When you hire builders to construct a new home, you expect them to take every precaution to ensure once you move in, you won’t find split beams, foundational errors, or holes in the walls. In the same way, software developers are expected to uphold secure coding standards to ensure they aren’t leaving any vulnerabilities open for hackers to exploit.
If you aren’t already implementing secure coding best practices, such as those given in OWASP’s Secure Coding Practices Quick Reference Guide, you need to start.
Why You Should Secure Your Code
In the 2017 breach at Equifax, malicious individuals accessed personal information because of compromised software at the foundation of their organization. That isn’t the first organization, or the last, to find holes in its secure coding practices and leave themselves open to exploitation.
According to a 2019 survey completed by Sonatype, one in four companies confirmed or suspected a web application breach related to open source components. That number is staggering when you consider the odds that your organization will be next to experience a breach if you don’t initiate secure coding best practices.
8 Secure Coding Best Practices
OWASP provides a checklist for secure coding practices that includes 14 areas to consider in your software development life cycle. Of those secure coding concepts, we’re going to focus on the top eight secure coding best practices to help you protect against vulnerabilities.
- Security by Design
- Password Management
- Access Control
- Error Handling and Logging
- System Configuration
- Threat Modeling
- Cryptographic Practices
- Input Validation and Output Encoding
Security by Design
Security needs to be a priority as you develop code, not an afterthought. An analysis of your source code should be conducted throughout your SDLC and security automation should be implemented.
You should require all passwords to be of adequate length and complexity to withstand any typical or common attacks. OWASP suggests having password reset questions that encourage random answers.
Limit privileges and restrict access to secure data to only authorized users to avoid unauthorized persons gaining entry and possibly tampering with your code.
Error Handling and Logging
Documentation and logging of all failures, exceptions, and errors should be implemented on a trusted system to comply with secure coding standards.
Clear your system of any unnecessary components and ensure all working components are updated with current versions and patches. If you work in multiple environments, make sure you’re managing your development and production environments securely.
Document, locate, address, and validate are the four steps to threat modeling. To securely code, you need to examine your software for areas that are susceptible to increased threats of attack.
Using quality cryptographic algorithms with keys stored in secure key vaults is a practice that increases the security of your code in the event of a breach.
Input Validation and Output Encoding
These secure coding standards are self-explanatory in that you need to identify all data inputs and sources and validate those classified as untrusted. You should utilize a standard routine for output encoding and input validation.
How to Ensure Your Code is Secure
By patching your systems regularly, you’re taking these secure coding best practices to the next level. Patch and vulnerability management is focused on identifying risk and enabling systems to stay up to date. Through these methods and security testing, you’re ensuring that your code is properly checked for errors.