Software vulnerabilities account for at least 30% of the external cyber attacks companies face. Programmers are sometimes even aware of such vulnerabilities but don’t act regardless. With potentially the data of millions of users, your reputation, and your job on the line, you don’t want to be part of this grim statistic.
Follow our list of best practices and take advantage of the numerous tools that aid in secure coding instead.
The single best piece of secure coding advice is to take security seriously from a project’s inception and deal with vulnerabilities as they emerge.
Threat modeling is a crucial first step. It’s a process that lets developers get a bigger picture of an application they’re trying to build during the earliest stages of the development cycle. It assesses the flowing data within the system you’re designing and projects what vulnerabilities this creates. With this information, you can start thinking about the defenses you should build into the program to preempt any attacks.
Threat modeling tools help automate the process and make it compliant with security standards like OWASP.
SAST, or Static Application Security Testing, is a methodology useful for detecting code vulnerabilities before compiling. You can employ it early on to prevent error buildup over time.
Many SAST tools are standalone, while others come as part of IDEs. They can highlight mistakes in real-time. Some offer graphical representations of discovered issues so humans can find and address them easier.
Validating and Sanitizing Inputs
Malicious code injection is one of the most common threats to web application security. Hackers use it to gain access to information inside databases or spread viruses. Input validation and sanitation are complementary practices that minimize this risk.
Validation compares an input against parameters like maximum character count or the presence of symbols like @ in the case of email address fields. Sanitation filters out unauthorized characters, ensuring that inputs can’t contain malicious commands.
Proper Error Handling
Invalid inputs need to generate error messages that alert users to the problem. However, how you phrase them should be as vague as possible while conveying the general nature of the issue.
For example, “wrong username and/or password” gives ordinary users the same info but is more secure than “this username/password doesn’t exist.” The second variant lets hackers know they don’t need to waste their time with specific credentials they might have stolen elsewhere.
Access Control & Permissions
Not everyone in your company or even your team needs access to the code you’re working on. You should set up an access hierarchy based on the principle of least privilege. This ensures only relevant user classes have permission to make changes or view the code. Managing access by building a list of permissions is more efficient than creating new exclusions each time you’re implementing a new feature or testing something.
Leveraging Secure Cloud Storage
Thanks to widespread integration and adoption, developing applications in a cloud-based environment is becoming common. It’s just essential to make sure the encryption they offer is the latest type. Moreover, the software should provide secure file sharing for businesses and individuals.
On the one hand, the source code you store this way benefits from the same redundancy and encryption policies other file types do. You can also set up restrictions and access it from anywhere. On the other, storing code on the cloud lets you streamline version control and documentation creation.
You might want to change how your program behaves during the development stage or add new features eventually. Doing so inside the production environment is unsafe and may result in changes you can’t roll back. Sandboxes are tools that replicate the production environment’s functionality to test new developments in isolation.
Standards & Code Cleanup
You should always write code with clear formatting that follows best practices for the language used. That will make it easier to read and spot inconsistencies. It also minimizes the number of unaddressed security threats. Developers frequently place credentials and other sensitive info inside comments. Then they forget about it. Check that the comments are clean before going public with the code.
Your software might be complete, but the work is far from over. Creating a patching schedule beforehand will let you fix bugs and expand features while minimizing time crunch. Be sure to also set aside time for emergency fixes so you can deploy those first.