4 Ways to Ensure a Project is Secure Before You Ship

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The lightning speed of technology has trained people to expect near instantaneous results. For developers, the pressure of that expectation can lead to shipping the final product too soon. In addition to potential bugs that could have been worked out, shipping too soon can overlook important security measures.

Whether you’re designing ecommerce websites or building software applications, security should be your team’s primary focus from the beginning of each project. Without detailed attention to security, you’re putting end users at risk.

Security is best developed as part of the project from day one. Incorporating security gets harder the further along you are with a project, and if you wait too long you’ll have to ship an insecure product.

Here’s how to ensure a project is secure before you ship.

Use updated security protocols for everything

Depending on how big your project is, you might need to use an existing framework to get started. Make sure every aspect of your application utilizes updated security protocols. If you want to use a framework or script created by a third-party that doesn’t meet security standards, either fix it or look for another solution.

Being meticulous about security from day one avoids putting your clients in a vulnerable position. You’d be surprised how many times software applications are put in use by large companies, only to be riddled with vulnerabilities.

Embrace SecOps

You’ve heard of DevOps, but what about SecOps? SecOps was created when developers realized security wasn’t included in the DevOps process. The combination is now referred to as DevSecOps.

SecOps aims to find a healthy middle ground between security and operations – something that gets difficult when there’s a conflict. If operations become too stifled by security restrictions, the product will never ship. However, if a product is shipped too quickly, the company might end up being the punchline of the latest security news roundup email.

How do you create a happy balance of smooth operations and tight security? White Source Software has some helpful tips for integrating SecOps into every project. First, it’s recommended that everyone take ownership of security. Once everyone accepts their role, the next step is to educate the whole team on SecOps best practices and encourage them to think about how to incorporate these best practices into their work. Finally, embrace automated testing to catch the low hanging fruit that would otherwise take the team hours to discover.

Build all applications as if they’re going to be connected online

Sometimes you might get a client who wants an application they swear will never need to connect to the internet. That might be true now, but there’s no guarantee their application will stay isolated ten years down the road.

Always build every project to the highest security specifications, even when the client doesn’t appear to need that extra security. For instance, data should never be stored in a database unencrypted. Unencrypted data is always a security risk. The risk is lower in an isolated environment, but it’s still a risk.

Over the years, many isolated environments have been taken online and the result is an increase in vulnerabilities. For example, in 2017, several bugs were found in the now-defunct maritime AmosConnect 8 web platform. Originally, the software was meant to be used in isolation and not connected to the internet. Now that crews operate over the internet, the ship’s older software is vulnerable. Perhaps the biggest vulnerability is that the database stores login credentials in plaintext.

Don’t skip encryption – or any other security protocol – just because a client doesn’t plan on taking their application online.

Recognize your project is not invincible

Part of creating secure applications is recognizing that nothing you create will be invincible. Try not to get overly confident about how secure your applications are, especially if you haven’t shipped the final product.

To put this into perspective, even the world’s top software companies have hundreds of vulnerabilities. For instance, in 2016, Android had 523 vulnerabilities, Ubuntu (Linux) had 278 vulnerabilities, and Adobe Acrobat Reader Dc had 227 vulnerabilities.

When you acknowledge the inevitability of vulnerabilities, you won’t fall into the trap of getting defensive when a bug is discovered at any stage, even post-release.

Security requires hard work

Incorporating security from the beginning of a project requires strong teamwork. To avoid a clash between operations and security, get the entire team to take ownership of security. By considering security in all they do, there will be less head-butting and the shipped product will be secure.

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