How To Secure Your SDLC The Right Way

July 3, 2018 Patricia Johnson

SDLC Security

The ever evolving threat landscape in our 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 this important process 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 to the application layer have become more and more common, with OWASP estimating that nearly a third of web applications contain security vulnerabilities, and WhiteHat Security’s “2015 Website Security Statistics Report” topping that figure with a whopping 86%. Attackers easily exploit those very security vulnerabilities to gain access to an organization's network and wreak havoc.

While we read about the disastrous consequences of these breaches, Equifax being a 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.

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 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 regarding the technology, frameworks and languages that will be used, experts should consider which vulnerabilities might threaten the security of the chosen tools in order to make the appropriate security decisions 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 modelling and architecture risk analysis during this phase will make your development process that much smoother 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 need to also pay attention to any security vulnerabilities in the code.

#5 Testing

The testing phase should include security testing, using automated DevSecOps tools like SAST and DAST to improve application security.

Don’t stop security testing at the deployment and implementation stage. 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.

#6 Maintenance

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. Automated continuous tools that are dedicated specifically to tracking open source usage can alert developers to any open source risks that arise in their code, and even provide actionable solutions.

Shift Left to Ensure a Secure SDLC

Putting the right security practices and tools in place, starting at the earliest stages of your organization’s software development practices and embedded throughout all phases of the development life cycle, will help you to offer your customers secure products and services, while keeping up with the sprints and aggressive deadlines. Testing sooner and testing often is the best way to make sure that your products and SDLC are secure from the get go.

SDLC security should be a top priority nowadays as attacks are directed to the application layer more than ever before and the call for more secure apps for customers strengthens.

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