For many years, security testing has lagged behind new advancements in software development. With faster development cycles and more code being written in a given time, software testing is considered a secondary task. Some refer to it as routine testing to identify common loopholes, while others say you need to perform in-depth security checks to identify hidden cracks. Whatever the case, you are always advised to follow the best practices in security testing for software development.
But why is it so important to guarantee software security?
Last summer, 5.4 million Twitter accounts were scraped by hackers due to an API vulnerability. Users were allowed to find any account by simply entering a phone number via the discoverability function. Considering the scale of this cyberattack, businesses are now well aware of the risks associated with unsafe software.
Software testing is not only a critical component of software quality assurance but has now become the need of the hour for software developers.
This blog covers 7 secure software development best practices that you can use to eliminate such vulnerabilities.
Security Testing For Software Development
In recent years, security testing has become a critical aspect of software development. It has always been a part of the process but is often overlooked by development teams in order to meet deadlines and reduce their budget. Even when the software meets all the functional and performance requirements, it is not necessarily secure. Like any other service, software that isn’t secure is not trusted.
When it comes to software security testing, there is one straightforward code to follow: CIA. It is short for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Here, confidentiality refers to the protection of personal data and proprietary information, as well as the implementation of secure and authorized restrictions on accessing this data.
Integrity is about restricting improper access, breach, modification, or destruction of data. It also encompasses the measures taken to ensure that data is accurate, authentic, and not reproduced. And of equal importance is availability - meaning your data must be accessible in a timely and reliable way at all times.
Generally speaking, the absence of security testing in your software development process may result in damages to brand names, reduced sales, loss of customer trust, and also the cost of recovering data from crashed websites or applications.
As of 2023, software testing and quality assurance are becoming more dependent on AI. With AI-based testing tools, the process is more accurate and efficient, with lesser time and effort required as compared to manual testing.
This year has also seen the rise of DevOps-based testing and the use of Agile methodologies to improve the overall quality of software. With more and more companies shifting to cloud computing, software development teams can leverage cloud-based testing. This allows them to test their product on various devices and platforms without the need for extensive hardware.
Best Practices in Security Testing for Software Development
Considering the nature of modern applications and their implementations, software testing is not an optional practice anymore. With DevOps teams shifting their focus to larger projects and coming up with releases faster than ever, there are still no defined measures for security integrations.
Here are some of the best practices in security testing for software development that will help you deal with the challenge:
Adopting a Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
The traditional software development lifecycle involves security testing as a step towards the end just before deployment. Even though this approach worked with the applications developed a few years back, the story is very different now. While development teams comprise over 50 developers, there is only one professional responsible for software testing.
The right approach here is to incorporate measures to test software along every step of the SDLC. Starting from the requirements gathering phase, you need to identify areas that may bring up security concerns and discuss them with the clients. Moving on, you need to go through the design and architecture using secure software development best practices.
The benefits of a secure software development life cycle go far beyond a risk-free application. You can detect and eliminate design errors earlier in the development process, and all stakeholders are well aware of security protocols throughout the cycle. With all of this, you are also cutting down on costs associated with the resolution of security-related defects in the development process.
Conducting Regular Security Code Reviews
If you’re already in the development phase and are wondering how to get things right, don’t worry! There is still a lot that can be done to secure your software. Unlike a secure SDLC approach, code reviews are relatively common in the software development landscape. These reviews are carried out to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities in code such as format string exploits, memory leaks, or buffer overflows.
With these potential vulnerabilities out of the way, developers can reduce roadblocks in the SDLC and fix the code right then and there. It is also much cheaper to identify and fix security issues at the development stage rather than post-deployment reviews.
The code review process is normally centered around high-risk lines of code. The source code is analyzed manually using Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools in order to pinpoint flaws. But before that, you need to carry out a threat assessment to pick out the lines of code to be analyzed. Regardless of whether these code reviews are manual or automated, they can identify security vulnerabilities arising from open-source software, quality assurance tests, and business logic.
