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Adopting Secure SDLC & Other Security Best Practices

Raihan Islam

Manager, Cybersecurity Solutions Innovation

Dmytro Popov

Project Coordinator, Cybersecurity Solutions Innovation
Blog
  • Cybersecurity
  • Software & Hi-Tech

Security breaches are becoming increasingly prevalent. Many organizations are struggling to understand the risks and vulnerabilities that exist within their development cycles, digital tools and ecosystems. This has led a wider recognition of the importance of investing in cybersecurity and increased spending on cybersecurity solutions. Businesses, especially during digital and agile transformations, now invest in the sustainability of their products, services and operations when they integrate security into the software development lifecycle (SDLC), network and operational processes.

Mitigating Cybersecurity Risks

It can take organizations months to discover a security breach in their system, due to long periods between the security baseline assessments which often occur annually, if not more frequently. Businesses’ mitigation plans, if not updated continuously, would be based on vulnerabilities found long ago. The lack of continuous risk monitoring makes it difficult to identify the risks that could seriously affect the security of the applications and infrastructure of their businesses.

Therefore, the best way to analyze the impact of existing vulnerabilities and identify where updates are needed is by implementing security practices prior to a release.

Some common activities that should be included:

  • threat modeling
  • secure code review
  • vulnerability assessment
  • penetration testing

These might require additional budget to orchestrate, but there’s immense value in the results. Identifying and managing cybersecurity vulnerabilities earlier in the SDLC will save money in the long run, as opposed to the upfront cost of trying to remediate all findings after a release.

The Shift-Left Approach

It’s unrealistic to think that a system has not become vulnerable since the last security assessment. Even if releases occur every six months, the security risks tied to that system may increase if an in-depth assessment is not conducted during that time frame. It may not be enough to apply the traditional process of engaging security experts right after the completion of application development or infrastructure configuration.

By shifting security left, or earlier in the development/configuration lifecycle, implementation teams can more confidently integrate the procedures necessary to prepare for secure release. Applying this shift-left approach ensures that security compliance is considered at the earliest stage. Identifying security issues in advance means gaining the insight needed to properly mitigate risks and prevent problems from arising in the future.

Agile Security vs Annual Security Assessment

Many businesses could be targeted for cyberattacks, and as a result want to hire more security experts to increase their protection. This is a good approach in theory but expanding an existing security program requires buy-in from multiple leadership executives, and it can strain a company’s budget. Additionally, annual security assessments can be time-consuming and inefficient. Because an annual assessment aims to identify security risks and issues, it requires significant expert resources mobilized at one time. The overall time needed to complete the assessment could be even greater because the professionals conducting the assessment would likely not have historical knowledge about the security of the system, aside from the material covered in the previous year’s assessment.

By switching to an agile security approach, security risks can be covered with optimized time, resource capacity and other expenses to cover all security risks according to best practice. Businesses that have not adopted an agile security approach can speak with their trusted security advisor to see how they can implement secure SDLC, and other security best practices.

Here are some steps businesses should consider when switching to an agile security approach:

  • Assign someone from the engineering team to the Security Champion role. This person can act as a liaison between the security team and other areas of the organization. Security Champions detect and mark vulnerabilities before they become problematic.
  • Review how often production releases are deployed and ensure that your application is reviewed and tested by security specialists before each release. This approach minimizes the risk against emerging threats.
  • Add extra security testing automation into your CI/CD pipelines. This helps to simplify manual security testing activities as the tester can validate vulnerabilities discovered through automation.
  • Use tools to coordinate security activities and manage vulnerabilities. An agile delivery model requires proactive engagement and visibility of the work being done, so security should also apply the same principles.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to security and implementing secure SDLC practices requires a lot of effort and time. However, building secure SDLC practices into your development life cycle allows your team to regularly check applications and identify issues as they arise. It’s comparable to a doctor examining an at-risk patient’s health every month, not once a year, to maintain a preventative approach to disease by catching it at an early stage.

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