate IT. However, many companies are satisfied with creating lists of trusted websites, applications, or users. Rarely, these lists are brought together in one place. To better protect the data, the organization’s access control policy must be reviewed. The controls and protection must be in place to prevent damage to assets, minimize interruption to business activities, and protect confidential data.

Ensure that only authorized users can access your software applications and that they only have the minimum access necessary to perform their jobs. This includes strong passwords, two-factor authentication and other security measures.

3. Encrypt sensitive data:

Data encryption consists of hiding information from malicious actors or anyone else with prying eyes. There are two basic kinds of encryption solutions: Those for data at rest and data in transit.

At rest, data is information that is stored such as on servers or a computer hard drive. Data in transit means that email or internal system-to-system messages that carry data around your network are transmitting the information. 

Any sensitive data stored or transmitted by your software applications should be encrypted to protect against unauthorized access. This includes financial data, personal information and other data that could harm your customers or your business.

4. Use secure coding practices:

Secure coding, also referred to as secure programming, involves writing code in a high-level language that follows strict principles, with the goal of preventing potential vulnerabilities (which could expose data or cause harm within a targeted system). Secure coding is more than just writing, compiling, and releasing code into applications. To fully embrace secure programming, you also need to create a secure development environment built on a reliable and secure IT infrastructure using secure hardware, software, and services and providers.

Follow best practices for secure coding to reduce the risk of vulnerabilities in your software. These include safe coding libraries and frameworks, input validation, and proper error handling.

5. Stay up-to-date with security patches:

Update your software with the latest security patches and fixes. This helps prevent attacks that exploit known vulnerabilities.

6. Use secure communication protocols:

Anyone designing a product that will be connected to the internet should be concerned about network security. One of the simplest and easiest ways we can protect our data is to use secure protocols.

When sending data over networks, use secure communication protocols such as SSL/TLS to protect against eavesdropping and tampering. SSL is used to ensure the privacy and authenticity of data over the internet. TLS/SSL website has “HTTPS” in its URL rather than “HTTP”.

7. Protect against injection attacks:

Injection attacks are a common cyber attack that involves injecting malicious code into your software. To protect against these types of attacks, ensure that user input is properly validated and sanitized.

8. Protect against Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks:

XSS attacks involve injecting malicious code into your website or application, which can be executed by other users. To protect against XSS attacks, you must properly encode and escape user input.

​​In a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack, an attacker injects HTML markup or JavaScript into the affected web application’s front-end client. The attacker tricks the application into sending the malicious script through the browser, which treats the script as though it’s coming from a trusted website. Each time users access the affected page, their browsers download and run the malicious script as though it’s part of the page. The malicious script might access users’ sensitive information, steal cookies, or hijack a user’s session.

To prevent XSS attacks, your application must validate all the input data, make sure that only the allowlisted data is allowed, and ensure that all variable output in a page is encoded before it is returned to the user. When you encode variable output, you substitute HTML markup with alternative representations that are called entities. The browser displays the entities but doesn’t run them. When a browser renders the entities, they’re converted back to HTML and printed but they aren’t run.

9. Monitoring and Logging Function:

Security event logging and monitoring are two parts of a singular process that is integral to the maintenance of a secure infrastructure.

Security event logging and monitoring can only work when it is part of an effective data collection and analysis process. Security logs often contain a massive swath of data. So much of it that it will be near impossible for a human eye to effectively identify threats within it.

This means there will often be missed security incidents, false flags, and duplicate information.

This means that the key to effective Security Logging and Monitoring processes is the ability to weed out unnecessary information. To focus solely on critical events that could compromise the integrity and/or availability of the confidential information.

Implement proper monitoring and logging to monitor user activity and detect unusual or suspicious activity. It helps detect and respond to potential security threats.

10. Educate your team:

Make sure all members of your team are aware of the importance of security and are trained on best practices to protect against cyber attacks. 

Security tests that check developer code as it’s being written, or when the programmers check in their code, is potentially the most important way to present security concepts and ideas to developers. Such teaching moments are becoming more popular as companies increasingly focus on agile development.

By following these essential steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of security breaches and protect your software applications from cyber attacks.

Benefits of Secure Software Development

Custom software that incorporates security measures throughout the development process ensures that your software meets your organization’s unique needs for flawless performance with minimal security risks. The generic nature of off-the-shelf software solutions makes them inherently less secure and less likely to meet your specific needs in the long term.

Improving software security throughout the SDLC has several benefits:

  • Improved software performance
  • Reduced business risks
  • Costs for software defect detection and fixes are reduced
  • Consistent compliance with laws and regulations governing safety, saving money on fines and penalties
  • Increased customer trust and loyalty
  • Better internal organizational security

If you want your computers to function for years without failures or security breaches, it’s important to work with a professional software development company that can design, develop and maintain your software with the latest innovations in security.

Are your applications secure? Find out before it’s too late

In conclusion, secure software development is about more than just secure code. It’s essential to take a holistic approach and implement certain DevOps practices into your everyday workflow. When we say secure DevOps, we mean it: from the beginning of Software Development through deployment and beyond. This ensures that security becomes an integral part of everything you do – not something on its own that only gets attention at specific intervals or when there’s been a breach.

In the end, Secure software development is a journey that never ends. Therefore, you should always look for new ways to improve and make your code more secure as technology evolves and hackers find new types of attacks to exploit against Software vulnerability. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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