Understanding Why Secure Software Development Is So Important 

Secure Software Development

Software security vulnerabilities put everyone and everything on the line, including your company’s reputation, users’ privacy, regulatory compliance, and even your financial bottom line. So, why are cases of software security breaches growing?

When it comes to building, delivering, and maintaining software, most organizations have a well-structured strategy in place. However, security during software development may be regarded as an afterthought, focused on during the testing phase and just before the software product is deployed or launched. 

Enter secure software development. Today, we’ll take you through important reasons why putting security front and center in your software development is essential.

Defining Secure Software Development

There are myriad ways you can slice and dice what secure software development is, but it almost always comes down to security as an integral part of each process and phase in the software development lifecycle. It’s all about building secure software from the ground up with security in mind right out of the gate.

A core component of the software development process, security in development is an ongoing process that involves a multitude of best practices and people, working together to ensure software availability, integrity, and confidentiality.

In practice, this means security is prioritized every step of the way. For instance, designers will perform a risk analysis of the software architecture during the design phase of the development. Likewise, security requirements must be documented during the planning phase, along with brainstorming features and writing functional requirements.

Why Is Secure Software Development So Important?

Safeguards against cyber security breaches

With cyber security breaches making big headlines more and more frequently, it’s more important than ever before to prioritize secure software development. This is especially crucial for organizations and companies that build and ship custom software.

When a company is hit by a data breach due to software vulnerabilities, this deals a huge blow to not only the organization but also employees and users whose data may end up in the wrong hands. The  recent data breach at Volkswagen AG’s vendor in the US, for example, affected well over 3.3 million users, including both existing and prospective customers.

Secure software development offers plenty of other benefits beyond protection against cyber security threats. Other advantages of embracing a security-centric approach to developing software include:

  • Enhances software performance – Secure software is less prone to ransomware hacks, denial of service threats, cyber-attacks, and other vulnerability issues that can result in costly downtimes. 
  • Protects software integrity – Users count on the integrity of software they use, and dedication to secure software development is crucial in satisfying this expectation. Ongoing security testing allows developers and quality assurance professionals to detect and eliminate hackable bugs and ensure the code complies with industry and regulatory standards.
  • Helps ensure users’ data privacy – Most software applications and systems collect, process, and store heaps of user data. This may range from personal and contact information like name, social security number (SSN), email address, telephone, driver’s license number, and physical address to sensitive financial data, such as credit/debit card information, bank account details, and much more. It’s the responsibility of the organization to make sure that the software is secure enough to protect users’ data and privacy.
  • Increases customer loyalty and trust – Insecure software puts your customers’ trust and loyalty—and your credibility–in jeopardy. By putting security first when building your software, you demonstrate that you have your customers’ best interest at heart.

What Are Some Tools for Secure Software Development?

Organizations and software firms must be thorough and strategic when incorporating security into their development process. Thankfully, the shift-left approach, which makes sure security is prioritized and embedded in every phase of the development lifecycle, has birthed an array of tools to help developers write software code securely.

Tools for secure software development come in three major categories:

  • Dynamic code scanning tools: Also called dynamic application security testing (DAST), this refers to the process of testing software and inspecting the source code for vulnerabilities while it’s running. The upside of this code scanning technique is that it results in a more realistic simulation of possible cyber threats and other hack scenarios.
  • Static code analysis tools: These tools are designed to check the software source code for hackable bugs and other potential security vulnerabilities when the code isn’t running. Also referred to as static application security testing (SAST), this process makes it easy for developers and testers to detect code flaws long before the software is able to run.
  • Interactive application security testing (IAST) tools: IAST tools bring together the best of DAST and SAST, as they can analyze and check for security vulnerabilities within the software application. As such, these tools can produce software security data and actionable insights in real-time.

Liventus’ secure software development guide breaks down some more popular tools for testing and protecting software.

What Happens When Secure Software Development Isn’t Done Right?

The financial ramifications of ignoring software security can be staggering, with the average cost of a cyber-security breach in the US currently estimated to be $8.64 million, which is nearly twice the average cost of a data breach globally.

While big companies like Volkswagen, Marriott, Equifax, eBay, and Adobe can weather the financial losses associated with cyber security attacks, smaller to medium-size enterprises aren’t so lucky. In fact, a 2019 survey carried out by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) found that 25 percent of small businesses had to resort to Chapter 11 Bankruptcy following a data breach, while 10 percent had to close up shop altogether, as reported by Business Insider.

And the cost of a data breach due to insecure software may include not only financial losses and regulatory penalties. The incident may also result in the loss of brand reputation and employee trust as well as compromise of user data and privacy—and that can lead to lawsuits.

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