Exploits for security flaws show how weak software code can actually be at the heart of how your application functions. If your code contains security flaws, your entire app could be vulnerable to cyberattacks.
A quick scan of recent tech headlines reveals how frequently unauthorised users exploit software security flaws.
Apple and Google, two major players in the technology industry, both disclosed flaws in their operating systems. Even Red Hat, an IBM subsidiary that provides open-source software, reported a flaw in its Linux Enterprise edition that is being actively exploited.
The source code is the first line of defence against cybersecurity incidents that may result in the disclosure of sensitive information and other personal data. In this article, we discuss the definition of secure coding, its significance, and the best secure coding practices.
What exactly is Secure Coding? Why Is Secure Coding Necessary?
In computer programming, also known as coding, you create executable programs in a language your computer can understand. Many factors must be considered by a software developer when writing this source code, including:
- Application architecture and design requirements
- Optimization and efficiency of code
- Code safety and security
By adhering to certain best practices and guidelines known as secure coding standards, secure coding makes it easier for developers and programmers to weed out common vulnerabilities in their software.
In order to eliminate frequently exploited software vulnerabilities and stop cyberattacks, secure coding practices must be adopted.Furthermore, optimizing for security from the beginning helps reduce long-term costs that may arise if an exploit results in the leak of sensitive user information.
Despite the importance of secure coding, software vulnerabilities are common. A search of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) vulnerability list reveals 40,569 application vulnerabilities in just the last three years.
In an effort to lessen software vulnerability and make computer programs safer for everyone, let’s go over some of the best secure coding techniques!
How can you code safely?
There is a wealth of information available on best practices for secure coding. For instance, the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has created a set of recommendations to help developers address common software security flaws.
Similarly, SEI’s CERT Secure Coding Standard specifies ten secure coding best practices that programmers can employ to improve application security. From these two sources, we distilled some of the most pertinent practices:
Certainly, here’s a detailed explanation of each aspect of coding securely in the given order:
Validation of data input
There are many different data source and input validation issues covered by this. Most cybersecurity threats come from external data inputs such as cross-site scripting, buffer overflows, and injection attacks.
As a result, it is critical to establish security practices that govern which sources can be trusted and how data from untrustworthy sources can be validated.
Authentication and password administration
Limiting program access to authorized users is an effective method of preventing cyber-attacks and data breaches. The following are some best practices for authentication and password management:
- Using a trusted system to hash passwords
- Password length and complexity requirements must be enforced.
- Keeping authentication credentials on a reliable server
- Using multiple forms of authentication
In order to stop unauthorized users from quickly accessing the targeted system, authentication and access control cooperate. Generally speaking, it is best to use a default-deny strategy, which states that users who are unable to provide proof of authorization should not be allowed access. The code should periodically require re-authorization for continued access for web applications that involve lengthy log-in times.
Keep it simple
Although it may not seem logical, keeping your code clean and simple is a great way to increase its security. This is because code vulnerabilities are more likely to be introduced by complex designs. When writing software, developers should omit any extraneous complexity and only include what is necessary.
Use of cryptography
The aforementioned secure coding guidelines emphasize the significance of putting in place strong cryptographic procedures to shield information from application users. An authorized random number generator should generate all random values generated as part of the cryptographic process to ensure they are unguessable.
Handling and logging errors
Even flawlessly written code is susceptible to mistakes. When a mistake occurs, it is crucial that it is found and corrected right away to minimize its effects.
Effective logging of every event that takes place within the code is essential for the accurate detection of errors. These logs are accessible to developers, who can use them to identify potential errors. But be cautious not to add any private information to the logs or error messages!
Most cyberattacks aim to access sensitive information. So it should come as no surprise that one of the key components of secure coding requirements is data protection. Here are some helpful hints for protecting data effectively:
- Following the principle of least privilege, which states that code should run with the fewest privileges necessary to finish the task
- Removing sensitive data from the server’s temporary or cached copies regularly
- Preventing the client-side storage of passwords and connection strings in clear text or unencrypted fashion.
It’s challenging, if not impossible, to defend yourself from dangers you are unaware of. This justifies the significance of threat modelling. It entails identifying potential threats and then formulating defences to stop or lessen them from happening. To make sure that any new risks are not overlooked, a threat modelling exercise should be conducted frequently.
Not just coding
The majority of code-related vulnerabilities should be eliminated by following the aforementioned recommendations. However, maintaining the security of your code is a continuous process that necessitates ongoing attention. Other components of a comprehensive strategy for writing secure code need to be:
“Least privilege”-based system Injection attacks can be avoided by restricting access to code to those with a need-to-know basis. When working with freelance developers or development firms, this can be particularly challenging.
Layering defensive tactics as the code is promoted to production is known as “defence in depth.” Make sure your code and runtime environments are both secure.
Good quality assurance practices: To guarantee quality, use various assurance programs like code reviews and PEN testing.
Know how to use secure coding with the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). You can make sure that security permeates every stage of the development lifecycle by using an SDLC approach.
Suitable Resources for Secure Coding
Secure coding depends on keeping your software development team informed of new secure coding standards and properly trained. You cannot assume that programmers will automatically produce secure code. Instead, they must be instructed in the various secure coding techniques and made aware of the most widespread security flaws.
The following resources listed below are used by the experts of software development services UK that will assist you and your team in writing secure code. Take a look:
- OWASP Developer Guide: It’s a book that helps programmers avoid mistakes in their computer programs with a tool that spots problems.
- Microsoft’s Secure Coding Bible: A guidebook for building safe software like video games, protecting them from issues and hackers.
- OWASP Security Knowledge Framework: A website that teaches secure coding in different languages, like a quick course in computer safety.
- CheckMarx and CAST Software: Expert code detectives that find weak points in your work, boosting security, especially if you’re not a coding pro.
- RedHat Tutorials: Like self-defence classes for computers, they teach how to guard against attacks and keep data safe, just like locking up your digital space.
Secure Coding for an Advantage
Your code is the cornerstone of security, so creating excellent software requires writing secure code. Insecure coding techniques harm your company’s reputation and put your customers at risk. A good place to start is by putting the principles of the OWASP and SEI CERT secure coding guidelines into practice. You can prevent cyberattacks and give your company a competitive edge by creating software that has been proven to be secure.
Vishnu Narayan is a content writer works at ThinkPalm Technologies. He is a passionate writer, a tech enthusiast, and an avid reader who tries to tour the globe with a heart that longs to see more sunsets than Netflix!