Enterprise level software needs a tightly bound software development life cycle (SDLC) to ensure deployed applications follow business requirements and stay bug-free. In the Hollywood blockbuster version of this high-stakes process, that secure SDLC would require exactly five things: lasers, a group of witty nerds, a security program that features fast moving green type on a black screen, a large digital clock and Jason Statham.

Unfortunately, securing an SLDC isn’t so simple in real life. Standard SDLC guidelines often don’t include all-important security, and this oversight can leave the resultant software vulnerable to a variety of common attacks. Like in the Hollywood version, however, these costly data breaches and devastating cyber-attacks can be combatted with five things. Keep reading to find out the details on SDLCs and the ways to ensure your organization’s software is secure.

Building software requires structure

Smaller individual apps can be built without needing much structure and it all tends to go fine. But once any application graduates from a simple app to enterprise level and the words project management enter the picture, it’s going to require structure in its development. This need for organization through the various stages of development is what gave rise to the standard SLDC template.

The basic steps are:

  1. Requirements: gather the requirements that define the way an application will function
  2. Design: design the application and a functional user experience and layout
  3. Coding: use the requirements to then code the application’s functionality
  4. Testing: test the application for any bugs
  5. Deployment: push the application from development or staging to the production server

These are the bare bones. For best results, each individual organization needs to inject its own personality into the template to create a custom SDLC. But even with all the personality an organization can muster, this template is still going to be lacking.

The missing link

It’s pretty clear that security is missing from the above template. This is indeed where many organizations set themselves up to fail, as neglecting security in the development process puts the organization at risk for critical data loss and breaches. It can take years to recover from an attack, a situation made all the more frustrating by the fact that these attacks can largely be avoided by using the right security standards injected into the SDLC.

To create truly effective security defenses on an application, developers must be able to think like hackers, anticipating the attacks that will doubtlessly be attempted. To aid in this important process, security organization Checkmarx has put together SDLC security guidelines to facilitate this process and create a security life cycle.

Their top tips for securing your SDLC are as follows.

1. Educate your leaders

The emphasis on security has to come from the top down. Developers may not seriously consider the importance of security if that importance isn’t understood at the highest levels of your organization. Educating your organization’s leaders on just how essential security is builds an environment where security is set as a priority from top-level executives down to managers, project managers, business analysts, developers and testers.

2. Arm your developers

Developers can understand the importance of security all they want, but if they don’t have access to the tools they need to test for security flaws, all that understanding can be for naught. Your developers need to begin with a fundamental understanding of the way hackers work, and then use that understanding to run the appropriate security tests against the application. To do this, they need access to those essential security testing tools.

3. Know when it’s time to break the build

Most software is going to have some type of security flaw. That’s unfortunately just how it goes, and not every flaw necessitates a stoppage of the building process. But when high and medium level vulnerabilities are found, it’s time to stop the development process and break the build to find a better solution. Return to the design cycle and determine a better way to code the solution that doesn’t introduce critical vulnerabilities.

4. Integrate with bug tracking

A solid SDLC involves bug tracking processes that help quality assurance and developers understand what needs to be improved in the application. This should include any security vulnerabilities found during the development process using the tools mentioned in point #2. QA can then regression test each iteration of the software for security bugs found in the original software development phase.

5. Collaboration makes it happen

Security is a widespread concern that requires collaboration between all IT employees. To make this collaboration second nature in your organization, management has to facilitate an environment that makes it easy for all members to share information and work together to build the best software in the industry.

While these five points are considered by many to be the fastest and most effective ways to build secure applications, organizations are still free to inject their own quirks and personality into these guidelines. However, security has to be thoroughly implemented and incorporated before an application is open to the public.