Best Application Security Practices

Best Application Security Practices

As the software development timeline shrinks, developers face pressure to release the latest features rapidly. They rely on third-party libraries, especially open-source components, to achieve the desired functionalities. The increase in open-source components has required organizations to strengthen their security practices.

Moreover, adding new frameworks like APIs and containers adds to application security challenges. One of the best ways businesses can secure their application is by combining best security practices into their developmental lifecycle.

Here are the best application security practices businesses must know.

Employ a DevSecApproach and Implement an SSDLC Management System

DevSecOps, or the shift-left approach, efficiently detects security loopholes to prevent security issues and addresses them rapidly. The method allows businesses to track security issues at every stage of the software supply chain, from design to implementation.

At the same time, a secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) management process overviews the product’s security lifecycle.

SSDLC ensures that only security-trained employees develop and maintain the product lifecycle. It also checks the alignment of the product development lifecycle with software security practices.

Automate Simple Security Tasks and Patch Regularly

It is challenging for businesses to mitigate vulnerabilities with manual approaches. Therefore, companies must employ automation to help them address simple tasks and allow teams to prioritize more challenging tasks.

Installing patches and software updates is an effective way to keep the software secure. Installations require businesses to design the appropriate architecture carefully to prevent API compatibility issues when upgrading to new versions. Hence, companies need to plan efficiently before a new update.

At the same time, when assessing CVE lists, it is easy for businesses to notice some recurring vulnerabilities like buffer overflow, SQL injection, or cross-site scripting (XSS). Companies must determine the root causes of these vulnerabilities to patch them permanently rather than a partial patch.

Integrate Automation and Vulnerability Management

Businesses must set up robust vulnerability management operations. It allows them to monitor and track the vulnerabilities early. They require automated tools to manage the overwhelming testing process. Static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) for testing the proprietary code during development can detect potential vulnerabilities.

As per a recent report by Synopsys, “2023 Open Source Security And Risk Analysis Report“, 96% of scanned codebases contained open source. It means securing open-source components must be the top priority on the application security checklist.

Software composition analysis tools (SCA) enable businesses to run an automated security check throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC). It also allows them to determine open-source components in their environment and detect the vulnerable ones that might affect the applications. Businesses can better manage the vulnerabilities by shifting their automated testing left for open-source security issues.

Penetration Testing (Pentesting)

While automated testing addresses security issues, there might be some potential gaps that have bypassed the automation testing. It is worth employing an experienced pentester to test the application to minimize the potential gaps.

The ethical hacker attempts to break into the application to detect vulnerabilities and find potential attack vectors. The pentester must be an external expert not involved in the project. Companies can hire professional hacking firms or freelancers to find vulnerabilities.

Enable Data Encryption and Access to Log Data

Encryption of data at rest and in transit is critical. Storing sensitive user data such as IDs and passwords in plain text can lead to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. Therefore, businesses must ensure that they are using robust encryption algorithms.

Access to log data from business operations is essential for any incident response plan. The interpretation of such data might be relevant for subsequent investigations.

Ensure Accurate Input Validation and Container Management

All input data must be syntactically and semantically correct. Businesses must validate the data for length, including the expected number of characters and digits.

Moreover, businesses must ensure that they have container images signed with a digital signature. It is vital to run automatic scans to detect open-source vulnerabilities and secure the container’s use throughout the standard integration pipeline.

Assess the Assets and Risks

Visibility allows businesses to gain crucial data about the security posture. Businesses must know which assets comprise the applications and software production infrastructure to assess the assets efficiently.

During risk assessments, businesses must create a list of assets that require protection. At the same time, they must set strategies to determine the threats, isolate and contain them. They must identify attack vectors that might affect the application and deploy proper security measures to detect and prevent attacks.

Prioritize the Remediation Operations

Businesses must prioritize the components they need to remediate to secure their applications. The operation requires a threat assessment as per the severity of a vulnerability (CVSS rating) and how impactful the threat is that can hinder applications running across the business.

Regarding open-source vulnerabilities, businesses must know whether the proprietary code uses the vulnerable functionality in the open-source component. When the vulnerable component’s functionality does not receive calls from the product, it is highly ineffective irrespective of CVSS’ criticality. An intelligent strategy allows businesses to automatically prioritize the most pressing threats leaving the low-risk ones for later.

Also Read: Everything Businesses Need to Know About DevSecOps

Manage the Containers

Containers are flexible for businesses to build, test and deploy across various environments throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Containers have a security advantage. They have a self-contained OS environment segmented by design which reduces the risks to other applications.

However, containers face exploits like a breakout attacks in which they do not remain siloed while the code stored within the container might be vulnerable. Businesses must run automated scans for proprietary and open-source vulnerabilities to ensure the security of container usage throughout the CI/CD pipeline.

Retire Applications

Businesses might have legacy applications that are underutilized or unutilized. Retaining such apps is dangerous since even a minor mishap can help hackers access the database. Therefore, businesses must plan to retire the old applications.

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