Any business, organization, or team working in the software development field has heard of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). This process defines the stages and procedures development teams follow to ensure they churn out high-quality end products time after time – from planning to deploying for end users. For many businesses, the SDLC might be the business. Knowing how to implement Secure SDLC (SSDLC) may the difference between success and failure, in the short, medium, and long-term.
In a world where security threats are proliferating by the day and rising in both scale and complexity, it’s more important than ever to secure your most critical business operations. Establishing a Secure SDLC (SSDLC) that incorporates security measures and policies into the development workflow is the most effective way to do so.
However, it can be a challenge to incorporate secure development practices into your SDLC without the proper security leadership in your organization.
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Now, let’s break down how the SSDLC works and meshes with a conventional SDLC.
How to implement the 5 Stages of the Secure SDLC
Some knowledge of the basic SDLC steps comes in handy when trying to understand the SSDLC. That’s because the SSDLC builds on the same fundamentals, ensuring your development process still goes smoothly but enhancing the overall, end-to-end security. As such, it mirrors the same 5 top-level stages: Analysis, Design, Implementation, Testing, and Deployment.
Also called the planning phase, this is where business analysts, project managers, and domain experts compose business requirements for the application to be developed. This involves determining the:
- Functional and non-functional requirements
- Timetable with intermediate goals/checkpoints/deliverables
These activities can all be performed in regards to both security and non-security concerns. From a purely security-oriented perspective, you will also carry out a risk assessment during this stage. You can use a framework such as NIST SP 800-30 to help you identify, model, and determine the risk associated with specific threats.
This result of this stage is usually a comprehensive design document specification (DDS) that formulates the architecture, platforms, user interface, integrations, etc. of the final product. It’s basically a blueprint created by designers, architects, and project managers and handed over to developers for implementation.
When following an SSDLC, you will also document, in concrete terms, the security measures to be implemented. For example, 2-factor authentication, SSL encryption, secure payments, etc. The decisions made here should be informed by the risk assessment carried out previously, as well as a thorough threat modeling process.
Now, we get to the actual implementation phase where the physical application will be built according to the scope and specifications determined in the previous two stages. Many organizations today follow an iterative development process whereby multiple development -> testing -> development cycles will be carried out.
This allows the software to be built and verified unit by unit, usually starting with core capabilities. Those involved in implementing security features should keep this in mind from the onset, and approach this stage with a flexible and agile mindset as specification changes might be introduced in between iterations.
During this stage, performing a static program security analysis or secure code review should be part of your day-to-day development.
In today’s software development environments, a number of testing types are applied to the development of any software product. Functional testing, system testing, unit testing, acceptance testing, integration testing, as well as non-functional testing all have their place and can be applied equally to security-oriented and non-security-oriented facets of the software.
Conventional bug or exception testing is even more critical during the SSDLC as these are all potential exploit vectors once the application goes live. However, you will also want to invest in security-specific testing carried out by internal or external factors, such as:
- Penetration testing
- Vulnerability scanning
- Ethical hacking
- Security audit/review
- Database security scanning
- Gap assessments, etc.
This stage involves actually putting the end product in the hands of users. Alternatively, deploying it live in whichever context it will run. Today, much of this process is automated using continuous integration/deployment/delivery (CI/CD) tools.
QA, support, and security personnel need to be on high alert during the early stages of deployment. There are likely to be existing vulnerabilities in any newly created system, despite even the most thorough and rigorous SSDLC.
Particular attention needs to be paid to the database, server, and network configurations at this time. Reviews should be carried out frequently and adjustments made when potential issues are identified.
Making use of beta testing services or programs can be one way to cast your net wider in terms of catching potential vulnerabilities and exploits before they can cause actual harm.
Knowing how to implement Secure SDLC will help your business produce more secure apps. Furthermore, the software ddeveloped will not only protect end-users but your long-term business interests as well. Far from upending your established workflows, it merely requires you to adopt a more security-oriented posture throughout the SDL. Also, it requires concrete actions you can take to implement security at various stages.