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Best practices of secure solution development [Tips]

  • 14-15 min read
  • July 16, 2021
  • 👍 Rating — 4.9 (7 votes)

Based on our experience, we can say for sure that digital business transformation has been picking up significant momentum during the last 3 years. Companies of all sizes from all over the world are eager to invest in their own custom solutions to be one step ahead of all their competitors, to work more efficiently and to build customer loyalty.

We’ve built a number reliable solutions for different businesses, and the main request we received from our clients time and time again was: “Please, make my solution very secure and invulnerable”. Especially in the face of recent buzz around impactful cyber attacks gaining ground. And of course we pay special attention to software security and utilize the best practices to make sure that all information is well protected and easy to recover in case of emergency. 

So in this post we’d like to share with you some tips on what steps should be taken to build a secure solution, what actually makes it so, and what practices are the most effective in 2021. And, without further ado, let’s proceed to this very interesting topic.

Why does your company’s software need security? 

Once you’re getting involved in custom software development, you cannot let security be an afterthought. Although first comes the functionality of your solution, you should not sacrifice its security. Fraud prevention tools and various cybersecurity precaution measures is what you should pay special attention to while developing a software solution for your business. 

The biggest possible threat that every company inevitably faces in 2021 is a data breach, the repercussions of which will end up costing you a great deal of money. According to the statistics, the average cost of a data breach to different companies worldwide is $3.86 million. And what’s more interesting is that 43% of all data breaches involved various small businesses

So it doesn’t really matter whether you are building software for a huge enterprise or a small company of some 15 employees, in any case you need to make that solution resistant to attacks and absolutely secure. The security of your solutions can be achieved by training your employees to use software properly and by making sure to properly test software before its release. Also, while developing your solution, the team of software engineers can implement various techniques and make sure your software is compliant with all necessary industry standards.

The security must be your top priority, certainly if your business is related to one of the following categories: 

  • Banking and finance institutions that use payment management systems;
  • Healthcare organizations with a variety of solutions that store patient and drugs data;
  • Government agencies that use numerous databases;
  • Large retailers that store customer data;
  • Online stores and resale marketplaces that collect user information and allow process payments. 
  • All industries related to client service

Secure software is not only great in terms of data protection, it will help save you the stress, anxiety and money. By optimizing software security as part of your regular software development stages you will be able to reduce business risks and expenditures on flaw detections in the future. And last but not least, you will be sure that your solution will be compliant with all industry standards and regulations, which minimizes the likelihood of receiving any fines or penalties or getting your software banned altogether. 

Let’s take our team, GBKSOFT software engineers have built numerous solutions for healthcare, educational, retail and financial organizations. While building out those solutions, we’ve explored all security and compliance standards and issues so there is very little in the way of unchartered territory in the field for us.

So now we have extensive experience that helps us develop secure solutions faster and without any issues. Our team is aware of all possible challenges and knows how to handle them effectively.

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Best software security techniques 

Software security can be ensured in so many different ways, however, there are several key practices that should be followed by your development team. If you miss any of the things mentioned earlier during the time of software development, then it may take you additional time and money to improve your software afterward to get it to a needed level. And now let’s take a closer look at those techniques:

security steps


Explore definite requirements
your team should be aware of all standards crucial for your business industry and make the end solution compliant with them. There is also a range of legal requirements for each industry that should not be neglected.
Complete analysis of risks and testing
To identify all kinds of flaws your solution may have, try performing architectural risk analysis. As to the testing, both penetration and risk-based assessment is required. Also it is a good practice to utilize not only automated but also manual testing for better flaw detection success. For example, here at GBKSOFT we often use SAST (Static Application Security Testing) and DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) to analyze the source code of an app before it is compiled, and then to identify security holes and vulnerabilities.
Perform code review
this rule is relevant not only for companies that build their solutions from scratch but also for the ones that strive to update their software that is old but gold. Code review can be performed using tools that help you detect obvious bugs, hidden vulnerabilities, various weaknesses and bottlenecks. The better and stronger the code, the lower the chances that you will have security issues with your software.
Resort to abuse cases
they will help you to examine and predict how users can possibly misuse the software or attack it; the idea is to turn weaknesses into strengths. Also, you will be able to discover how the software may behave under attack and what should be done to protect critical features and areas.
Update software security
although in most cases it is enough to prioritize software security during the main development, some solutions require periodic routine security updates. So you may need to test your software for bugs from time to time and consider introducing updates on a regular basis. To make your solution protected from various attacks, you need to replace outdated security features with new ones, detect vulnerabilities and eliminate security flaws, pay special attention to detecting malware and viruses, and protect your users data and accounts.

