Nowadays, every business either produces or purchases applications to operate more efficiently. In this day and age, software powers everything, from infrastructure and commerce to financial systems and healthcare.
However, like almost anything else, the constantly growing dependence on software has its pros and cons. One of its critical points being the susceptibility of companies to common forms of cyberattacks. Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that 90 percent of security incidents result from exploits against defects in software.
How Do Vulnerabilities Get into Software?
Application vulnerabilities are continuously topping vulnerabilities that security professionals worry about. However, the reality is this issue is not getting prioritized by developers and organizations.
The lack of attention on detecting and mitigating software vulnerabilities can be caused by several things. It could be misinformation and insufficiency of knowledge about application security, such as where vulnerabilities come from.
That’s why companies need to understand the main sources of software vulnerabilities. This would ensure you’re better equipped and informed to create an effective strategy that will find and fix weaknesses that will reduce the risk created by the escalating software reliance.
Insecure Coding Practices
Numerous enterprises have made software their main source of innovation. This level of dependency has placed a huge amount of pressure and responsibility on development professionals and teams to produce functional code as quickly as possible, no matter the cost.
By putting functionality and speed as priorities, other factors are left behind, and most of the time, it’s the security component. Based on a study published by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)², 30 percent of companies never scan for vulnerabilities during code development.
Oftentimes, developers are blamed for security vulnerabilities. However, like any software bug, vulnerabilities are a common occurrence in the development process. It’s part of a developer’s responsibility to ensure flaws are minimized when coding, but being forced to rapidly create usable and innovative code can cause them to overlook secure coding best practices and the significance of security assessments.
Constantly Shifting Threat Landscape
Even if developers follow best practices and use strong cryptographic algorithms during the early stages of development, this would often be broken once the software is completed and launched in production. Without knowing it, the development team continuously uses the broken algorithm as they’re under the impression that they are creating secure code.
This shows just how the threat landscape is continuously changing and how numerous software is not developed with this in mind.
The harsh reality is, hackers are often motivated to find vulnerabilities by reasons such as money, politics, and the likes. As a result, they become more creative in finding methods to breach applications as quickly as developers are creating ways to safeguard them.
Reuse of Vulnerable Components and Code
The majority of third-party and open source components do not go through the same amount of security inspection as custom-developed software. This is a trend that industry groups like Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) and Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) are trying to mitigate by requiring explicit policies and control.
However, for enterprises that use multiple code repositories, it’s challenging to accurately identify all of the software wherein a compromised component is used. This leaves a lot of web and mobile applications in jeopardy, especially when new vulnerabilities are publicly released.
Because developers often borrow code from open-source libraries rather than create certain codes from scratch, they do not feel responsible for the weaknesses of the code. Some developers also tend to liberate code from forums such as Stack Overflow or other internal forums without verifying if it has been reviewed for certain security requirements.
How to Combat and Overcome Software Vulnerabilities
Data breaches are constantly rising as hackers are becoming more innovative with their attacking methods. That’s why organizations must create and maintain software that is reliable and secure.
Though not all attacks can be completely prevented, you can still minimize the possibilities by eliminating software vulnerabilities.
Establish Software Design Requirements
From the start of the development process, you should clearly define the design and security requirements, make sure these are enforced, and observe secure coding principles. Doing so would distinctly state methods on how to efficiently write, test, inspect, analyze, and demonstrate reliable code.
Follow Coding Standard
Regulated coding standards such as the OWASP Secure Coding Practices, Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE), and SEI CERT C Coding Standard allow you to more effectively detect, prevent, and eliminate software vulnerabilities.
Protect Code from Unauthorized Access
Ward off unwarranted code alterations which could potentially contradict the applied security features of the software. Codes that are not publicly accessible make it harder for malicious agents to find flaws in the software, preventing them from successfully breaching and attacking your network.
Verify Third-Party Software
A lot of companies use third-party software since they’re faster to deploy, as well as cheaper. However, as mentioned earlier, this can post potential issues, especially for unverified software from unknown vendors.
The reality is though, for companies in a rush to complete the creation and deployment of software, developers tend to still opt for third-party components. In cases such as these, we highly recommend using only those with code signing to guarantee that it’s safe, authentic, and trustworthy.
Reuse Existing Well-Secured Software
Save on costs and expedite software development by reusing existing secure functionalities. Doing this can decrease the possibility of bringing in new vulnerabilities in the new software.
Test Your Software
Testing your software as early and as often as possible is essential to the success of its development. This would help ensure that any weakness or flaw is found and eliminated promptly. An effective way to execute this is by using a static code analyzer during the testing process.
Regularly Check for Vulnerabilities
Frequently scoping for vulnerabilities can restrict a malicious agent’s window of opportunity to breach and attack your systems. You must institute a functional and efficient response program to make sure that security experts can report weaknesses and incidents as early as possible.