When we speak of security, many people think of bomb shelters, razor wire and guards. However, security also involves protecting computer programs from damage or corruption.
Most of the economic, commercial, cultural, social, and governmental activities of countries at all levels take place in cyberspace. Recently, many private companies and government agencies around the world have been confronted with cyberattacks and threats. With highly dependent on electronic technology with an industry where cybercrime is on the rise, it’s important to understand the security risks involved with coding so that you can avoid hackers and keep your data safe.
It is no exaggeration to say that cyber threats disrupt the functioning of life as we know it, but the fact is that most of the cybersecurity problem won’t happen if developers ensure to have proper and secure code.
In that way, creating secure and reliable software that is also high quality is a continual challenge for software developers. To reduce risk and protect user’s data, security needs to be more than just an afterthought in the development process. Software security must encompass trustworthiness, reliability, availability, confidentiality, and auditability.
Developers can use various principles of secure coding and specific security-oriented software development techniques to help with writing code securely. This article focuses on different ways to code securely as well as some common practices to do so more often.
1 – Coding with security in mind
The biggest step towards writing secure code is to think about the security risks and design accordingly. If you already have a secure codebase, it will be much easier to maintain and modify such code. If you work in a team, it’s essential to communicate with your colleagues and make security part of their daily considerations. Security is a process and not a single product.
A secure code is the result of the way you work, the components and libraries you pick, and the features of your chosen programming language. The earlier you start thinking about security and the more it becomes part of your daily routine, the more secure code you will produce.
1.1 – Encrypt everything by default
Many types of data are at risk of being exposed if it’s sent in a raw, unencrypted format. Sensitive data like passwords, API keys, and financial information must be encrypted to avoid unauthorized access and unauthorized changes to the data. To start, use SSL/TLS encryption for connections with remote servers and databases, and add HTTPS to any web services that you create.
When storing data in a database, add a cryptographic hash function and use a cryptographic salt to avoid easy decryption of sensitive data. In this way, even if an attacker gets access to the database, they won’t be able to decrypt the data.
1.2 – Limiting access to the application
You should only use secure communication channels to send data between applications. In some cases, it may make sense to set a rule that limits an application to only be able to access its own server. For example, if you have a dedicated server for your application, you may want to limit the application to only be able to access its own server. Such a rule can be helpful to protect company data from being accessed by an application hosted on the same server. If an application is on a server that is also hosting other applications, an attacker could use a weakness in one of the applications to access data on the other applications.
2 – Secure coding techniques
There are a lot of coding practices and techniques that can help to make your code more secure. Here are some of the top five techniques to create secure-by-design software.
2.1 – Use authentication and authorization
Authentication verifies a user’s identity to make sure that the user is who they say they are before they are allowed access to the application. Hackers can sometimes impersonate others or pose as users to gain access to an application. Make sure that you authenticate users and that you use secure authentication methods. In the other hand, authorization defines what they’re allowed to do and what they can’t do.
2.2 – Limit functionality
Limit what functionality an application has. For example, an application may need to have the ability to transfer money between accounts. However, it shouldn’t have the ability to withdraw money from an account or change the account balance. Limiting functionality can help to reduce the risk of malicious activity.
2.3 – Use secure libraries and frameworks
Frameworks and libraries are pre-written code that can be helpful for developers. However, some aren’t secure. Before using a tool, make sure that it is secure. You can check online to see if a component has a known vulnerability. If you are using a tool that is not secure, you could be putting yourself at risk. If you can’t find a framework or library that has been tested for vulnerabilities, write your own code instead.
2.4 – Secure release
Track changes (check that there are no regressions) by implementing automated tests and make sure to review every code by another developer. You also must have several environments (test, dev, release) to make sure to implement secure, bugless code.
2.5 – Use security testing tools
You can use automation to verify the presence of secure coding practices in your codebase. For example, you can use static analysis software (e.g. CodeClimate, Scrutinizer) or code search tools (e.g. Sonarqube, Pivotal Search) to spot potential issues in your code. You can also use automated security testing tools (e.g. Burp Suite) to test your applications for vulnerabilities.
3 – Conclusion
Modern digital systems are complex, with many moving parts that need to be properly secured to protect against malicious actors. Secure coding solutions and following best practices can help to reduce risk and protect user’s data.
It is important to remember that security is an ever-changing landscape, with new threats and vulnerabilities emerging on a daily basis. It is essential for developers to stay informed about new threats and ways to mitigate risk, as well as to take responsibility for securing their own tools and systems. There are many ways to write secure code, but you can start by making security a top priority from the very beginning of the software development lifecycle.
Write test cases to check for security issues, and review code for potential vulnerabilities with security-minded people. When you’re writing code, always keep security in mind.