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Top 10 Application Security Best Practices

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By Author: sparity
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Top 10 Application Security Best Practices

The unprecedented growth experienced by the application development industry has put forth millions of mobile and web apps that cater to different users’ unique needs. With this accelerating rise in the app economy, it is predicted that the mobile app market share is anticipated to accelerate at a CAGR of 22.95%, with the mobile app market share estimated to rise by USD 957.44 billion from 2021 to 2026. Even businesses that have never used apps before are now making inroads into this market. Today, apps have become an integral part of our daily lives as there exists an app for everything and, moreover, apps are becoming a must-have option for every business.
But these positive advancements have also brought with them a whole range of challenges, with security issues, in particular, becoming more frequent. While the majority of developers and enterprises perceive their applications to be sufficiently secure, they continue to deploy vulnerable code into production releases. Every day an application isn’t 100% secure is a day that sensitive information ...
... could be stolen. Everything is on the line, from customer records and confidential company data to financial transactions and the company’s credibility.
One of the most challenging issues faced by security professionals today has to do with application security. In this blog, we will be looking into what application security is and what are some application security best practices you can put into play right away.
What is application security?
Application security is the process of implementing security tools, processes, and best practices across the whole application lifecycle, including requirements, analysis, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance to protect enterprise applications and APIs against internal or external attacks, privilege abuse, and data theft. Because apps and APIs contain valuable data, cybercriminals are more determined than ever to identify and exploit businesses’ weaknesses in order to steal sensitive information or intellectual property. Its ultimate goal is to strengthen security practices, allowing for the earlier identification, correction, and prevention of software vulnerabilities.
Why is application security important?
The vast majority of successful breaches aim for exploitable flaws at Layer 7—the application layer—demonstrating the necessity for enterprise IT departments to be exceptionally watchful about application security. Today’s applications are much more complicated than in the past because of outsourced development, the prevalence of legacy programs, and in-house development that uses open source, 3rd party, cloud, and commercial off-the-shelf software components. This means that your applications are easy entry points for malicious actors seeking access to sensitive data and proprietary information stored within your company. In order to keep your organization safe, you must take precautions to protect your enterprise apps.
Articulating the significance of cybersecurity, Stéphane Nappo, Global Chief Information Security Officer at Groupe SEB, says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and few minutes of cyber-incident to ruin it.”
What Are Application Security Best Practices?
To overcome application security challenges, business leaders must direct their attention and take advantage of these best practices listed below. Implementing these methods would assist them in comprehending the threat landscape and making important decisions. The majority of these practices are platform-independent and applicable to a variety of apps.
1. Keep track of your app’s infrastructure
A successful application security program depends on many aspects, including an organization’s ability to align capabilities, motivate IT and security teams to adopt proactive measures, and enhance their security program by employing app security best practices. Knowing which assets comprise your application and software production infrastructure is critical. If you don’t know what part of your application architecture is most at risk, you can’t fix it. Making sure you’re keeping tabs on your application architecture is the first step in developing a comprehensive app security strategy. And while you’re at it, assume that every part of the application’s infrastructure is vulnerable.
Keeping tabs on your application architecture will prevent unnecessary stress and catastrophe later. Organizations should automate this procedure as much as feasible so that it doesn’t become a Sisyphean effort as the organizations continue to scale their development. Examine each component of the application architecture from a security standpoint to prevent non-application components from interfering with your data. In addition to tracking your assets, take the time to categorize them, noting which ones are critical to your business functions and which ones are of lesser significance. This will be useful later while carrying out a threat assessment and remediation strategy.
2. Perform threat assessment
After compiling a list of what must be safeguarded, you can go on to identify potential threats and develop responses to mitigate them. Identify attack vectors that attackers could use to infiltrate your application. Ensure adequate security measures are in place to identify and stop threats. Create in-depth profiles of every user and their gadgets.
Through the threat assessment, you can establish a standardized methodology for determining protocols for software security policy implementation whenever users or systems attempt to access any component of the software infrastructure. Establish a strategy for visitor network access, including guest registration, guest authentication, and guest sponsorship. Utilize an open/RESTful API to facilitate integration with a wide range of security and networking products.
3. Follow secure software development practices
Software developers must be trained on how to spot and prevent security flaws. They must be familiar with SQL injections, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site resource forgery (CSRF), and other Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Additionally, they must be familiar with security standards, secure coding approaches, algorithms, procedures, and the necessary tools for developing safe applications.
Implement a secure DevOps approach (DevSecOps or SecDevOps, depending on whom you ask) that entails incorporating security into every step of the DevOps lifecycle. Putting security first allows you to find and fix issues as you go, decreasing the total number of problems you’ll have to fix before releasing your program.
Furthermore, implement a Secure SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) Management Process that defines the product life cycle from the security point of view. This process encompasses the whole process of developing a new product from initial concept to full market deployment, both as a mature product as well as at the end of its lifecycle.