Key security controls for coding 

High-quality code is the key when it comes to developing powerful software that will serve you for years. The developers should not only write clean code, they should also follow the set of so-called golden rules to achieve the most secure code. All those rules and standards are provided by OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) OWASP defined top 10 proactive controls that must be followed during the development of every web project. And there is also the guide for mobile projects security

So speaking about key security controls for coding, we’d like to mention the ones provided by OWASP and highlight that they should be preserved during each development phase:

  • First, you need to define security requirements for your project.
  • Always use secure and up-to-date frameworks, libraries, integrations.
  • Make sure that the access to databases is protected and secure.
  • Use encoding and escaping techniques to avoid possible attacks and virus injections.
  • Implement validation tools for your software users.
  • Take special care of user authentication.
  • Protect all data used by your software and especially sensitive information.
  • Security logging and monitoring should be a must for your project. 
  • Let your project respond to different errors in different ways. It is crucial to handle exceptions and errors correctly. 

Let’s take GBKSOFT, while building solutions for businesses we resort to OWASP recommendations and always make sure that databases are reliable and secure, libraries and integrations are up-to-date and actively supported by a provider. If any kind of special authentication for users is required, we will definitely implement it and check every little detail.

DevSecOps – a great approach to security 

DevSecOps can be called one of the recent security approaches appearing in the development sphere. The main goal of DevSecOps is to incorporate security aspects into the rapid-release cycles. So in other words, to put it simply, it is just a deep security integration into a common DevOps cycle. 

Thanks to DevSecOps, software engineers can streamline and automate the process of analyzing security implementation during the earlier development stages and then do it throughout the whole solution development lifecycle. 

DevSecOps means building in security as an inherent part of app development from beginning to end. The development environment should include three key things that are the following:

  • All security tests and checks should be performed exclusively by developers;
  • All bugs or issues encountered during the testing part should be handled exclusively by developers;
  • Any and all fixes should be offered and applied only by the developers team that is building the software. 

To understand DevSecOps and all its principles better, we highly recommend that you watch the below video:

DevSecOps is considered an especially perfect approach if you are building a SaaS solution since it lets you improve overall solution security, identify all issues early on in the pipeline, and fix them without significant investments. On top of that, safer SaaS is more likely to be used by clients. 

What’s also great about DevSecOps is that it minimizes security bottlenecks and their frequency. Here is why – you simply do not need to wait till the end of the development cycle to run security checks and suggest improvements. 

One more advantage is that thanks to this approach you can be sure that industry standards and regulations are preserved. By ensuring a high level of security, you are also by default being extremely cautious about data handling. So, for example, such a standard as GDPR will be preserved by your solution as well. 

So let’s sum it up at this point, DevSecOps is a way of approaching software security by integrating security practices into an organization’s DevOps process. This approach implies that security will be prioritized and preserved on all software development stages. Here is a visualization that can help one understand DevSecOps:

DevSecOps scheme

What you need to know about SDL

Apart from DevSecOps there is one more holistic approach to the software security realm that is called SDL (Secure Development Lifecycle). It includes a range of development practices that help improve security of the solution and its compliance. SDL, like all other approaches mentioned by us above, has its more obvious and less obvious benefits. 

For example, by practicing SDL, a team of developers is continuously training and learning the best approaches and practices to devising secure coding structures. With time they become more consistent and help the team develop a second nature habit of paying close attention to the security on the go. 

SDL includes several methodologies that can be revised by the team, and then the one suitable for the particular project or workflow will be selected. All SDL methodologies can be divided into 2 large categories: 

  • Descriptive – these methodologies include general and extended descriptions of what other companies did in terms of ensuring security.
  • Prescriptive – these methodologies provide practical advice and recommendations. 

For example, there is a Microsoft SDL that was initially developed by Microsoft to ensure the security of its own products. The Microsoft SDL practices included regular training of tech takes, continuous updating of security requirements, identification of key metrics and necessary compliance reporting, active threat modelling, penetration testing and many more. 

