Why Continuous Security Checks Are Important In Software Development
In a technological world where software is constantly being patched and updated, threats to the businesses using that software are constantly evolving. Each new release could bring with it a new vulnerability, and hackers are always on the lookout for new ways to exploit those weaknesses.
That’s why continuous software security checks are so important.
What is continuous security in software development?
Continuous security refers to the constant monitoring and addressing of security threats and vulnerabilities across in-development software and an ever-adapting IT infrastructure. It’s often used within a DevOps culture, allowing software development and IT operations teams to work together collaboratively on everything from large technological projects to day-to-day tasks – along what’s known as a continuous delivery pipeline (CDP).
Why you should continuously conduct software security checks
Put simply, the better that security is embedded into your continuous delivery pipeline – or even outside of it, with processes like dynamic application security testing and penetration testing (more on that later) – the more secure your software and IT systems will be from malicious threats that could cause untold damage to your company’s productivity, finances and reputation.
Focusing on the development side, without security testing embedded as part of the process, the software produced might present problems from both a vulnerability and security policy compliance perspective. With security factored in at every stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC), you can be sure that you’re working in a way designed to be as compliant as possible.
Moreover, much (if not all!) of this testing (with the notable exceptions of threat modelling, plus penetration testing and its follow-up, mitigation testing) can be automated as part of the wider CDP, providing developers with vital information needed to make crucial changes. This allows devs to build, test and deploy code rapidly, ready for release into business IT systems at the touch of a button.
Can’t-miss software security tips
Having established why continuous software security checks are so important, these are some of the security checks you should incorporate at different stages of the software development life cycle.
Early stages of SDLC
The first vital piece of software security testing you should use is threat modelling. This is usually planned at the very start of a software project as it allows developers to model the results of actioning code changes, without actually doing so. It’s a near instantaneous way for devs to identify the vulnerabilities a hacker might pinpoint, and allows developers to create suitable solutions.
Middle stages of SDLC
During the code and design review phase of a software project, one important can’t-miss software security tip is to validate all input by using a vetted library alongside scanning for vulnerabilities in software dependencies (often known as software composition analysis, or SCA). You should also test authentication systems to make sure they’re secure, and apply additional measures if not.
At this stage we also recommend progressing to static application security testing (or SAST – sometimes called static code analysis), where the whole codebase of the project is analysed with a state-of-the-art engine to detect potential issues with the code that can result in vulnerabilities.
From there, you’ll move into testing the code outright, which involves building a test environment designed to simulate the eventual live one. At this stage there can be any number of factors to secure, including ensuring cloud resources are configured correctly and access controls grant permission to only the correct users – to give just two from a potentially long list of examples.
Later stages of SDLC
Our fourth essential continuous security check to apply during the pipeline is Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST). Because DAST requires completed, working code, it’s undertaken at the end of the process, and is essentially a type of ‘black box testing’ used to perform external penetration tests. In other words, it approximates the act of hacking in from outside the application or network, allowing your team to test from a hacker’s perspective.
Another significant benefit of DAST is that it doesn’t run on your software’s programming language. That means you can run DAST on one continuous delivery pipeline, regardless of whether different software programs in use operate on different languages.
You may also want to invite testers to attempt to break into your system. This is known as penetration testing. As a manual process, this can be more time consuming, however because it’s often done by expert former hackers, it’s likely to throw up results that automated software solutions might otherwise miss. At One Beyond, we offer our own pen-test service, performed by a completely different team to the one working on your project. That means with our services, you can get the best of both worlds, ensuring your software is as secure as possible.
Need help securing your software?
Perhaps the most important can’t-miss software security tip we can offer is to partner with an experienced software developer, skilled and resourced to meet your company’s ongoing security needs.