A Reference Handbook To Secure Software Development Framework

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The software works as a spine for many organizations in every sector. It helps to boost their sales, meet objectives, increase revenue, and wider the user base. But, when it comes to securing it, most people configure authentication, access control, or similar traditional mechanisms.

However, there’s a main concept that most developers don’t focus on. And that is Secure Software Development Framework. It helps to remove vulnerable loopholes from the software and make it align with relevant security standards. Moreover, it’s important to consider it, as hackers are spending most of their time hacking different software and their components.

According to HackerOne’s report around 65,000 vulnerabilities were found in 2022 and hackers are spending 95% time exploiting websites. Therefore, it’s high time you must understand the principles of Secure Software Development Framework.

What Does Secure Software Development Framework Mean?

Nowadays, every organization operates through a website, mobile application, intranet portal, or desktop software. And each one of them has a common requirement of making the software secure, assuring data integrity, confidentiality, and availability.

To develop any software, a Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) gets selected by the developers. However, to fulfill security requirements, a Secure Software Development Framework comes into action.

It is similar to SDLC but focuses on security from the very first phase, rather than only at the testing phase. In addition, it provides information on the best approaches and practices to follow for reducing vulnerabilities and preventing malicious activities.

Furthermore, it’s not necessary that you have to follow only a defined framework. You can also customize your selected SDLC approach with best practices, that you feel are relevant to the project.

But, according to industry experts and veterans, the below frameworks are perfect for every software project and can fulfill your needs:

  • NIST SSDF (Secure Software Development Framework)
  • SAMM (Secure Assurance Maturity Model)
  • OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project)
  • BSIMM (Building Security in Maturity Model)

The Need for Secure Software Development Framework

Security Vulnerabilities 2022 Report

According to HackerOne, the top ten software attacks and vulnerabilities remain almost the same in recent two years. The primary reason behind it is that every development team is using the same SDLC approach, which lacks in focusing on security. Due to it, attackers can effortlessly utilize traditional attacks to exploit software and breach data for personal usage.

But, if you start using a secure software development framework, the possibility of preventing all such attacks will get minimized. A framework will tell you about all the necessary mechanisms to configure for unleashing software potential to prevent attackers, malware, unauthorized access, and much more similar.

Moreover, a secure framework helps:

  • To improve overall software security, regardless of the cybersecurity sophistication
  • To automate the development process in a secure digital environment
  • To align with necessary and mandatory security standards and guidelines in a particular industry
  • To migrate from a traditional approach to a new-age development mechanism
  • To support stakeholders with the emerging data security requirements

Benefits of a Secure Development Framework

Adapting a secure software development framework aids an organization in various aspects, such as:

Fewer Vulnerabilities                                 

When a development focuses on possible vulnerabilities and security needs from the very beginning, it helps to reduce loopholes. It provides a clear insight to the developers that which type of functions, calls, and programs they must create to prevent disclosure of code.

In addition, it helps is defining a secure software architecture, minimizing the occurrence of unexpected vulnerabilities at any time.

Compatible With All SDLC Approaches

To utilize a secure development framework, you don’t have to modify your development approach. Such frameworks only provide the guidelines, which you need to follow and it will make your preferred SDLC method secure.

As a result, you can curate software at a higher speed and within business constraints, fulfilling all requirements but in a more digitally protected environment.

Aids to Comply With Security Goals and Standards

Every organization has a different data and system security goal. For instance, if you develop software for the medical institute, you need to follow HIPPA, and for financial transactions, following PCI-DSS standards is necessary.

With a secure development approach, you can seamlessly align with appropriate standards without compromising quality, performance, reliability, and scalability.

Appropriate for Every Software Development

Whether it’s a mobile application, website, web app, desktop software, or any other, security is necessary for all. If you start to find appropriate protection controls for each, it will consume a lot of time.

However, if you utilize a secure development framework, you can create an accurate security plan, architecture, and codebase in minimal time.

Prevents Software Tampering

A primary aspect of using a such framework is making the code tamper-proof. It helps to prevent unauthorized access and modification in the source code and retain its integrity. For instance, using a code signing certificate is a common mechanism in most frameworks, that helps in software protection and accelerating reputation simultaneously.

Recommended: What is Code Signing Certificate? A guide to know

Long-Term Security Impact

By using a framework, you minimize the vulnerabilities in the final release. Due to it, attackers don’t get a chance to exploit software. In the meantime, you can develop updates, frequently test applications, and push new versions to extend functionality and strengthen data protection.

A NIST-defined Framework – SSDF Version 1.1

NIST is a reputed authority that has defined multiple standards in the IT industry and most organizations follow them. And it also has a Secure Software Development Framework, that would help to align software security with ever-changing requirements and threat factor mitigations.

