With increased digitalization among businesses, security concerns are greater than ever. Cyberattacks are costing businesses around the world more than USD$11 million a minute. Another huge concern is the data breaches that result in billions of personal data being stolen.
As the sector of information technology is proving to be among the fastest-growing sectors in the world, the rise of cybercrimes is also growing rapidly. And in today’s businesses, even a tiny error in the software systems they use can result in vulnerabilities. A hacker armed with the latest tools can easily find and exploit those vulnerabilities. If this happens, it could cost businesses a great deal of money or result in disastrous data breaches.
From Websites to Software
In the past few years, cyber attackers have also started targeting software, and not just websites. Security experts have always maintained that subscribing to the latest security software alone isn’t a good strategy when it comes to security. It’s not enough. Securing your software systems takes more than that.
You also need multiple tools, tool customization and integration, and developer training. You’d also need to test your software for vulnerabilities. To know more about vulnerability testing, check out the post right here.
It’s important to remember that hackers also use AI and other advanced techs as well as powerful tools to gain access to your software. Besides testing, you also need to take steps to strengthen the security of software systems like the ones listed below:
1. Database Protection from SQLI (SQL Injection)
An SQL Injection is a technique hackers use to insert malicious SQL that would allow them to access data that’s not supposed to be retrieved. If this happens, a hacker can delete or change the data and could alter the software’s behavior as well as change its content. This type of attack is, unfortunately, very common and very dangerous.
Hackers can easily find SQLI vulnerabilities by using tools. Some can even do it manually. Once they’re found, exploiting them is easy as pie. There are several ways of preventing an SQL injection. One way is for your SQL statements to be parameterized. You have to make sure that the SQL interpreter can distinguish which part of your SQL statement is data and which part is the command.
However, utilizing parameterized stored procedures doesn’t mean the job is done. All data inputs should be sanitized and validated, whether data is from your users or a cookie. Data inputs should be within the expected range, in the correct format, length, and type. Data that doesn’t conform with the parameters shouldn’t gain access.
Be aware, too, that even if your code is well-written, vulnerabilities can still sneak in every time a code is changed or added. You could also discover SQL injection vulnerabilities in old codes you thought were safe. What you can do to supplement your knowledge is to subscribe to security communities or forums so you can be updated and be aware of new issues that arise.
There are also SQL Injection prevention tools and software that are available in the market. That way, if a vulnerability is detected, the tool can quickly deal with it. Just be sure you have access to anomaly detection and alerts.
2. Validate Input Data
When it comes to data from the outside, it’s all right to be cautious. Treat with suspicion all data that comes from outside your program or service. They’re all potentially harmful. If the client informs you that data has been validated, you still need to do your own validating.
Don’t rely on the other people’s say-so when it comes to validating. Always do it yourself. Use whitelist or inclusive validation rules that clearly identify the range and size of values that are deemed acceptable. Fuzz-testers and other tools can test the reliability of your data input validation. They can also find bugs automatically.
3. Encode and Sanitize Data
Defense from other injection attacks is similar to the idea of preventing SQL injections—parameterized SQL statements to separate code from data. You also have to ensure that the data is safe before passing it on to an OS command shell, XML parser, or another external interpreter.
To make the data safe, you’d have to output, encode, and sanitize data by escaping first before passing it on to the interpreter. Doing it this way means the data won’t be identified by the interpreter as executable statements. This task should be done thoroughly.
An understanding of the rules regarding escaping or encoding for every interpreter is required. Moreover, encoding rules should be applied properly in specific contexts. And be careful—you wouldn’t want the data to be encoded more than once.
There are, however, tools that can assist you with this. You’d still need to be careful, though. The tools aren’t a guarantee that you’d do everything correctly. Even with tools that can automate certain tasks, injection attacks are still very common.
4. Authenticate and Establish Identity
Admittedly, a foolproof authentication system is virtually impossible to set up. The same for session management—there are simply too many things that can go wrong. Session management and authentication are actually among the top security problems. If you can, always try to apply multi-factor authentication.
Remember, when it comes to user IDs and passwords, make sure that simple passwords are rejected. Passwords should have a certain length and complexity. If an email address is used as a user name, make sure that it’s kept safe. Hackers can harvest emails.
Another security concern is password recovery. You’d have to use tools to help you create a secure recovery function. Tools like these include selecting and employing security questions, validating the answers, and other things that can help secure your password recovery function.
5. Limit Access
Establish which people need access to which data at the design stage. You also need to set up rules so that users and systems have access privileges at the minimum level required to complete their jobs. Using POLP (Principle of Least Privilege) can help decrease the attack surface by removing needless access rights.
Limiting access would not only make auditing easier but updating the rules would be simpler, too. Remember to use ‘deny by default,’ users should be checked by different functions to confirm their authorization before continuing.
This system would remove the ‘privilege creep,’ which refers to the slow accumulation of unnecessary access permissions and privileges by some users.
6. Privacy and Data Protection
When it comes to privacy and data protection, encryption is one of the most important steps you can take. Data should be encrypted not only during processing but also in transit and at rest. Encrypting data at rest basically means converting your client’s important data into a different type of data.
This task is typically done by an algorithm. The converted data won’t be understood by a user without an encryption key. Your data stays secure by limiting access to these files to authorized personnel only. However, you should take care not to expose personal data during processing. Don’t store unencrypted data in temporary files. Remember not to include unencrypted data in logs, and be careful also when saving it in memory.
7. Integrate Security into SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle)
You could also incorporate software security measures throughout the SDLC or software development life cycle. These measures should be applied at every stage of the security development, from the beginning stage until the end. Sure, it would take time and effort, but patching vulnerabilities in the early stages of software development can actually save you time and certainly a lot of effort. Exposure to security risks would be decreased.
Software that has security problems would cause delays and considerable embarrassment for everyone involved. Fortunately, security concerns and a desire to develop software faster and more efficiently have led to the creation of a new security-conscious methodology, which is called DevSecOps.
DevSecOps, or development security operations, is a method that includes security into every phase of a software’s development cycle. The old way of waiting until the software is finished before addressing security issues is gone. It wouldn’t be practical today. Moreover, the method fosters team collaboration, which leads to more efficient and streamlined production.
8. Detecting Logs and Intrusion
Logging is an essential tool for activity auditing, forensics, and detecting intrusion. An activity audit, or audit logs, captures an activity by recording which was responsible for the activity, the tasks performed, and how the system behaved. Intrusion detection means sending alerts when the system is under attack. Forensics, on the other hand, is finding out what happened after the attack. Your logging strategy should include all of these.
9. Correct Error Handling and Exceptions
Error handling can be tedious, but someone has to do it. Error and exception handling mistakes can lead to various kinds of dangerous security vulnerabilities. Leaked information can be used by hackers to gain access to your system. Error messages with details can reveal too much information, technical or otherwise, regarding your run-time environment.
How an error is phrased can help hackers and not only legitimate users. For example, instead of using ‘invalid login,’ the system uses ‘invalid password’ or ‘invalid user.’ This could unwittingly give more information to hackers. Moreover, inconsistent or missing error handling can result in unnoticed errors, erratic behavior, or even crashes.
Even with tremendous advances in security, there is still no foolproof method of guaranteeing security. But there are steps you can take to make it very difficult for anyone or anything to penetrate your system and cause mischief. Tools, various algorithms, your team’s know-how, and willingness to tackle tedious tasks can help you strengthen the security of your software system.