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In this era of digital transformation and continual change, building secure, high-quality software is more challenging than ever. The technological world is constantly evolving, and with it, so do threats. The methods your company uses to protect itself may already be outdated and need to be replaced by more advanced approaches, strategies, and technologies. 

Secure measures in the software development life cycle help businesses harden the system and protect it from threats.

Secure practices in software development life cycle

Different projects require different levels of security and must comply with the industry-specific requirements or country regulations in the areas you operate in. It’s essential to incorporate required practices in the very beginning. Without a clear understanding of exactly what level of security your project requires, metrics, and constant refinement of cybersecurity practices applied to your project, external attacks can compromise the safety of the entire system.

In this article, we will discuss how to secure the software development process and ensure that the end product will be ready to ward off any attacks.

What is the Secure Software Development Process?

The secure software development process is a collection of best practices based on proven secure software development documents from industry-leading organizations such as OWASP or SAFECode. Also called the secure software development lifecycle (SSDLC), focused on supplementing security to the standard SDLC and ensuring that the end-product is protected.

How Secure SDLC benefits your business: 

  • Detects flaws at the planning stage or early in the development process, before they’re coded into existence, reducing business risk
  • Saves costs by preventing or detecting and fixing problems early in the life cycle
  • Embeds security as an ongoing process
  • Brings together all stakeholders to ensure that the software application is secure

The secure software development process allows protecting the software from unauthorized access and ensures the required level of compliance. Moreover, constant monitoring for vulnerabilities leads to better software quality and mitigates business risk. 

Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC)—NIX’s Approach

We recommend implementing security practices from the beginning of the software development life cycle, thus optimizing the cost of further system changes for security requirements and creating a high-quality, secure product. 

Secure practices in software development life cycle

Stage 1: Strategy

During the first stage of the SSDLC, we define risks, standards, and requirements distinctive to specific business domains and countries depending on the business industry and future use cases. It’s essential to include both technical and regulatory requirements to quickly identify and fix potentially non-compliant areas of your project.

This comprises both standard cybersecurity rules and practices and specified policies such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and CCPA. The team then selects the best-suited SSDLC methodology and drafts a plan for all stages of secure software development.

Such early implementation of proven security practices ensures that the engineering team will address security issues before they become an issue.

Stage 2: Design

During the design stage of the SSDLC, our experts perform threat assessments and build the app risk models for software. Based on the security requirements defined, engineers build the architecture of future software. 

NIX United engineers create solutions based on vast experience working with a variety of projects, from large enterprise systems to simple applications, and always take into account the specifics of each type of solution in every domain.

Stage 3: Development

Our experts strictly follow guidelines and requirements for secure development such as the OWASP security development and testing guide and ASVS. We use the latest version of the libraries and frameworks, and also monitor this software for the potential of cybersecurity risks. We use static application security testing (SAST), which allows experts to detect problems during the software development phase. This provides immediate feedback to the developer on issues they might be introducing into the code during code development.

Secure practices in software development life cycle

If necessary, we provide additional security hardening to comply with the business domain specificity and policies.

Stage 4: Testing

We provide holistic testing to ensure the secure and efficient functioning of the software. Our internal, top-notch security team implements dynamic application security testing (DAST) in projects using security scanners such as OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) and Burp Suite Pro, among others. This allows exposing vulnerabilities by simulating hacker attacks at runtime and pinpointing configuration errors that impact security.

On top of that, our team conducts security testing according to OWASP methodology and periodic penetration tests to simulate cyber attacks against software and all related elements to check for exploitable vulnerabilities.

Secure practices in software development life cycle

Stage 5: Deployment & Maintenance

At the final stage of the SSDLC, we deploy the software to production, set up secure configurations, and provide post-production activities that prevent and stop potential threats. The team also implements firewalls and other solutions that monitor traffic and send notifications about any deviations.

No less critical is third-party software tracking—vulnerabilities in third-party elements can weaken the whole system. It’s essential to monitor their security and fix vulnerable spots when necessary—systematic analyses of third-party software help spot areas threatened by compromised components and fill in the gaps.

In some cases, the team creates an incident response plan that explicitly describes your incident team’s steps to address any security breaches. Prompt execution of the response plan is vital to addressing security breaches.

Cybersecurity is always a dynamic field and its systems must continually evolve to be able to solve potential threats. NIX engineers provide such analyses that estimate if the current security level is sufficient for the software. Our engineers always provide ways to improve the security level and ensure architecture scalability, keeping in mind further project evolution by working out the architecture.

Secure Software Development Methodologies

Based on our security team’s experience, we can assuredly say that using any model is much better than not using any model at all. Either of these secure SDLC approaches will allow you to understand the current situation in the project and build a long-term strategy that will help you level up the security in all areas of your organization, thus making your product more mature. 

Building Security in Maturity Model (BSIMM)

BSIMM is a security model that measures software security and maturity, comprising 12 practices organized into four domains such as governance, intelligence, SSDL touchpoints, and deployment.

