There’s no doubt that a developer’s programming practices play a massive role in the security of software, apps, databases and all other electronic systems. This places a major responsibility on programmers everywhere to write safe, high-quality code as often as possible.
So, this article lays out the top 5 secure coding practices that will help you build sustainable products, avoid having your software compromised, and make your skill set even more attractive to prospective employers... For more helpful programming career tips, news and job listings make sure you subscribe to codeslaw, here.
Some of the worst software vulnerabilities occur when hackers take advantage of bugs that allow them to steal, alter, or remove data. For example, an SQL injection is one of the most common hacking techniques that exploits this type of vulnerability. These types of attacks are extremely prevalent, and can cause major problems in terms of your software’s level of user trust, success and longevity.
The obvious solution to this issue is to design programs with security as a top priority. It’s rarely easy to do this. But, secure design is always worth investing in. Especially when it comes to your peace of mind.
To design secure software, it’s a good idea to make sure that your security procedures are built into the actual architecture. You can also regularly analyze your source code at periodic intervals to find and fix security loopholes as often as possible.
One of the most important aspects of securing your code involves threat modeling. This is essentially a process of acknowledging potential threats, determining your software’s greatest weaknesses, and preparing for any threats that may occur. It’s also a good idea to prioritize any potential threats, so that you’re able to resolve the most pressing security matters first and foremost.
To undergo threat modeling, you can perform manual source code analysis, or try using a threat modeling tool as well. Many developers like to partake in both of these options, especially when it comes to working on highly-sensitive projects that involve user data or financial accounts.
In order to rigorously validate user input, you should assume that user input comes from untrustworthy sources. Making this negative assumption will help you prevent a surprisingly large percentage of all security vulnerabilities.
For example, if you have a contact form on your website, then you might want to validate your input fields for criteria such as length, character sets, range, character encoding, and expected data types.
Additionally, beyond just blacklisting certain characters, you might also take whitelisting into consideration. Whitelisting is an extremely proactive and effective approach that can prevent a number of headaches further down the road.
You can’t avoid failure forever. So, you might as well prepare your software for failure right now rather than later. This requires failing in a way that’s “safe”. In other words, when your software fails, you want to make sure that private data is never compromised.
To accomplish secure software failure, you can implement the principle of least privilege, as this will help to prevent unauthorized access. You can also make sure that your app doesn’t disclose any unnecessary information, like in the case of a login error (always keep these errors generic). And, it’s always a smart idea to keep a log of your software’s failures, so that you can continue making improvements as time goes on.
Overcomplicating the security process makes it all too easy to skip securing your code altogether. So, the ultimate goal for programmers is to simplify the security process in a way that’s straightforward and possibly even enjoyable to do.
Because, when your security process is relatively simple, this makes it significantly easier for you and team members to maintain a secure system. This will also make it easier for you to add new security contingencies further down the line.
To simplify your security process - you can reuse trustworthy components, avoid complicated architecture, integrate security tools within your IDE, and take a number of other actions. Security is always a long-term game. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Learning how to best safeguard your software is ultimately a long-term pursuit that can take months or even years to excel at. And, while there are hundreds of secure coding practices that programmers can learn - these 5 practices highlight the most important precautions to consider.
Due to the constant nature of security vulnerabilities in software, it’s in your best interest to master these 5 secure coding practices, and continue improving your code quality for the duration of your career.