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Secure Development Lifecycle - How to Ensure a Secure SDLC Process

Businesses that invest in custom software development, expect applications to be secure. If security flaws are present, these can result in irrecoverable financial and reputation damage. Secure development lifecycle processes are, therefore, essential for ensuring the viability of new software applications.

What is a Secure Development Lifecycle Process (SDLC)?

Secure SDLC processes first came about in the early 1990s. At this time, Bill Gates identified the fact that Windows software could only remain competitive if security was in-built into applications.

To ensure the security viability of new software, Microsoft developed a secure SDLC process that standardizes software security. This takes the form of a development methodology that includes security best practices at each step of application development.

What Does a Secure Development Lifecycle Look Like?

Today, software developers typically adhere to one of two secure SDLC processes during software development.

Major software brands like Adobe and Cisco mirror Microsoft's SDL processes when developing apps. Individuals and smaller development companies can also mirror Microsoft SDL processes. However, many also follow secure SDLC processes defined by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP.)

Defining a Secure Development Lifecycle Process

With any secure SDLC process, assessment of security risks starts during the assessment of basic software requirements. At this stage, the functional requirements of applications are outlined. Developers then identify threats likely to arise as a result of these requirements.

- Applications like web browsers will require different security and privacy safeguards to applications like bespoke bookkeeping applications.

- Developers identify when software users should be prompted to authorize specific software actions using passwords and user ID verification.

- Software developers identify data privacy concerns, as well as overt application security threats.

Before writing code, software developers will also address security and privacy concerns by quantifying the architecture of specific application features. When settling on specific architectures, developers then outline known security risks associated with each.

Secure SDLC Processes When Coding

As a rule, all software applications are susceptible to bugs and security threats. However, employing a secure SDLC process during application development can prevent major threats being present in final deliveries.

One way to reduce the likelihood of bugs is to use static application security testing (SAST) while coding. When implemented correctly, SAST tools work similar to automated spellcheck software that checks application code in real-time.

Many developers also use dynamic application security testing (DAST) tools in SDLC development.

Primarily used to check the security of web applications, DAST software checks application runtime installations. In the process, DAST software scans for common vulnerabilities and brings these to the attention of developers.

Post Development Penetration Testing

In any secure SDLC process, security checks and code audits take place during every step of development. These are then complemented prior to final delivery by in-depth vulnerability scanning and penetration testing of finished applications. However, penetration testing can be time consuming and expensive.

To cut costs in the final stage of a secure SDLC process, some developers offer bug bounties to anyone who can identify critical security weaknesses in apps. In every case, though, developers will need the consent of software stakeholders to make code available to people participating in bug bounties.

Final Release

Using a secure SDLC process minimizes the risk of bugs and security threats being present in finished applications. However, software developers ideally need to offer support to customers who later identify threats that do manifest.

To help software stakeholders mitigate unforeseen problems, developers should always make reporting bugs and security weaknesses easy and straightforward. In most cases, though, developers should also specify how long released software is supported for. This way, developers won't be expected to update and patch applications indefinitely.

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