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Four ways to optimize Application security program

An application security (AppSec) provider should work with its clients to optimize their programs. Through their help, the number of applications that are put onboard into the application security program rapidly scale, thus increasing the coverage of applications under risk management, ranging from legacy apps on the ground to next-gen apps in the cloud.

Challenges from Hackers

Creating robust application security is as much a cultural process as it is a technical issue. Testing applications for security flaws go well beyond simply preventing attacks from hackers. Application vulnerabilities can lead to lost or stolen data, which could potentially result in even more serious consequences, such as stakeholder lawsuits, extensive remediation costs, and damage to your brand reputation.

What adds to the problem is that testing demands from the client are not always consistent, as most companies no longer follow fixed-release schedules. If you operate in an agile development environment, you could be facing almost continual feature releases as the client organization works to stay competitive and meet customer requirements. When developers reuse old code, they may inherit its technical debt which can include security bugs and flaws. With hackers looking for the easiest way into an organization’s application, they continue to attack vulnerabilities in code. If the client’s demand spikes without the availability of the necessary application security resources, you may find yourself scrambling to test and clean code or, worse, deploying patches to the released software.

Each security testing tool has different strengths and by only implementing one or two such tools, it is easy to miss critical issues that could increase the risk of attack. Similarly, if you do not have the capacity to replicate and confirm the findings of your testing processes, you may spend hours chasing false positives. For example, standard automated scanning is not a sufficient method for protecting applications, managing business-centric critical functions, or accessing sensitive data. Application security changes constantly with new threats, emerging attacks, and evolving compliance regulations, and hence developers need a comprehensive testing strategy for the whole life cycle of the application.

Potential Losses

As software becomes more ingrained into our lives, we are placing an increased responsibility on developers to make sure that it is functional and secure. Any vulnerability could mean a system flaw or weakness in an application that could be exploited to compromise the security of the application. Once an attacker has found a flaw, or application vulnerability, and determined how to access it, the attacker has the potential to exploit the application vulnerability to facilitate cybercrime. These crimes target the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of resources possessed by an application and its developers and users. Attackers typically rely on specific tools or methods to perform application vulnerability discovery and compromise.

Long-Term Security Cycle

There are four ways to optimize your application security programs: nurture a culture of secure software delivery, look forward with analytics, engage with developers through vulnerability scrums, and integrate AppSec into the CI/CD pipeline. Organizations are required to maintain collaboration across development, security, and operations. There should be visibility into applications, clear ownership by lead developers, proper escalation processes, and risk-focused discussions on a case-by-case basis. Organizations should use analytics to provide directions for future priorities. The next-step action items should be laid out before each team of developers to guide them on where to apply their tools and efforts for the benefit of the program. The CI/CD pipeline is the new firewall, where you can prevent insecure code from being released to production.

Organizations that follow these four recommendations have seen their AppSec programs become the model for their company’s larger vulnerability management programs. They have seen a concurrent and sharp decrease in the number of existing open flaws through remediation across static analysis, dynamic analysis, and manual penetration testing. These four areas have provided the tools for making application security part of the DNA of software development.

Govindraj Basatwar
Govindraj Basatwar
Govindraj is a Global Sales Head for AppSealing at INKA Entworks. He keenly follows the innovation and development in cybersecurity, IT, content and application security, and software development, and loves to educate everyone about the what, why, and how of major incidents in the cybersecurity world. His views on industry trends and best practices have been featured in articles, white papers, and had been a keynote guest at multiple security events.

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