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What Is Secure Software Development?

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Secure Software Development

Most users trust software implicitly. The software they install on their devices as native apps, the software they access in Cloud spaces, even the software they rely on to protect their devices from vulnerabilities in the other software, are all products that they use without thinking if they’re trustworthy.

However, none of this trust should be taken for granted. Software development is not an inherently secure process. In fact, in many ways it is an inherently vulnerable process. To maintain this public trust in the software consumers depend on, secure software development should be the primary concern of every developer. and the Advantages of Using Software Development Tool, which can make or break your business’s Softwares.

What Does Secure Software Development Mean?

Software code is not inherently secure. In fact, the opposite is true. Robust programming languages like C++, JavaScript, and Python have inherent security vulnerabilities. Security of the software solution under development needs to be an active consideration with every line of code written.

One of the foundations of secure software development is the implementation of a secure software development life cycle (SDLC). A SDLC follows an established framework for the development of software according to set security standards, also known as a secure software development framework (SSDF). Examples of established SSDF and SDLC include:

  • NIST SSDF. Promulgated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a non-regulatory arm of the US Department of Commerce.
  • Microsoft SDL. A framework developed by Microsoft based on the classical spiral method of software development, used to reduce maintenance costs and increase the reliability of the software.
  • SANS SDLC. A framework developed by Escal Institute of Advanced Technologies (SANS Institute), a private US-based cybersecurity institute.

A major component of a secure software development life cycle is the adherence to various established security standards. Compliance with these security standards may be mandatory to satisfy regulators, depending on the industry and the functions performed by the software. Examples of security standards developers may be required to follow include:

  • ISO 27001. Also known as IEC 27001, ISO 27001 is an international standard for the management of information security, created and maintained by the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission.
  • CIS Controls. A series of 18 software security controls created and maintained by the Center for Internet Security, currently in its eighth version.
  • PCI DSS. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, created and maintained by PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Software Security Council), comprising software providers who must handle payment card information (credit cards and debit cards), sensitive customer information frequently targeted for data theft.
  • OWASP. A standard created and maintained by the Open Web Application Security Project, promulgators of free information and promoters of open-source software. 

Secure software development isn’t just about implementing best security practices during the coding and development phase, either. After the code is written, the software must be tested. Various digital tools can be used to test the code and the running application for security risks, either by in-house IT teams or third-party companies.

Software developers may even hire “ethical hackers,” data security specialists proficient in the methods used by cybercriminals. These experts perform a “penetration test”—a focused, unannounced attempt to breach the software using methods favored by real cybercriminals.

Once the test is complete, the ethical hacker presents the developer with a report of vulnerabilities they discovered. The developer can then correct those vulnerabilities to protect them from a real hacker.

Why Is Secure Software Development Important?

The cost of cybercrime can be devastating. Users can face severe victimization, but the most severe casualties are often the companies themselves. They can face fines, lawsuits, and catastrophic loss of brand trust.

The average cost of a data breach to a victimized organization was last calculated at $3.86 million. The global cost of cybercrime is expected to increase 15% annually until it tips the scales at $10.5 trillion by 2025.

Perhaps the most sobering statistic related to cybercrime is that 60% of small businesses close their doors for good within six months after becoming the victim of a data breach.

The bigger the business or organization, the more dramatic the results. A 2021 software breach gave hackers access to the Colonial Pipeline, causing gas shortages for millions of Americans across the eastern seaboard.

Other dramatic software breaches within the last ten years include:

  • Adobe, October 2013. 153 million user records exposed.
  • eBay, May 2014. 145 million user records exposed.
  • Marriott, 2015-2018. 500 million user records exposed.
  • Equifax, July 2017. 150 million user records exposed.
  • Canva, May 2019. 137 million user records exposed.
  • Zynga, September 2019. 218 million user records exposed.

What Are Some Tools Used in Secure Software Development

Software developers and third-party cybersecurity specialists have a number of tools in their arsenal to enhance the security of new software solutions. These tools constantly evolve, because the tools of cybercriminals are constantly evolving too. It’s an arms race, and cybersecurity experts need to make sure that their firepower is evenly matched with the firepower of the hackers.

Tools used in secure software development include:

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Tools. Static application security testing analyzes the application source code in a static state—before it is compiled or while the application is not running. SAST can uncover errors in the code, including security vulnerabilities, but it cannot detect errors in code execution. Some SAST tools are specific to a coding language, while others can perform SAST on a variety of coding languages.
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) Tools. Dynamic application security testing analyzes applications while they are running, usually web-enabled applications. DAST tests exposed HTML and HTTP interfaces. They are much easier to use, but return less actionable information. Finding the source of the vulnerability identified by the tool could require some detective work on the part of the developer or security expert.
  • Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) Tools. Newer to the cybersecurity scene, interactive application security testing also analyzes an application while running, similar to DAST. But IAST observes the flow of data and the behavior of the application using code instrumentation, looking for flaws.
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA) Tools. Many software solutions are actually built from open source libraries and components.  Software composition analysis tools scan those open source code components in search of vulnerabilities that other software security tools might miss.

Liventus details some other secure software development tools in this guide.


The war between cybercriminals and cybersecurity experts will never come to a satisfactory conclusion. But through secure software development life cycles, secure software development frameworks, established security controls, testing tools, and the expertise of third-party cybersecurity experts, developers can continue to offer consumers the peace of mind that the software they use is as secure as it can possibly be.

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