It would be difficult to overstate the importance of software security. Businesses of all kinds are now dependent on software to a huge degree. If a firm's software is penetrated by cybercriminals, that organization is likely to suffer significant consequences. Exposed data may open up a an organization to fines or other sanctions, as well as a tarnished reputation that will drive away potential customers.
For businesses to truly protect themselves from these consequences, they need to make software security a priority. To that end, here are five best practices to follow.
1. Look at successful models
Recently, a number of software development experts held a panel at the RSA Conference in San Francisco dedicated to the issue of software security, Dark Reading reported. One of the most basic steps these professionals recommended is looking at successful software development models. Specifically, they pointed to the Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) as a useful guide. The news source noted that this model takes into account 67 software security development processes and 112 security activities. By examining these successful efforts, software developers can discover tried-and-true policies for achieving security.
2. Embrace the best tools
However, even the best strategies are unlikely to prove successful if developers do not have access to the most appropriate tools. That is why firms interested in software security must invest in high-grade solutions, such as static analysis tools. Static analysis offers automated detection, helping developers find security vulnerabilities in the source code that would otherwise have gone undetected.
Critically, static analysis solutions will identify these problem areas as the code is still being written, ensuring that problems are found and corrected before they can cause any real damage.
3. Develop metrics
Another key recommendation offered by the RSA Conference panel was the development of metrics for tracking security performance.
"It is not enough to have a process," said Steven Lipner, director of software security at Microsoft, the news source reported. "You actually have to implement the process, and know you have implemented it."
To this end, he emphasized the importance of regular code testing, to see whether ongoing software development efforts meet company standards. Without well-defined metrics, such checkups may be little more than guesswork.
Another, even more straightforward strategy for improving software security is to utilize encryption, as industry expert Julie May argued for The Tennessean. The reason for embracing encryption is simple enough: When code is scrambled, it becomes unusable for unauthorized viewers. As May noted, encryption strategies differ for data at rest and data in motion. Developers need to utilize tactics that account for these discrepancies to ensure their code remains secure at all times.
Finally, it is imperative that active monitoring is built into all software development processes. May emphasized the need to continually be on the lookout for intrusions, as well as any unusual or unauthorized activity. Without a proactive preventative effort, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for firms to effectively protect their software development efforts.
May recommended that businesses invest in intrusion detection software as a part of such an initiative. These tools can automatically identify suspicious activity, alerting the relevant personnel who can then take action before a data breach actually occurs.
By embracing all of these best practices, software developers can significantly reduce the risk that their efforts will fall victim to cybercriminals, thereby helping their organizations to become more effective and competitive in their given industries.