Integrate security testing into your dev process now or else face cyber-attacks later
The way we develop software has been radically transformed in the last few years. Agility and speed are vital components for any company that wants to compete in the market. In order to achieve that it has proven necessary to break down barriers. The idea of separate silos with developers, operations, testers, and management working in isolation, sometimes even in opposition, is dated and flawed.
We’ve accepted the logic of bringing development and operations together with the DevOps movement. The recognition that testing is required earlier in the process has come. Now it’s time to apply the same logic to security. It’s time to bring InfoSec into the fold.
The security threat
Trends like cloud computing, big data, SaaS, and the BYOD end of the mobile revolution have created new opportunities for increased efficiency and productivity, but they also represent unique challenges for security. Sensitive data, financial information, and intellectual property are all exposed to risk when security is a secondary concern.
The issues that splashed back from the waterfall model for testing apply to security as well. Only passing applications through the QA process at the end of production, when time pressures to release were the greatest and it was too late to make significant changes, resulted in fixes being more expensive and software quality suffered.
If we don’t integrate security testing into the development process and make it part of the software development lifecycle now, then we run the risk of encountering exactly the same problem. We waste time retro-fitting functionality that should have been there in the first place, and we all know the pain of securing a hybrid system with legacy software that wasn’t designed with modern security threats in mind.
How to address security in software development
Automation for testing has enabled developers to move towards a continuous delivery system where new features can be rolled into live software as they are created. How do we ensure that security is maintained?
- Secure programming education is required to make sure developers are limiting and testing inputs, storing minimum data and encrypting, compartmentalizing the system, questioning requirements that may introduce security risks for little gain, limiting privileges, and analyzing and auditing the code.
- IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing) allows you to combine elements of static and dynamic techniques to run automated tests continuously on the software under development and see how it copes with malicious traffic. Since IAST monitors data inside the application it can pinpoint issues that might arise from real-world attacks, enable a useful assessment of the impact, and make it easier to remediate.
- Security analysts are needed to properly configure your tools and interpret the results. You can buy the best security tools in the world, but you have to know how to leverage them and act on the data. An external analysis can provide real insights that will boost application security.
- OWASP (The Open Web Application Security Project) is a great community where you can find innovative solutions to modern software security challenges. It can help you understand secure development standards and it’s packed with invaluable resources and advice from experts around the globe.
Bringing InfoSec on-board from the outset will help you build security considerations like this into your development pipeline. It will save time and money in the long term.
Ongoing research and modelling
It’s important to model potential threats and test for them, but you must be aware that new threats evolve and emerge all the time. Dedicated InfoSec employees will continually research and explore the new trends and risks in the security industry. Opening a direct line between DevOps and InfoSec enables them to pass along that wisdom and fold it into the mix when it’s relatively cheap and easy to do.
The security testing in your development pipeline is no more static than any other element. It has to be continually reviewed and modernized to ensure it continues to deliver results. Continuous real-time monitoring will deliver the oversight you need.
Building for the future
There’s no question that cyber-attacks will come, but if you prepare properly you can detect and nullify them with minimal effort. When considering the investment now, you must factor in the cost of lost confidence, post-mortem forensic investigation, and significant redevelopment to close any gaps in your defenses in the event of a future breach.
Once you have built solid foundations for security in your application development they will benefit every project going forward. Taking a long term view makes financial sense and results in better quality software.
About the Author
Michelle Drolet is founder of Towerwall, a data security services provider in Framingham, MA with clients such as Smith & Wesson, Middlesex Savings Bank, Brown University and SMBs. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.