When it comes to developing apps, security is the name of the game. Keeping in mind the frequency, intensity, and ramifications of high-profile security breaches in the recent past, it is all but necessary to make application security a part of the software development lifecycle from the very start.
This post covers some of the best practices that can ensure your assets are secure, at least against the threats we know of.
1. OWASP Top 10 is a Good Starting Point
Open Web Application Security Project or OWASP lays down the foundations for developing secure web-based applications. OWASP Top 10 is a list of the most critical and the most widely exploited vulnerabilities that compromise the security of applications.
The target of these vulnerabilities is the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of apps, their developers, and users.
The guidelines from OWASP focus on things like injection attacks, security misconfiguration, session management, and the exposure of sensitive data.
By keeping these top 10 things in mind when developing an application, you can avoid being nominated in the security breach news and make applications that can, at least, put up a fair fight against the most exploited vulnerabilities.
The strange thing about the OWASP Top 10 is that the list remains the same most of the time. It means that even though these vulnerabilities are so commonly exploited, developers still fail to give them the required attention.
2. External Evaluation
Even if your developers implement the OWASP Top 10 in the SDLC and carry on extensive testing of the apps developed by your team, you cannot still be sure about the security status of your assets.
This is because no matter how well your team tries to scan the apps for potential vulnerabilities, they can be the victim of biases and tunnel vision at some point or another.
In addition to that, your team has spent a lot of time in your organization, and all they know is how things are done there.
Having someone from the outside evaluate your apps and other assets for security vulnerabilities can make sure that you’re covered even for the issues that your team was initially unaware of.
As a general principle, having more minds work on a project gives the project more perspectives, and you have more chances of catching a potential vulnerability.
3. Event Logging
Even if you have tested the application in every possible way and have got the suggestions of external evaluators, something will go wrong at some stage.
This might be a bug that nobody thought deserved any attention or a vulnerability that was exploited by someone.
You need to realize that you can’t fight an enemy that you don’t know of. So, in order to make sure that you have adequate knowledge to fight off any bug or vulnerability, it is important to log even the minutest of events.
One thing that must be kept in mind is that you need to store the log data in a way that you can easily scan it and implement the results of the analysis in a swift way.
Also, the log needs to be stored outside the application; otherwise, it would just be like handing the keys of the safe to the robbers.
4. Real-Time Security Monitoring
No account of app security can be complete without talking about classic and web application firewalls (WAFs).
While it is true that WAFs are not a complete solution for app security and that they generate a lot of false positives, they do provide some level of security against common threats.
What you actually need to make your applications invulnerable to attacks is the combined use of run-time application security self-protection (RASP) tools to make sure any threat to the application can be contained before it exploits the application and things spiral out of control.
Encryption is the single most effective thing that makes an application and the server it is running on secure. Never store or transmit any data via your application as plain text. That makes it too convenient for people with ill intentions to compromise the security of your system.
From passwords to sensitive user data and the backend files of the application, everything needs to be stored encrypted, and only the components being used at any given time should be decrypted.
6. Keep the Server Up to Date
The worst thing that any developer can do against the norms of app security is not updating their system.
Vulnerabilities are a part of any code, and they cannot be avoided. However, the moment one is discovered, the people at the back of the server release an update or a patch to make sure that the vulnerability is corrected.
If you are using an outdated system, no matter how many steps you might take to secure your applications, your security is as good as non-existent.
7. Keep Your Software Up to Date
Just like the server, the software you are using, everything from your framework to the libraries and open source components, also have vulnerabilities.
You need to keep these updated too in order for the application to be safe. As soon as a vulnerability is discovered, especially in the open-source components, it becomes a potential threat to your application’s security.
You need to install the patch and update any vulnerabilities as soon as they are released. Failing that puts your application at a huge risk.
8. To Sum Up
Applications are an important part of our lives, and we depend on them for a lot of things. From sensitive financial data to extremely personal media, everything is stored and transferred through applications, and this is what makes app security more important than ever.
For an application to be secure, it is important that you follow the instructions from leading security services like OWASP Top 10 and make security a part of application development from the start rather than making it an afterthought.