Implementing Secure Software Development Lifecycle for App Security
Companies strive to create a smooth software development, release, and maintenance process. However, ensuring the protection of software, user data, and company information from cyberattacks requires additional precautions.
Now, let’s delve into the details of these measures and the necessary process adjustments to implement a Secure Software Development Lifecycle (Secure SDLC).
In recent years, numerous companies across sectors like retail, media, healthcare, automotive, finance, aviation, and real estate have faced security incidents and data breaches. Apps vulnerabilities and environmental configuration issues contribute significantly to the success of cyberattacks. Given this surge in cyber incidents, companies need to reevaluate their software development and maintenance processes to fortify their software against potential attacks.
Is Penetration Testing Sufficient for Ensuring Software System Security?
Pentesting is a crucial aspect of securing software. It involves authorized assessments to identify security gaps using methods employed by real-world attackers. The findings help create a report with recommendations for additional security measures, ensuring network and data integrity.
In a nutshell, the whole pentesting process includes analyzing threats, setting goals, gathering information, vulnerability analysis, exploitation, post-exploitation, and result analysis. A final report provides findings and recommendations for mitigating vulnerabilities and safeguarding your system.
While pentesting has gained popularity due to its ability to uncover system vulnerabilities, prioritize threats, and provide valuable recommendations for mitigation, it also has some drawbacks to consider.
Penetration testing alone does not ensure app security: It is merely the initial step in the process. Implementing the provided recommendations is crucial. Conducting penetration testing just before the app release may lead to time constraints in addressing discovered issues, especially if they necessitate significant system changes.
High Costs: Pentesting incurs high costs for both the testing itself and fixing identified issues. Skilled pen testers capable of thoroughly assessing and exploiting even minor vulnerabilities are scarce. Whether you hire specialists or outsource to external providers, expenses remain significant. Moreover, fixing the identified issues often demands extensive changes, even at the architectural level, resulting in substantial costs if discovered late in the development lifecycle.
Continuous security maintenance is a challenge with penetration testing. It identifies current vulnerabilities but cannot guarantee their absence in future releases. Conducting pentests before each release is costly, so additional security activities are necessary to proactively find and prevent vulnerabilities before the test.
Pentesting is essential but not a complete solution. To identify and address vulnerabilities at earlier stages and lower costs, integrate security throughout the software development lifecycle. While pentesting provides valuable unique insights, it should follow prior security measures and basic vulnerability assessments. We recommend conducting tests for companies using secure SDLC before major releases or annually to verify application security for confident organizations.
Understanding Secure SDLC: Importance and Significance
Secure Development Lifecycle integrates security practices into the software development process. This approach ensures heightened software security throughout the entire lifecycle. Benefits include improved security focus, awareness among stakeholders, early issue detection, cost reduction, and minimized internal business risks.
Secure SDLC frameworks like ISO 27034, BSIMM, and OWASP SAMM enhance security practices in software development. At Sigma Software, we prefer OWASP SAMM due to its open nature, community support, technology/process/organization agnosticism, and clear pathways for maturity improvement. It is flexible, supports all methodologies, and can be tailored to specific project needs. Whether a startup or enterprise, SAMM can be seamlessly implemented to fit your requirements.
More about OWASP SAMM
OWASP SDLC is based on 15 core security practices grouped into 5 business functions covering all the major aspects of the software development lifecycle (Governance, Design, Implementation, Verification, and Operations) as shown in Figure 1.
Security practices involve two parallel streams of activities, harmonizing and complementing each other. The maturity levels (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3) determine the complexity and formality of activities. Start with assessing your current maturity level using tools like Toolbox spreadsheet or SAMM 2.0 calculator. Choose focus areas based on business needs and implement activities in stages. Prioritize coverage over level, gradually increasing maturity. Regular assessments ensure progress aligns with evolving business goals and priorities.
Pentest in OWASP SAMM: Strengthening Security Testing
As you can see in Figure 1, Penetration testing (Deep Understanding stream) is an important part of secure SDLC, but still only one activity inside the Security Testing practice that should also be appended by the “Scalable baseline” stream, which uses automated tools to find vulnerabilities before penetration testing.
Various tools exist for vulnerability discovery in applications and source code, including Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools. SAST identifies vulnerabilities during code creation or repository commits, while SCA detects disclosed vulnerabilities in project dependencies. Dynamic testing tools and hybrid approaches are also available, each with different efficiency and cost. However, automated tools often yield false-positive findings.
Embedding Security Throughout the SDLC
Implementing any Secure SDLC framework throughout your software development and operations cycle is no small task. If you do not feel ready for a full switch to Secure SDLC, we still advise you to at least pay attention to the following aspects:
- Security Training for Development Teams: Provide education and guidance to your developers on common vulnerabilities and mitigation techniques to minimize security issues during development.
- Threat Modeling: Adopt a risk-based approach to design secure systems, identifying and managing threats, architectural flaws, and recommended security controls. Regular threat modelling ensures secure implementation.
- Security Requirements: Prioritize security requirements to address software security concerns. Consider adopting requirements from OWASP Application Security Verification Standard or Mobile ASVS for mobile apps. Note: Implementing a complete Secure SDLC framework requires significant effort, but focusing on these aspects can enhance your security posture even if a full switch is not feasible.
It is important to remember that security-related activities should not end after the completion of the development phase – security should also be an inevitable part of the operation phase. At this point, we advise you to pay attention to things like Environment Hardening – you can use vendor-specific guidelines or CIS and STIG benchmarks. You will need to set up the process and select the appropriate tool for Security Incident and Event Management. With the growth and development of your business, we recommend gradually increasing the maturity levels of your security practices or even starting to build your Security Operation Center on your own or with companies that provide SOC-as-a-Service.
Moving to a more secure future
Implementing security in SDLC streamlines development by addressing security issues at their root causes. For assistance with secure SDLC implementation or penetration testing, contact us today for our Cybersecurity consulting services. Our expert teams will advise on the best models and help ensure the security of your product.