The importance of web application security in today’s world can hardly be overstated.
But unfortunately, overlooking the security side of application development is an extremely common thing. This happens because the security part gets neglected somewhere between coding and visual design.
As the threats keep changing and newer vulnerabilities show up every day, it is hard to have one complete guide for ensuring web application security. Still, there are some tips that can be helpful in making applications secure.
Here’s what experts suggest you should make a part of your application development lifecycle to make it secure.
1. Make Security a Part of the Software Development Lifecycle
Let’s face it; most developers consider security to be something that should be taken care of once the application has been developed. This is the worst practice in application development.
While developing an application, security must be made a part of the process. It is important to keep into account everything from the open source components used to the code and the logic from a security point of view.
If you have a dedicated team of security experts, hold frequent meetings between the developers and the security team. This way, both of them can coordinate to make sure that secure app development practices are followed all the way.
If you are a solo developer, you can hire the services of a freelance cybersecurity professional to keep an eye on the security side of your application.
It is nearly impossible to develop an application without making security a part of it and then trying to secure it once it is up and running. Even Apple has published a Secure Coding Guide designed to help developers of Mac OS and iOS applications build more secure programs by design.
2. Invite Experienced People to Hack Your App
No matter how well you secure your application, you’ll likely ignore things. This is because despite being an expert in developing applications you are not an expert in hacking them. The best way to get the application’s security verified is to have someone on the other side look at it.
This will not only highlight any vulnerabilities that your app might have but will also show you what are the techniques that hackers might use to compromise your app’s security.
Some of the common vulnerabilities that can lead to application security compromise include:
- SQL injection attacks
- Cross-site scripting
- Insecure deserialization
- Broken authentication
- Cross-site request forgery attacks
- Sensitive data exposure
No one can be better than a hacker at identifying these vulnerabilities. So, it is much better to have a hacker do it for you before the app goes live instead of being attacked later on.
3. Keep An Eye on Application Security News and Blogs
This applies to everyone and not just the people in the app development industry. If you need to stay on top of the game, information is the key.
Make a list of reputable and reliable blogs and news sources about application security.
Dedicate some time to studying the news and blogs every day and keep yourself informed on what’s happening. Having detailed information of what you are up against is the best way to defend your app from it.
4. Always Keep an Offline Copy of Your Data
No matter how good you defend yourself against an attack, it can happen.
There can be nothing worse for a developer than losing months’ worth of their hard work in an attack. Every time you make the slightest change to your app or website, make a backup and store it in a safe place.
You can totally keep a copy on the cloud but, you never know. Even if you use Box in your current project, it doesn’t mean your data is completely safe – use Box backup to protect your important data from loss.
The best practice is to have a copy on a storage device that’s not a part of the internet. That way, if someone succeeds at hacking or taking down your asset, you can get it up and running in the least amount of time possible.
5. Run Frequent Security Scans
Web applications are complicated pieces of code. The slightest change that you might make can result in a security vulnerability being created. To be on the safer side, it is a must to run a security scan even after a minor change is made to the code.
Here are some things that you need to keep in mind when using security scanning tools to scan your website:
- Security scanning tools are not perfect, they can overlook vulnerabilities.
- Vulnerabilities and infections in the code or the app’s logic are designed to pass under the radar of these tools.
- False positives are a huge issue and not all the issues identified by the tools are potential threats.
- The vulnerability scanning process needs a human touch to be reliable.
6. Always Use the Lowest Privileges Possible
One of the most commonly exploited things in apps is the privileges assigned to users.
When developing the app, make sure that you assign the lowest privileges to any user. If a task can be completed using client-level privileges, why assign them administrator-level?
7. Make No Compromises on the Password Policy
The most vulnerable part of any web application is the password. If it is compromised, the app is good for nothing. Make sure that your app asks the users to use a strong password and suggests they change it regularly.
If your app handles sensitive data like private photos or banking or other financial information, using two-factor authentication is recommended.
This authentication protocol needs the user to enter their password and then another code they receive via email or text message before they can log in.
Before You Go
As we start depending on apps more and more, it is of paramount importance to make web applications secure.
The most important thing, and the one most commonly overlooked, is considering security an afterthought. Security must be made a part of the SDLC and every step must be completed in a careful way to make sure that the end product is secure.
In addition to that, using strict password rules, assigning the appropriate privileges, and scanning the app for vulnerabilities regularly can help make and keep the application safe.