Authenticating the users of an application is one of the time-tested ways to keep cyber attackers at bay. Even when you are dealing with multiple users from one organization, both of them do not necessarily need to have access to the same screens.
Implementing authentication measures is one of the best practices in security testing for software development. We often hear security teams dealing with the aftermath of a cyberattack due to weak authentication. Clearly, such situations are not favorable for any organization using the software.
Multi-factor authentication is a popular security measure as it allows you to identify users through codes sent to their smartphones, as well as other verification methods. With facial recognition, voice, fingerprints, and captcha test, this authentication method adds multiple security layers and gives businesses the confidence that their software is secure.
Performing Regular Penetration Testing
A security test is never complete unless you run your software through real-life situations. In this case, a penetration test simulates cyber attacks to see how the software reacts. In this process, you are able to identify vulnerabilities in the system that can allow hackers to pass through.
It's important to identify weaknesses in your system before a cyber attacker finds it. Here’s how you can carry out a penetration test:
First, you need to decide the scope of the penetration test. Here, you define the testing methods to expose your system to a cyber attack and the extent to which you need to test the system to look for weaknesses.
Once you have recorded all the vulnerabilities, you need to test each of the loopholes by checking whether a perpetrator can access in-depth data within the application.
List down all the vulnerabilities identified until now along with recommendations for filling in the gaps to ensure security.
Create a detailed report with the security issues and their impact. Share this report with the development team to set priorities for bug fixes and resolution of security issues.
Ensuring Data Protection and Encryption
The best practices in security testing for software development also include data protection and encryption to prevent leakage of sensitive data. Not only do you need to secure all communication channels, but you must also encrypt data that needs to be transferred. Moreover, the software application must also be tested to ensure compliance with data protection regulations such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
There are three main types of data encryption best practices used in software development:
Both the sender and the receiver of the information must have a private key. This type of encryption is also known as private-key cryptography, where a secret key is used to decrypt the message.
Two different keys are used for asymmetric encryption. With a mathematically linked public and private key, users can encrypt and decrypt information.
This is a type of encryption that uses a unique signature of fixed length to allow access to a given dataset. Each message is assigned a unique hash, which allows you to track minor changes in information. Encryption with hashing is irreversible, meaning the data cannot be restored to its original form. For this reason, hashing is used only for verifying information.
Keeping Software and Dependencies Updated
When it comes to software updates, most users take it lightly and save it for later. However, the ‘security updates’ are essential to keep the software safe from all kinds of attacks. Developers use third-party code and open-sourced components to generate code faster. This is particularly popular in DevOps, but there is a problem with this kind of development. If any third-party component turns out to be flawed, it becomes a threat to the entire application.
According to a recent survey, an average of 71 vulnerabilities per application resulting from the use of third-party components. But only 23% of the companies using third-party components tested the code for security vulnerabilities, and only 52% updated the components when security vulnerabilities were disclosed in them.
If you want to ensure that your application is a 100% secure, you need to keep an eye on security updates and also assess third-party components carefully before using them.
Establishing Incident Response and Recovery Plans
It’s one thing to be confident about the security of your software. But you still need to have a recovery plan just in case there is a data breach. As part of your security testing best practices, you need to put together an incident response mechanism.
This is made possible by running simulations of data breaches through highly vulnerable areas of the application. You can test how the software performs in this exercise and the develop measures to overcome such a problem when it arises.
With this practice, your business will be ready with a recovery plan and incident response mechanism in case the software is under attack after it is up and running.
Considering the fast pace of software development life cycles and the introduction of new methodologies, the importance of security is not stressed enough. While the industry has been talking about shifting left in terms of security testing, now is the time to make the necessary changes. By bringing data security in every phase of the software development lifecycle, you can significantly reduce vulnerabilities and tackle each risk while staying within the defined timeline and budget.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.