Application security involves all the ways in which application vulnerabilities are prevented, detected, and resolved. Security should never be an afterthought. It should be an integral part of the process, from development, through integration and testing. Your applications are open to all sorts of security vulnerabilities and challenges, and protecting them is essential. But first you’ll need to have a solid grasp of these application security fundamentals.
1. Assign Application Security to Someone Specific.
If you want to ensure the security of your applications, you have to assign this job to someone. The only way to make sure this essential issue is taken care of and doesn’t fall through the cracks is to know you have a specific person in charge of it. Depending on the size of your organization and your budget, this might be a part-time or full-time role or it might require a team or even multiple teams.
2. Plan Accordingly.
You’re going to have to start small, but at the same time, you need to plan for the long-term. Prioritize your applications so you know where to start. Then set yourself some measurable goals so that you’ll see a return on investment sooner rather than later. Scale up as needed.
3. Shift Left.
It’s generally easier to identify application security issues later in the software development life cycle (SDLC), but the ideal is to detect them earlier (farther to the left on the SDLC timeline), when resolving them will be less costly. The sooner you can identify (and, ideally, prevent) vulnerabilities, the easier it will be to deal with them. This means coming up with a plan for how to handle security, data encryption, reliability, compliance requirements, etc, before coding even starts.
4. Leverage Your Existing Strengths.
When it comes to creating an application security program, there is no one single correct way to do it. Different organizations focus on different areas. To be most efficient, begin by ramping up security in the areas in which your company is strongest, and then expand from there. For example, if development revolves around the CI toolset, integrate some security tooling there. If your team manages their time via JIRA tickets, make sure you are checking those JIRA tickets for security issues. Don’t assume that a plan that was made with one company in mind will be a good fit for your company. Instead, tailor-make one that makes sense for you.
5. Put a Positive Spin on it.
Application security can easily be looked at as a cause of problems and conflicts. You don’t want this essential aspect of your business to be seen as something that is constantly blocking or preventing growth. This will make people avoid application security instead of necessarily dealing with it head-on. Instead of constantly highlighting problems, look for a way to propose solutions and encourage effectiveness and efficiency.
6. Create a Knowledge Base.
Once you’ve encountered an application security vulnerability or issue, don’t just resolve it and move on. Keep a record of challenges you come across (and their solutions) so that your team can reference it and won’t make the same mistakes twice.
7. Dev Training
At the end of the day, developers need to be taught to be more security-conscious. Your developers are your first line of defense in catching application security vulnerabilities and they need to be trained in best practices. Your team should constantly be learning the newest ways to catch and resolve application security issues.