So it is a rather holistic approach that helped Microsoft develop a set of recommendations that guide the company towards building more secure solutions. And what’s even more exciting, Microsoft even offers consulting services that can help any development team introduce SDL and start applying this methodology in practice. 

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Key practices the GBKSOFT team uses

Building solutions for various business niches is a complex task that can even seem daunting, but not with some preparation and practice. Our team concentrates not only on high-quality specifications, clear code and beautiful design, we also make security of the future solution the key priority. Our team includes highly experienced Quality Assurance specialists and DevOps who can easily ensure software safety. 

So when it comes to software development, the first thing we do from a security point of view is follow the OWASP set of requirements. Before starting any project, we carefully examine all requirements and industrial standards that it must follow. Once this research is completed, we have on our hands all the info regarding the necessary compliances. Then we select the libraries and databases that will be used for the project and check if they are all up-to-date, supported and secure.

We also take care of encryption, additional security measures and perform both kinds of testing – manual and automated. DAST and SAST are also actively used by our QA specialists. As to the DAST, they regularly use SQL injections and cross-scripting that are proven to be effective actions. When it comes to SAST, we prefer reliable tools like SonarQube. 

When it comes to user authentication, the strength of its security depends on the project type and needs. For example, our team recently worked on an educational software that will be used by kids, their parents and teachers. We needed to ensure complete safety of all data, user accounts and even information transfer. To accomplish this we decided to add two-factor authentication, restrict the number of password entry attempts and implement accounts verification. This approach worked perfectly and let us achieve the necessary level of security required by the client. 

GBKSOFT developed many highly secure fintech solutions in recent years. So while working on those projects we developed the best approaches that help perform safe identity management, protect solutions from cyber attacks, and make them compliant with KYC (Know Your Customers) practice and data protection regulations like GDPR, APPI (Act on the Protection of Personal Information), ISO/IEC 27000 and others required by different kinds of fintech applications. 

What’s also worth mentioning is that the GBKSOFT team is highly experienced in code review and old software improvements. We had so many cases when the clients came to us with requests to redesign their solutions, make it more modern and functional, and what’s more important – strengthen its security. So even if you have an app that seems to function fine, you can make it even better and secure with our team. Sometimes solutions built long ago are not compliant with the current standards, in which case the software should certainly be updated to reflect that change. 

By choosing GBKSOFT to be your software development partner, you can be sure that no bug will hide in your solution’s code and no security hole will be left unplugged. We take care of everything – holistic research of all requirements and best practices, thorough selection of the suitable technologies, writing of high-quality code, all kinds of testing and seamless deployment and release.

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Good to know
One of the latest cybersecurity trends is integration of AI technologies to avoid cyberattacks and strengthen the overall solution security. Our experts share their tips and knowledge in this blog post, so take a couple of minutes to read it.
Among the most popular and effective technologies used by tech takes, there are the following – behavioral analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain technology and namely DTL (Distributed Ledger Technology), VDN (Virtual Dispersive Networking), deep learning and embedded hardware authentication.
Any company can face cyberattack sooner or later. There are so many kinds of them, but some happen more often than others. For example, hackers often perform credential stuffing and get unauthorized access to systems and user accounts. There is also phishing when hackers gain personal information or trick you into downloading malware able to harm your software and systems. There are also numerous malware attacks that can happen to poorly protected solutions.

To wrap it up

It is hard to underestimate the importance of app security! After all, your solution may be used by so many people who will enter their data and entrust you with its storage, processing and safety. And you will be responsible for offering them a high level of safety for that provided data. 

So what you really need is to hire a reliable development partner who will be able to seamlessly integrate security into your solution during the software development lifecycle. This will help the team detect all risks, issues and security holes in the early stages, fix them and release a secure and scalable solution that will last your business for many years to come. 

GBKSOFT knows how to handle even the most complex and demanding of projects, approaching every single one of them with the best and most appropriate practices. So if you are still looking for a development partner with extensive experience in secure app development, we are your team! 

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Creator

I am mainly focused on enterprise mobility (Apple, Android), and digital transformation, highly curious about all emerging tech trends, always pay close attention to crucial details and try to find answers to a lot of questions before writing about something.
Evgeniy

Expert

Evgen is a key person that makes your project scalable and easy to maintain. Thanks to his advanced and deep knowledge of innovative technologies our team can produce project with high level of complexity and loading. And apart from being a great expert he's also a reliable team player ready to back you up.
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