4. Manage your containers
Containers simplify software deployment by enclosing an entire application stack inside a self-contained package. The most up-to-date practice in containerization is partitioning an application into separate microservices, which may be virtualized and shared. They are segmented by design due to their self-contained OS environment, thus minimizing the risk level to other programs. However, containers are still vulnerable to attacks such as a breakout attempt, in which the isolation is disrupted. Furthermore, the code contained within the container may be insecure.
To secure your container usage, avoid running containers that require root-level access, avoid storing credentials in containers and instead use environment variables. Consider both public and private registries while assessing your security needs. Utilize third-party security tools to conduct automated, end-to-end scans for proprietary and open-source vulnerabilities, including your registries. In addition, adhere to known security standards for container security, such as NIST 800-53 and the Open Security Controls Assessment Language (OSCAL) standard from NIST.
5. Create app permissions and manage privileges
Sharing information between applications is a common task today. Using insecure permissions for data exchange between apps is a significant security risk. Utilizing signature-based permissions defends the app from the firmware of another app by checking the signature of the sign-in credentials. Therefore, if the data sharing action is to be processed between the two applications, both applications must be signed in with the same sign-in keys. Regardless, data sharing occurs immediately if the two apps are already signed in with the same sign-in keys.
Giving everyone in your company access to all company data is unnecessary. According to best practices in application security and recommendations from network security, only authorized users are granted access to sensitive data and programs. Two reasons: First, if a hacker gains access to a system using a sale’s credentials, you must block him from accessing essential data in marketing or finance. Second, insider threats, whether unintentional (losing a laptop or sending the wrong file) or malevolent. By controlling rights and following the Principle of Least Privilege, you can limit your vulnerability compared to having no controls.
6. Encrypt your data
One of the most pressing problems of our time is keeping sensitive information safe. The security of the data sent between the two applications is provided through data encryption. Encrypting data entails systematically de-structuring it in such a way that it cannot be misused even if a third party obtains it. Failure to adequately secure your traffic can expose critical information to man-in-the-middle attacks and other sorts of intrusion.
Using SSL with a valid, up-to-date certificate should be part of your standard operating procedure for data encryption. These days, everybody uses HTTPS, therefore, you shouldn’t lag. The use of hashes is also recommended. Data encryption has taken on greater significance with the advent of the data-driven world. The developer is responsible for encrypting all data using stronger and more sophisticated encryption and decryption algorithms.
7. Employ automation for application vulnerability management
Intelligent automation is essential for lowering cyber risk in the face of a growing number of new vulnerabilities, a complicated environment, and an ever-changing threat scenario. The large volume of vulnerabilities necessitates using automated solutions to assist developers with the burdensome task of managing the testing process.
Static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) can help you uncover security flaws in your proprietary code while it is still being developed. While SAST and DAST are useful for finding and fixing security flaws, the amount of proprietary code in your codebase is likely to be small compared to your overall codebase.
In more than 92% of today’s applications, open source components account for 60-80% of the total codebase. As a result, making sure open source components are protected should be at the top of your application security checklist. By cataloging all of the open source components in your environment and pinpointing the ones with known vulnerabilities that put your applications at risk, software composition analysis tools allow teams to execute automatic security tests and report all the way through the SDLC.
8. Patch and update regularly
Do you update your operating systems to the most recent versions? What about third-party applications? If you are falling behind, then you are vulnerable. Businesses must utilize software updates and patches, from commercial vendors or the open source community, particularly for bug fixes, as they are the primary line of security against cyber criminals. Sometimes, software updates cause problems. Software engineers can manage the situation by applying software upgrades in a second environment and, if successful, deploying the updates to a live system.
9. Use pentesting
While automated tests can identify the majority of security flaws before release, there may still be undiscovered vulnerabilities. To mitigate this risk, it is prudent to use an expert penetration tester. This type of ethical hacker seeks to get into an application in order to uncover vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors in order to protect the system from an actual attack. It is crucial that the pentester be a non-project-affiliated, outside expert.
10. Accurate input validation
It is crucial that all input data be syntactically and semantically accurate. The data should be checked for length to ensure that it contains the required number of digits and characters, has the correct size, etc. Otherwise, you run the risk of unscrupulous individuals attempting to attack injection-related vulnerabilities by passing SQL commands through the phone number field using other characters or unwanted inputs.
There’s no one foolproof way to secure your organization’s assets. However, by adhering to the fundamentals, you may make your organization a much harder target. All of these recommended application security best practices should be incorporated into your organization’s ongoing development process. This list provides the very bare minimum precautions that should be taken to protect the apps and data of your organization.
Though security professionals may have a wide variety of perspectives and opinions regarding application security best practices, the majority would agree that any application security assessment checklist should include the key points covered in this blog.
At Sparity, we employ a thorough security testing strategy and implement best practices for application security to guarantee the safety and authenticity of our software. For this reason, we put a lot of time and effort into testing, and our team of skilled mobile developers and dedicated testers ensure that you have access to the most trustworthy applications possible.

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