It provides an objective view of your current software security initiative (SSI), gives you insight into how your SSI matches the SSIs of other BSIMM members in your industry and shows year-over-year progress.

Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle

Microsoft software development lifecycle firstly was designed as a set of internal methods for Microsoft’s own product protection. 

Later, the company shared these practices with the world as a product. Microsoft SDL is an authoritative methodology that provides time-proven best practices and tips to companies on how to achieve better software security.

Microsoft SDL is constantly being tested on various company’s software and is regularly updated to respond to ever-evolving security risks, covering most aspects of security.

OWASP Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM)

At NIX United, we adhere more to OWASP SAMM because it’s an authoritative model that’s fully defined, measurable, and easy enough to follow, even for those not involved in security. It allows companies to analyze current software security practices, build a security plan in specific iterations, demonstrate progressive enhancements in security procedures, and measure security-related activities.

Below is the comprehensive framework we use for a 360° security audit. After assessing and deeply analyzing your current business needs, our top-notch team can apply only the components that will help you achieve the level of security you need.

Secure practices in software development life cycle

Cybersecurity Regulation Compliance

Regulation compliance is an essential base that needs to be considered at the early stages of the secure development lifecycle—check if your business idea implies compliance with industry-specific requirements or country limitations and if you can meet those standards. 

In case of violations, there could be serious consequences—from jeopardizing the organization’s reputation to hefty fines and even bankruptcy or legal liabilities. 

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR is the core of Europe’s privacy legislation that carries requirements for businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens. The GDPR additionally controls personal data exportation outside the EU. GDPR protects primary identity data, healthcare-related data, biometric data, and more.

Any organization that stores or operates personal information about EU citizens must comply with GDPR—even if they don’t have a business in the EU—and keep those guidelines during all stages of the secure software development lifecycle.

Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) allows any California consumer the right to see all the data the company has collected on them and a full list of all the third parties that own this data. Moreover, the California law entitles consumers to sue organizations if they think the privacy guidelines were violated, even if there is no breach.

All organizations in California that have at least $25 million of annual revenue must comply with the CCPA. Likewise, companies of any size with personal data on at least 50,000 people fall under this regulation. Remember to ensure that your software meets those standards from the very beginning of the secure SDLC.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and assures patients’ protected health information (PHI) remains confidential. 

HIPAA-covered entities are individuals or companies that receive, forward, or update electronically protected health information (ePHI) or electronic health records (EHRs).

Every business that deals with patient health information should ensure they use HIPAA compliant software and follow procedures to maintain the security of this information to avoid sensitive data breaches and secure the SDLC

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a collection of requirements to ensure that all companies that process, store, or transmit credit card data are protected.

PCI DSS applies to those who work with and are associated with payment card processing. This includes wholesalers of all sizes, financial organizations, point-of-sale software vendors, and developers who build and manage the infrastructure for payment processing.

How to Secure Software Development—Best Practices

Establish Clear Security Requirements

Development teams need to receive precise requirements that are easy to follow. This applies to all security tips, recommendations, and manuals. Any vulnerabilities discovered during the testing stage of the secure software development life cycle should be easy to fix. It’s essential that all people, processes, and tools involved offer solutions, not just point out problems.

Educate Your Team

Secure SDLC goes side-by-side with a set of related processes, including: 

  • Creating a safe coding guide
  • Providing developers with security knowledge and training on secure coding 

These will help effectively incorporate security in SDLC and put all pieces together to see the big picture.

Training must be a crucial part of your organization’s security DNA and be performed regularly, not just once a year. Having well-established security training for your employees will go a long way in guarding your data and assets.

Support a Growth Mindset

Since the secure SDLC will change the way teams operate and interact, it’s vital that everyone approach the experience with an open mind. The security team should strive to empower developers to secure their applications on their own.

Solve the Big Problems First

It’s better to focus on the most pressing issues and actionable solutions, rather than fixing every vulnerability you find—while it’s likely to fix all existing security issues for new or small applications, it won’t necessarily work for legacy software and will require much more effort from the development team. 

A triage approach can be useful since it concentrates not only on preventing security hurdles from getting into the production stage but also on ensuring that existing vulnerabilities are addressed and eliminated over time.

Link Incorporation to Other Initiatives

If the software is already built, it’s often easier for the engineering team to implement secure SDLC changes if they are related to other modernization efforts, such as cloud transformation or DevOps initiatives.

Wrapping Up

NIX United builds software with particular emphasis on security, based on in-depth technical knowledge and 27+ years of experience providing solutions for industries with high-security requirements. 

We have a top-notch in-house team with extensive experience implementing high-security standards in various fields that constantly sharpen skill sets to stay caught up with ever-evolving industry demands. Our responsibilities include conducting security training programs for testers and developers, continually advancing their development, testing skills, and enhancing core processes.

Furthermore, we can engage in solving cybersecurity challenges for existing products and help you build long-term strategies for new software. 


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