In the modern era, security is of paramount importance when it comes to developing websites, apps, and software.
Try to visualize that you are moving into a new house. The onus of ensuring the highest safety standards of construction lies on the builder. If you saw a cracked foundation and no doors, then you will hold the builder accountable.
Developers need to follow secure coding standards to prevent vulnerabilities in the code and make it difficult for hackers to access sensitive data, install ransomware, and wreak havoc with cyber threats.
What are secure coding standards and practices?
Coding practices, decisions, and techniques used by developers during the software, app, and website development life cycle are known as secure coding standards. Their primary goal is to ensure that developers write and use code that helps protect both the owner of the software as well as its users by minimizing security vulnerabilities.
So there is always a scenario whether to go for speedy development which decreases time-to-market or to go for secure coding practices. Business owners are aware of this gamble and know how data breaches and cyberattacks happen due to less secure codes.
Secure coding guidelines
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has produced a set of guidelines or “best practices” for secure coding in the modern world in response to the enormous amount of cyberattacks and new developing methods for such attacks. These guidelines help developers keep the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) as secure as possible and keep threats at bay once they move into production.
Top practices for secure coding:
Password Management - Passwords are something that hackers can always play with and serve as a weak access point. A weak password takes a very short time to crack compared to a strong password but a strong password can still be cracked. Companies have realized this fact in the last few years and thus are engaging in multifactor or two-factor authentication.
Companies must ensure that developers use the best practices for choosing passwords in terms of complexity and adequate length in order to withstand cyberattacks. This means choosing the most secure passwords for use in their products, disabling password entry after multiple incorrect attempts, and never storing plain-text passwords.
Security by Design - The "security by design" approach makes security the top priority during the development of code. Companies who choose other priorities such as optimizing for development speed instead of security, often pay for it later on due to data breaches.
Security by design approach reduces the future cost of technical debt while also mitigating risks before they happen. Throughout SDLC, developers should perform source code analysis and implement security automation wherever possible.
Access Control – Through the denial of sensitive data, we can avoid future data leaks. This access control mechanism includes restricting access to sensitive data to only those who truly need it and even limiting their privileges. Also, developers shouldn’t consider hierarchy in dictating data access as managers often have the least technical training but the most access, which is dangerous.
Validate Data Input – Developers must ensure that their forms collect only the accepted data formats in the form fields and validate all input fields for length, range, character sets, expected data types, and character encoding.
Prevention of blacklisted characters such as parentheses and special characters helps prevent hackers from finding a way into the data.
Developers can handle this in different ways. This includes encoding data to ensure proper handling of special characters, using regular expressions to ensure that data uses the expected character, and parameterizing database queries to avoid theft, wiping, or modifying it.
System Configuration, Patching, and Vulnerability Management – While this aspect is not exactly a “development” aspect of software and app development, every team member of the development team should clear their systems of any unnecessary components.
They should also take time to update their tools, software, and platforms with the latest versions and patches. Outdated software is more vulnerable for hackers to get inside.
On the other hand, development teams should also release patches and versions for the software they develop. This helps protect the integrity and reputation of the business and also the end users’ private data. Secure coding practices involve creating and releasing regular updates.
The above may not be a complete list of secure coding best practices, but they are important for companies to keep falling prey to hackers and cyber threats. Adherence to them in addition to the full list of OWASP recommendations, helps development teams have the right tools for protecting their code, end users’ information, and their company.