The complete framework is in four parts, named as Prepare the Organization (PO), Protect the Software (PS), Produce Well-Secured Software (PW), and Respond to Vulnerabilities (RV).

NIST SSDF  1.1

To understand it more thoroughly, let’s get a brief of each part, as follows:

1: Prepare the Organization (PO)

The first step in the framework defines that an organization must prepare its software, hardware, and human resources in accordance with the security requirement.

For instance, if you want to develop a cloud-based application, then you must hire a cloud security engineer for it. In addition, the policies, protocols, and infrastructure must also align with other components for better results.

Furthermore, primary tasks to complete under the PO part include, but are not limited to:

  • Discover and document all security requisites and frequently perform this process to update infrastructure timely.
  • Test the pre-developed applications and find their security requirements. It would help to patch their loopholes and solidify security.
  • Update human resources according to the requirement. For instance, if a SaaS security engineer is required instead of a security analyst, then replace it as soon as possible.
  • Train every stakeholder associated with the project to ensure relevant usage and assurance of data integrity and confidentiality.

2: Protect the Software (PS)

The second part of the framework deals with preventing unauthorized access to the software. Its primary goal is to maintain source code integrity. You can avail knowledge about all the necessary approaches, which a software developer and publisher must follow to protect software.

Some of the tasks to follow in the PS part includes:

  • Write the overall code by considering the least privilege.
  • Provide code information only to legitimate personnel, such as developers, testers, and clients.
  • Create a record of all software versions and test them constantly to find vulnerabilities and patch them in the next update.
  • Purchase Code Signing Certificate for tamper-proofing the source code.
  • Archive the confidential files and protect sensitive information using encryption, hashing, or any other advanced mechanism available.
  • Provenance data and any other component must get updated simultaneously.

3: Produce Well-Secured Software (PW)

Under PW practice, SSDK provides the tasks to follow for identifying and evaluating the security needs of the software. The tasks under it help to discover the cyber-attacks and malicious activities that can get performed on the software.

Further, it aids in developing a secure system and design and architecture to maintain data integrity along with seamless process execution.

Further, the main tasks to complete under PW includes:

  • Take threat modeling, risk identification, and attack modeling into consideration while identifying security threats.
  • Keep track of user requirements, and cyber threats and align them to identify appropriate mitigation.
  • Use only legitimate third-party tools, SKDs, APIs, modules, and libraries to prevent backdoors and malware.
  • Utilize both manual and automated methods to review code and find and patch loopholes before the software release.
  • Test each software component using multiple methods and document the result for future reference.
  • Document the default settings and create a secure baseline image to allow only the least privilege and to maintain a protection level.

4: Respond to Vulnerabilities (RV)

The fourth and last practice in SSDF defines the tasks to quickly remediate the risks and threats, which were found in previous parts or practices.

It helps to minimize the possibility of attack and aids in ensuring a secure environment for end-users.

And its top tasks comprise of:

  • Gather details about the discovered vulnerabilities from open-source, closed-source, and proprietary databases.
  • Analyze the impact of every vulnerability and document it.
  • Create policies about remediating each vulnerability and also define the roles and responsibilities of the same.
  • Use threat modeling to analyze the impact of exploitation and find a suitable security control to mitigate it accordingly.
  • After patching the loopholes, retest the software and confirm that all security systems are functioning properly.

Recommended: Top Software Vulnerabilities in 2023 & Prevention

A Bonus Tip – Code Signing Certificate for Better Security

The NIST Secure Software Development Framework defines the usage of a Code Signing Certificate for software tamper-proofing. It’s a digital certificate, that helps software publishers to integrate their signatures with software and boosts its authenticity.

In addition, it also performs hashing and encryption on code, making it complex for attackers to read, crack and modify it. To avail of such a solid security solution at the cheapest price, you can go to SignMyCode.com.

Here, you will get the best signing certificate for your specific needs. And for trending technologies and platforms, it has specific solutions, such as Java Code Signing Certificates, Windows Code Signing Certificates, and more.

Recommended: Code Signing Certificates for All Platforms

Concluding Up

A secure Software Development Approach is the prime need for software development. It helps to consider security from the initial stages and prevent cyber-attacks in the long run. Additionally, you can use it with any SDLC approach for faster development of any application.

Furthermore, NIST has also defined its SSDF, which supports development teams to identify vulnerabilities, analyze them, and remediate them before release by using appropriate approaches.

Get Code Signing Certificates

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a Cyber-Security Enthusiast who constantly updates herself with new advancements in the Web/Cyber Security niche. Along with theoretical knowledge, she also implements her practical expertise in day-to-day tasks and helps others to protect themselves from threats.

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