How To Secure Your SDLC The Right Way

December 26, 2019 Patricia Johnson

How To Secure Your SDLC

The ever-evolving threat landscape in our software development ecosystem demands that we put some thought into the security controls that we use to ensure we keep the bad guys away from our data. This is where software development lifecycle (SDLC) security comes into play. Organizations need to ensure that beyond providing their customers with innovative products ahead of the competition, their security is on point every step of the way throughout the SDLC.  

In order to keep the entire SDLC secure, we need to make sure that we are taking a number of important yet often overlooked measures, and using the right tools for the job along the way.

The Threats to Application Security

Over the past years, attacks on the application layer have become more and more common. OWASP estimates that nearly a third of web applications contain security vulnerabilities, and Micro Focus’ 2019 Application Security Risk Report found that nearly all web apps have bugs in their security features.  Attackers rush to exploit these security vulnerabilities to easily gain access to an organization's network and wreak havoc. 

While we read about the disastrous consequences of these breaches, Equifax being a fairly recent and notorious example, many organizations are still slow in implementing a comprehensive strategy to secure their SDLC.  

How Can We Make Our SDLC Secure? 

One of the basic principles of the secure SDLC is shifting security left. 

This means incorporating security practices and tools throughout the software development lifecycle, starting from the earliest phases. This shift will save organizations a lot of time and money later on, since the cost of remediating a security vulnerability in post-production is so much higher compared to addressing it in the earlier stages of the SDLC. 


cost of remediating a security vulnerability in post-production vs addressing it in the earlier stages of the SDLC


Embedding Security Into All Phases of the SDLC

Each step in the SDLC requires its own security enforcements and tools. Throughout all phases, automated detection, prioritization, and remediation tools can be integrated with your team’s IDEs, code repositories, build servers, and bug tracking tools to address potential risks as soon as they arise. 

#1 Planning: 

In the first phase, when planning, developers and security experts need to think about which common risks might require attention during development, and prepare for it. 

#2 Requirements and Analysis

In the second phase of the SDLC, requirements and analysis, decisions are made regarding the technology, frameworks, and languages that will be used. This is when experts should consider which vulnerabilities might threaten the security of the chosen tools in order to make the appropriate security choices throughout design and development.

#3 Architecture and Design

In the architecture and design phase teams should follow the architecture and design guidelines to address the risks that were already considered and analyzed during the previous stages. When vulnerabilities are addressed early in the design phase, you can successfully ensure they won’t damage your software in the development stage. Processes like threat modeling, and architecture risk analysis will make your development process that much simpler and more secure. 

#4 Development 

During the development phase, teams need to make sure they use secure coding standards. While performing the usual code review to ensure the project has the specified features and functions, developers also need to pay attention to any security vulnerabilities in the code. 

#5 Testing

The testing phase should include security testing, using automated DevSecOps tools to improve application security. 

It’s important to remember that the DevOps approach calls for continuous testing throughout the SDLC. Testing sooner and testing often is the best way to make sure that your products and SDLC are secure from the get-go. That means teams should start testing in the earliest stages of development, and also that security testing doesn’t stop at the deployment and implementation stage. 

#6 Maintenance

While your teams might have been extremely thorough during testing, real life is never the same as the testing environment. Be prepared to address previously undetected errors or risks, and ensure that configuration is performed properly. 

Even after deployment and implementation, security practices need to be followed throughout software maintenance. Products need to be continuously updated to ensure it is secure from new vulnerabilities and compatible with any new tools you may decide to adopt. 

Keeping An Eye On Open Source Security

Another risk that needs to be addressed to ensure a secure SDLC is that of open source components with known vulnerabilities. Since today's software products contain between 60%-80% open source code, it’s important to pay attention to open source security management throughout the SDLC. Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools are automated technologies that are dedicated specifically to tracking open source usage. They alert developers in real-time to any open source risks that arise in their code, and even provide actionable prioritization and remediation insights as well as automated fixes. 

Shift Left to Ensure a Secure SDLC

The DevSecOps approach is all about teams putting the right security practices and tools in place from the earliest stages of the DevOps pipeline, and embedding them throughout all phases of the software development life cycle. Securing your SDLC will help you to provide your customers with secure products and services while keeping up with aggressive deadlines. 

As attacks are increasingly directed to the application layer and the call for more secure apps for customers strengthens, SDLC security has become a top priority. It’s up to us to make sure that we’ve got full visibility and control throughout the entire process.

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