Building a Strong Foundation in Security: Programming Guidelines and Practices

Security is often an afterthought in software programming. But security needs to be a primary focus of attention during the initial phases of the software development lifecycle. Security breaches can have disastrous consequences for businesses, customers, and software developers. The bad news is that security threats are on the rise. The good news is that it’s never been easier to start adding security into your code from day one. This article will introduce you to some best practices for building secure software programs and applications, so you can feel confident about what your code is doing and what risks it might pose to users or your business as a whole.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

There is an old adage in software development that you should “never reinvent the wheel.” The idea behind it is that you should use existing solutions instead of creating your own solutions from scratch. If you have a wheelbarrow full of bricks and the wheel on the wheelbarrow breaks, you might decide to try to fix it or replace it with a new wheel. If you decide to fix it, you might use a hammer and nails, which are two tools you already have, or you might get a wrench to make it a little easier. Either way, you don’t go out to the store and buy an entirely new wheelbarrow. The same holds true for software. In most cases, it’s a good idea to use existing tools where possible that have been proven to be secure and reliable. This will save you time and effort in the long run and make it less likely that you’ll introduce new security vulnerabilities or bugs into the code.

Code with Security in Mind from the Beginning

If you have ever had to go back and add security after building a section of code, you know it can be a headache. It’s much easier to code with security in mind from the beginning. This means following a few best practices. - Start with a clean slate. When planning a new project, you can use a “clean slate” approach by starting from scratch with a new code base that does not contain any potentially insecure code. This might sound like overkill, but it is a good practice for sensitive projects. Other projects that might benefit from a clean slate approach include: projects that require compliance with specific security standards and projects with security requirements that are not yet well-defined. - Use a secure programming language and framework. Some programming languages and frameworks are inherently more secure than others. If you are building a new application, you should use a language and framework that is known for its security. Many application development platforms such as those provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer default programming languages with security features built in.

Build Secure Software from the Ground Up

The best way to build secure software is to build it from the ground up with security as a core focus. This means that you’ll need to follow a few best practices. - Start with a security roadmap. Before you start building your application, you should create a roadmap that outlines the different stages of the development lifecycle and details the security practices you will use during each stage. This will make it easier to keep track of the various security-related activities, and will help prevent you from leaving anything out. - Use a secure development methodology. A secure development methodology includes secure coding practices and secure testing practices. For example, secure coding practices would include following secure coding standards and avoiding common security vulnerabilities such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting. - Use secure tools and libraries. If you are using tools or libraries, you should make sure they are secure. In some cases, you might have to make minimal changes to the code to secure it, while in other cases, you might have to look for alternatives. Keep in mind that when you integrate a third-party tool into your code, you become responsible for securing that code.

Code Only What You Need

The old adage “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing” definitely applies to programming. If you are writing a custom program that only does a few specific tasks, you don’t need to include any more code than is needed to do those tasks. In fact, you should avoid including extra code that isn’t directly related to those tasks because it might contain security vulnerabilities. For example, if you are writing a tool to send an email, it doesn’t make sense to also include code that allows you to send an SMS message because it’s not necessary and makes the program more vulnerable. However, it’s important to note that you should also avoid overcompensating and being too restrictive. For example, if you are writing a tool that sends emails, don’t limit it to only sending emails. Instead, just make sure you have the proper authentication in place to avoid the email being sent without authorization.

Use Secure Frameworks and Libraries

Library and framework developers spend a lot of time trying to discover what makes software secure and then making improvements to their code based on those discoveries. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to use secure frameworks and libraries whenever possible. For example, many secure AWS libraries have been developed for various common use cases, which makes it easier to build secure applications on top of AWS. When choosing frameworks and libraries, you might want to look for the following: - What security certifications does the product have? - What type of security architecture does the product use? - What types of security features does the product have? - What is the reputation of the product and its developer team?

Test Everything

Another important aspect of securing your code is testing it. You should test all of your code to make sure it is doing what it’s supposed to do in a secure manner. This can be as simple as testing each function or page of your application to make sure it returns the expected result. You can also test your code in a more formalized way using testing tools and frameworks. This will give you an even better sense of how secure your code is. You can test your code in several different ways: - Functional testing: Testing your code to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do. - Regression testing: Making sure your code doesn’t break when you make changes to it. - Soak testing: Testing your code under heavy load to make sure it can handle the load. - Security testing: Testing your code to make sure it is secure.

Summing up

There are many best practices for building secure software programs and applications. One of the most important things you can do is start with a clean slate. If you are building a new application, you should use a secure programming language and framework. You should also use a secure development methodology, use secure tools and libraries, and test everything. Following these best practices will help you build secure software programs and applications and protect your customers and your business from security threats.

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