IT security is like a coconut- hard on the outside and soft on the inside. This means the security approach focuses on hardening the data center’s perimeter for preventing intrusion by external sources while making access by employees benign- not requiring any specific protective measures. Applications are becoming more complex, and the timeline for software development is shrinking, putting constant pressure on developers to release new features. This makes developers rely more on third-party libraries, including open source components, to achieve compelling and differentiated application functionality. The rise in open source components requires organizations to adjust their security practices. New frameworks such as APIs and containers add to the complexity of application security. The pressure of releasing new features as soon as possible poses a risk to the organization of not keeping up with protection. One way of securing the software is by adopting best practices of application security and their integration in the organization’s software development life cycle. This article covers some of the best application security practices adopted by a Certified Information Security Executive worldwide.
Table of Contents
- Application Security Issues
- Recommendations for better application security
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Application Security Issues
Most applications come from outside the company’s perimeter with a user mix of customers, partners, and employees. Some IT organizations believe that using VPN makes applications more secure, but it is not true as VPNs typically offer direct access to applicants by bypassing many perimeter protections. A multitude of devices facilitates this access. Also, several different tools are used by individuals to access applications depending on the location of use. The incredible IoT explosion implies that many users will be accessing applications with no ability to present password authentication. Another issue with the traditional security approach is that it assumes a static application topology and computing environment. Earlier applications ran on virtual or physical servers that were connected and configured in unchanging arrangements. Development groups used to engage the IT security teams to audit the application and recommended security measures before deployment. Post-implementation, actions can be assumed as ongoing and consistent.
Another issue is that the move to public applications and cloud computing that experience highly erratic traffic patterns imply that the static security approach is broken. Public cloud environments are defined to prevent individual users from perimeter security measures installation. Whatever security is required by the user to implement must be associated with application-level resources. But public cloud infrastructure can fail because of hardware outage experienced by disks or servers, which means that infrastructure consistency assumptions are no longer tenable. Next-generation applications’ erratic traffic patterns suggest the resources are continually being removed and added to the application topology. The set-and-forget security approach is not fit for the dynamic topology world. The present application requires frequent code changes for deploying new functions. The regular update of six to twelve months is moving to daily deployments. A security approach with manual configuration and installation represents a roadblock in accelerated life cycle environment applications.
Recommendations for better application security
Here are some recommendations for application-focused security put forward by cyber security experts:
Consider infrastructure to be insecure and unknown
As cloud providers are commonly opaque about their security practices, enterprises’ standard position is to assume that their applications must implement sufficient measures to suffice for overall security. This approach can be taken up by on-premises environments also. Corporate security measures can be inadequate, so implementation of application-level measures is essential. Generally, it is unknown where the application will be deployed, so it is good to implement security measures that do not assume security capabilities.
Train developers to write secure code
Another way of boosting application security at the coding stage is to use pre-existing libraries that securely implement tasks. The code templates supplied tell the model how to access the database and build web pages that avoid cross-site scripting errors. When writing an application, developers have a broad latitude to do all sorts of things, and secure coding libraries help keep things in check. Providing libraries can also help ease the relationships between a software developer and cyber security professional.
This is a must on every list of application security practices. Encryption of data is a must. Failure to properly lock down traffic can lead to sensitive data exposure through various intrusion and man-in-the-middle attacks. For example, storing the IDs and passwords in plain text puts the customers at risk. The essential checklist encryption should include using SSL with an up to date certificate. Also, HTTPS has become a standard, and hashing is also considered acceptable. Don’t roll your crypto, instead work with security products with dedicated teams and the right experience.
Cloud-based security products
One of the biggest challenges to acceptable IT security practices is the lack of budget to purchase appropriate products and staff to use them. Using SaaS-based security offerings provides benefits such as no need for large capital investment to pay up-front license fees. IT staff is not necessitated to configure and install products. Instead, the team can focus on use and configuration. Low budget cloud-based services mean security budgets can go a long way.
Test for general resiliency like can apps recover when the connection is disrupted or when the cloud goes down, and a batch job fails. Things will go wrong; testing will ensure that the system can recover.
Ideally, everything on the list of best application security practices should be a part of an organization’s ongoing development process. The given list has the bare minimum steps that minimize the company’s data and applications’ risk. Staying ahead of hackers is essential to avoid common mistakes and make yourself a more challenging target than others. While no application security measures or perimeter is fully hack-proof, following the basic best practices can go a long way in making the application not worth the hassle for workers, thereby keeping the data safe for another day. To learn more about this, check out the penetration testing course for beginners and cyber security analyst certification.