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10 Software Security best practices for 2021. 

admin / September 10, 2021

10 software security

With COVID-19 hitting the world so hard, the majority of the professionals have shifted from offices to remote locations since 2020. The increasing cloud adoption has forced IT professionals to manage a huge workforce actively. An initial push was needed to strengthen the cloud landscape to build the workforce as per the new normal. This scrutiny has made software security a matter of concern.

Many people still think that software security isn’t a big deal. However, if we look back to the older times, people had documented whose access rights were assigned to a particular group. However, the adoption of cloud-based technology leverages document access to the third party too. Enforcement of a few ground rules and practices has become mandatory for the software development company to scale the software security.

Let’s clear the room with some insightful statistics.

  • 88% of the organization experienced spear-phishing attempts in 2019 – Proofpoint
  • On average, only 5% of the global companies’ folders are appropriately protected – Varonis 
  • By 2023, the global DDoS attacks are expected to reach 15.4 million – Cisco

Software security isn’t a plug-and-play gadget. Investing in the latest security tool and thinking that the tool will manage everything is not a good security strategy. You need to invest in multiple tools and hire a software developer who has in-depth knowledge of maintaining and upgrading software systems. 

 This blog post focuses on top software security practices one can follow to secure your applications from malicious attacks and breaches and safeguard yourself from them. So, let’s get started and follow the below practices to ensure secure applications.

1. Database Protection from SQL Injection

Most of the security threats come from SQL injection. 

What happens is attackers will insert malicious SQL into a SQL statement. The reason why it is easy for attackers to do so is simple. Finding and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities is a rookie thing if you have free tools such as SQL Map or SQL Ninja. 

Some attackers also can do SQL injection manually, without any automated tools. All they need to do is insert any value into the user name, password, or other text fields and wait to see what happens. 

Once they find out any SQL vulnerability, injecting malicious SQL is as smooth as smooth sailing.  

Thankfully, it is easy to prevent such attacks by security-powered software development. A developer must parameterize SQL statements by clearly defining SQL parts for the command and data separately to the SQL interpreter. You can search Google for how to parameterize queries in different programming languages. 

2. Encoding Data Before Using It 

Unfortunately, SQL injection is not only an injection-type attack when it comes to security. Ask any software developer, and he will inform you about others such as LDAP injection, XML injection, XPath Injection, JavaScript injection, and others. 

It would be best to protect your software from all these attacks, and the measure is simple. If separating data from code is too much to ask for, ask the software development company to make your data safe before you hand it off to an external interpreter. The best external interpreters are an XML parser, a browser, or an OS command shell. 

An expert developer will output encode/escape data first and then hand it over to the interpreter. It will be challenging for the interpreter to recognize executable statements in the data then. 

The process looks so simple. But the main thing to understand is that each interpreter has a different set of encoding and escaping rules. The one-size-fits-all concept does not work here. 

Ask the developer to apply the encoding rules accurately and not to encode data more than once. 

It is tricky when it comes to browsers. Different browsers will force you to understand how and when to encode data in other contexts such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

However, some fantastic tools are available to help you out, such as Java Encoder, Anti-XSS Library, and others. 

3. Validating Input Data before Using or Storing 

One blunder that makes your software security vulnerable is not validating input data from third parties and remote clients.

Whether a file, parameter, HTTP header, or cookies, validate before using or storing it. Some companies trust their client-side story that the data is safe. Don’t rely on such checking. Validate on the server. 

Furthermore, ensure that you use positive, whitelist validation rules as and when possible. You can use libraries such as Apache Commons Validator to check and validate data in a proper manner. This library checks data types such as dates, currencies, IP addresses, and others. 

Also, other tools are available, such as Fuzzers and Static Analysis Taint Checking tools, that help you validate your input data. 

Don’t use or store data before validating it. It is a golden rule. Stick to it. 

4. Access Control- Deny by Default 

During software development, you need to determine the access control. Ensure that you follow strict rules when it comes to access control. Carefully define how much access to give to stakeholders. Have a clear understanding of which data and features to protect from access. 

How to achieve access control measures?

Use a central, server-side management library to employ access control rules. 

Avoid employing these rules throughout the business logic, or you will end up confusing the whole system. 4

Also, you will be in a situation to audit and update the rules quickly. You can use a software security library such as Apache Shiro to use the access control features of the application network. 

When it comes to making access control decisions, only go for server-side, pre-validated, trusted data. 

Ensure that you keep the access control function deny by default. Only give access to any stakeholder once he is authorized. 

5. Establishing Identity Upfront 

When you hire software developer, ask him whether he is well-versed with building a highly robust authentication and session management scheme or not. 

Only an expert developer will develop such a scheme without making any mistakes as it is challenging. Broken authentication and session management is a severe software security threat. 

Use a library such as Apache Shiro to ensure that you offer superior and robust authentication and secure session management functions. 

One thing that you can do is introduce multi-factor authentication. If it is not possible, ensure to keep passwords lengthy and complex. If you allow emails as user IDs, ensure that they are safe. 

Also, be careful when it comes to password recovery functions. Ensure that you design a secure recovery function with user security questions, if possible. 

6. Protecting Data and Privacy

This practice falls in the access control thing that we have already discussed earlier. However, it is also about auditing and encryption. Ensure that you encrypt data in transit, when it is at rest, and during processing. 

You can use SSL/TLS to encrypt data in transit, especially for web and mobile applications. It is an effortless thing to do. Ensure that it is set up and used accurately and correctly. 

Ensure that you forget to encrypt data as it is very crucial. Furthermore, avoid rolling your encryption algorithm or mishandling different keys or setup steps while encrypting data. 

Ensure that you are not storing sensitive data unencrypted in temporary files and logs. It might cost you a lot.

7. Logging and Intrusion Detection 

There are many ways logging helps, apart from troubleshooting and debugging. You can do activity auditing, intrusion detection, and forensics. Hence, it is very important to consider all these activities while designing your logging strategy. 

Experts highly recommend logging everything every time. Some logging details are log timestamps, User ID, IP address, address information, event details, and other crucial data. 

You can use a prevalent and superior logging framework such as SLF4J. Ensure that you apply a common logging approach throughout the software and across all systems. 

Also, ask the software development company to review code to ensure correct logging practices. Ask the QA analyst to test the logging code to ensure that it functions to its full potential. 

8. Don’t Roll Security Code Of Your Own 

Using tools for software development is a common trait among companies worldwide. Developers use security libraries, frameworks such as Spring Security, Ruby on Rails, AngularJS, and others with built-in security features. 

However, these frameworks and libraries can sometimes expose your software to security vulnerabilities, especially when you don’t keep them up-to-date. 

9. Handling errors and exceptions

Your software product might become a victim of different security vulnerabilities when you make mistakes in error and exception handling. 

For example, you might leak some information that attackers might use to enter your system. A typical example is a detailed error message that discloses too much information about your architecture. Avoid such silly mistakes. 

If you fail to notice such errors and don’t handle them appropriately, it might lead to security threats from attackers. It also might crash your whole system. Hence, error handling is a crucial thing to consider. 

10. Building Security Testing into Development 

You need to design the software development process so that security checks are done at each process step. Automated testing might help you to achieve this goal. Ensure that you add security checks in code reviews too. 

Having an excellent automated testing unit and integration test coverage for all types of security features and controls is the need of the hour. 

Conclusion 

With time, cybercriminals are becoming smart and are coming up with new, advanced strategies to attack your system. 

Incorporating new security measures into your product and strengthening your security protocols during the software development process is crucial. 

Take these top 10 software security practices into account while developing your software product to ensure that you build a robust, highly secure, and superior product. 


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