The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a methodical approach designed to help you craft high-quality software swiftly and efficiently. You get a roadmap that guides you in the development process, from conception to maintenance.
But it’s vital to integrate cybersecurity best practices throughout. You can’t overlook the place of security in your process as you risk having vulnerabilities in your software or discovering bugs if you don’t implement proper cybersecurity measures.
Why It’s Important to Integrate Cybersecurity Into Your Development Cycle?
Building secure software offers numerous advantages. Not only does it safeguard critical data such as personally identifiable information or protected health information, but it also wards off threats like malware and phishing. By following security best practices, you can sidestep major pitfalls, which can tarnish a company’s reputation.
Furthermore, adhering to industry standards boosts client trust, mitigates supply chain risk, and fosters a culture emphasizing consistent growth and security awareness.
How to Integrate Cybersecurity Into Developing Software
Various software development life cycle (SDLC) approaches exist, including the waterfall, V-shaped, big bang, iterative, and incremental models, to name a few. However, the spotlight here is on the agile model, often a top pick for businesses.
By segmenting the project into bite-sized pieces and delivering in continuous cycles, this model boasts swift development, flexibility to evolving needs, optimal resource utilization, and consistently measurable results.
1. Requirement Analysis
To deliver a good product, you should have detailed gathering, examination, and efficient documentation of its requirements.
This process of gathering, also called elicitation, is where you bring together clear and correct client specifications—letting the client adequately describe what they want, and involves formal meetings with stakeholders present. During analysis, the stakeholders brainstorm to determine the feasibility of the project.
Security requires you to cover aspects like access controls, data protection, authentication and authorization mechanisms, secure communication protocols, and encryption. You also need to conduct a thorough risk assessment, identifying the likelihood of threats and vulnerabilities in your system while ensuring you meet any industry-specific requirements relating to data privacy like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
It’s important to identify security goals that align with the overall project’s objectives before moving on to the next step.
2. Design and Architecture
This stage involves developing a design plan based on the Design Document Specification (DDS) involving the architecture of the software—the programming language, databases, APIs, operating system, interfaces, etc. It also involves creating a features list, UI design, security measures, and infrastructure requirements.
Employing security involves the “defense-in-depth” strategy, ensuring that if a threat actor scales across one layer, there are other security measures in place to protect the software, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption. It’s also important to implement securely designed application programming interfaces (APIs), to discourage unauthorized access and manipulation of data.
Additionally, you need to ensure you securely configure your software components within the guidelines given by industry security frameworks while reducing the number of functionality and services that you expose to online threats.
This stage is the actual product development, putting the requirements into the code to produce the product. If it’s divided into actionable parts, this should take as little time as possible while providing the highest value and quality.
It’s best to incorporate secure coding practices like input validation, output encoding, and secure error handling to prevent vulnerabilities like SQL injection and Cross-Site Scripting (XSS). It’s also important to implement the principle of least privilege, where software components and people are only privy to data and systems that allow them to perform their functions, while also limiting the impact of a possible security breach.
Other security principles involve using secure communication protocols like HTTPS when communicating sensitive information (i.e. using proper encryption techniques to protect sensitive data), and avoiding hardcoding information like passwords, API keys, and cryptographic keys into the source code.
4. Testing and Quality Assurance
Before presenting the finished software to your client, your quality assurance team needs to perform validation testing to ensure everything functions properly. There are different types of testing—performance testing, functional testing, security testing, unit testing, usability testing, and acceptance testing.
There are types of security testing too: penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and security-focused regression testing.
You should focus on setting up a secure test environment, mimicking the production stage but ensuring you don’t expose sensitive or important information. You can use access controls and network segmentation to reduce the risk.
Additionally, you should incorporate coding reviews to detect security-related issues; make sure the data you use during testing does not contain real user data, production data, or sensitive information, in order to prevent accidental exposure.
5. Deployment and Configuration Management
You can now release the product to the general public (or specific users if the scope of your software is more limited). Sometimes, this could happen in stages, depending on your company’s business strategy. However, you can still make upgrades to the production.
The secure development process involves automated deployment, secure communication, and rollback plans to revert to a previously known state if security threats or events occur. With secure configuration management, you need to standardize configurations, perform regular configuration audits, use version control systems to track changes and unauthorized modifications, and securely store and manage sensitive credentials.
It’s also important to perform security patch management by monitoring vulnerabilities, promptly applying security patches, and testing them in a staging environment before deployment.
6. Operations and Maintenance
This last phase involves timely maintenance of the software, i.e. fixing bugs, adding new features, and upgrading (mostly based on user feedback or when the team detects a flaw).
Incorporating security involves establishing an incident response plan and defining the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Continuous monitoring of the software and its infrastructure helps to discover possible breaches or threats.
Additionally, you must make provisions for data backup and recovery in the case of a ransomware attack; and provide security awareness training to all your team members to stop them falling for common social engineering attacks. It’s important to ensure your software is always compliant with security standards and regulatory requirements, so conduct regular internal and external audits.
Time to Retire Your Software?
When you’ve applied your SDLC model, integrating security protocols and practices in each step, your software may still live out its usefulness eventually.
In this event, it’s important to efficiently dispose of all the resources that could compromise your security if it falls into the wrong hands. Don’t forget to inform your users about the software’s end as well as any substitutions you may have created.