CISO’s Guide to Secure Software Development

To better protect personal data and ensure information security, organizations should be taking advantage of vulnerability assessments and measuring against application security benchmarks. These application security validations and certifications ensure your applications comply with fundamental security specifications, including safe programming, organized design structure and secure operations.

This CISO‘s guide to secure software development can help you understand and follow the priorities of the specifications for application protection and why investing in application security programs is necessary. First, some basics.

Data Leaks and Breaches are Costly

The cost of a data breach and the necessity of application security risk management is one of the main reasons why a secure application strategy is a top priority for CISOs. Regardless of an organization’s size, a data breach can have devastating consequences both economically and on a company’s brand reputation.

Key highlights from the report that CISOs should be aware of:

  • The approximate data breach cost in 2020 was US$ 3.86 million, as per reports from Ponemon Institute and IBM.
  • Hacks on Marriott and British Airways cost those companies approximately $100 million USD due to violations of GDPR.
  • The State of Ransomware 2020 report from Sophos revealed the average amount to remediate a ransomware attack is around $733,000 USD for companies that are attacked and don’t pay the ransom. That increases by $144,800 USD when companies do pay.
  • Organizations with dedicated incident response (IR) teams who tested an IR plan using attack simulations saw savings of $2 million USD versus those who didn’t invest in such measures.

5 Reasons CISOs Should Invest in Application Security

  • Drowning in Cybersecurity Data
    The number of sensors generating security data keeps growing, including firewall logs, antivirus scan reports, insider threat reports, DLP logs, vulnerability scan data, modern persistent threats, server access logs, authentication logs and more. The variety, velocity and volume of data can quickly overwhelm security analysts. Automation and analytics can address this challenge.
  • Reactive and Passive Approaches are not Enough
    Actions like logging, alerting and monitoring are not sufficient for security measures alone. Tools that can not only provide visibility but react to threats or incidents in near real-time are necessary to avoid damage. Advanced automated security operations and hands-on threat-hunting with swift incident responses are essential to safeguard digital assets.
  • Fragmentation and Chaos
    As a CISO and their team persistently react to threats, they generate a disorganized digital mixture of HTML pages, PDF reports, XML extracts and CSV files. These reports, files or pages are tough to integrate, analyze and integrate into applications and strategies for generating automated responses.
  • The Shift from Discrete Security Events to Uninterrupted Security
    The cloud and DevOps are increasingly enabling code deployments and facilitating dynamic environments that confront the conventional “certify once and monitor forever” waterfall security model. Modern applications and infrastructure and IT environments necessitate a proactive, dynamic and advanced security approach. Security-as-code is the only methodology that can scale and react on a real-time basis.
  • Data from Multiple Sources
    CISOs possess two distinct sets of dashboards: one for internal and the other for external stakeholders. However, both these dashboards must operate based on the same underlying data sets. But this is not always the case; from simple spreadsheets to advanced BI tools, CISOs have data streaming in from multiple sources, making it difficult and complicated to secure necessary information and show analytical dashboards to the rest of the C-suite.

How to Build a Secure Application Strategy

  • Create an Application Security Culture
    A highly secure application security strategy starts at the top and then flow down through the entire organization. The C-suite must commit to security measures and emphasize that they are a top priority. Both management, technical employees and non-technical personnel must be trained on the significance of application security and follow best practices.
  • Take a DevSecOps approach
    This specific approach enables security in all the steps and stages of the application development process, with a mutual understanding between security and development teams. A collaborative and interactive working relationship will result in more secure outcomes.
  • Conduct All-Inclusive AppSec Testing
    Test extensively using a wide variety of testing tools, including dynamic and static application security testing, interactive application security testing and software composition analysis tools. The most comprehensive method uses manual testing in combination with automated testing and threat modeling.
  • Use an Application Vulnerability Manager
    An application vulnerability manager enables development and security professional teams to integrate fixes based on the outcomes of previous AppSec testing and facilitate updates more effectively. This method correlates the outcomes from various testing applications and provides the results in a well-structured report. It cross-references outcomes and results through SAST and DAST tools and assists in prioritizing which vulnerabilities pose the most severe threats to your company so you can patch and update accordingly. Some tools will incorporate developer environments, making it simple for security and development teams to work together to deal with possible threats.
  • Avoid Speed Traps
    The pressure to develop applications faster is increasing, and developers must avoid ignoring security to meet deadlines. Focus on the significance of application security for enterprise success in the long term, even if it means slowing some development processes.
  • Create a Formal AppSec Plan
    Create and follow a standardized application security plan. Your strategy and tactics should be well-documented and include tools to track, monitor and address security challenges and all organizational benchmarks that are linked to application security. Regularly revisit the plan to ensure it stays relevant and up to date.

Developing and following a strategy, use of the right tools and ensuring your entire organization is committed to application security can reduce the chances of a data breach, safeguard the bottom line and protect your business’s reputation.

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Deepak Gupta

Deepak is the CTO and co-founder of LoginRadius, a rapidly-expanding Customer Identity Management provider. He's dedicated to innovating LoginRadius' platform, and loves fooseball and winning poker games.

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