Table of Contents

Table of Contents

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Published on Mar 18, 2024
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Juliya Smith

Security Considerations in Software Development: Protecting User Data

There’s a lot of pressure on CIOs and their IT departments to automate workflows, switch applications to the cloud while modernizing them, and improve the customer experience. Developers and agile development come up with automation, tools, practices, and cultures that help software developers and their teams achieve all such goals and create better software in quicker release cycles and with greater value.

These software development teams have fully automated continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines as well as continuous integration. They utilize Alops platforms and agile development tools to fix production issues and create better software with advanced features and premium quality. However, regardless of all these tools and services, a number of security issues persist.

How to Protect User Data When Developing Software

Unfettered access to CI/CD pipelines and source code repositories, mismanagement and poor governance of commercial components and open source, development of proprietary technical implementations, data leaks, and cyber leaks are some of the common security risks that software development teams come across.

While other issues may be fixed with better skills and expertise, cybersecurity issues remain, and they affect not only software developers but also end users. Many people have to go through cybersecurity issues like data leaks, ransomware, and other scams. However, thankfully, such issues can be fixed or minimized. The following are a few ways software developers can help protect user data:

Integrating Security into the SDLC

An organization's software development life cycle (SDLC) must be integrated with software security activities. These activities include pen testing, SCA, interactive application security testing, and risk analysis. Adding all these security features to the SDLC is not an easy job, as it requires a lot of time and effort. However, it's 10x better to add all these things in the beginning rather than waiting till the end. Adding them at the end of software development increases the workload and significantly increases the cost. Not to mention, they ultimately minimize your exposure to cybersecurity issues and other security risks.

Training and Educating Users

Besides the built-in security measures, one also needs to train and educate users. Yes, your organization's security DNA needs employee training. Thus, designing a well-maintained and well-organized security training curriculum should be mandatory. If it's an employee from the software development team, add coding training to the initial training process. Similarly, for all other employees, add awareness training to the initial training process. Such little adjustments can go a long way.

Besides that, if it's software for general use or one that isn't limited to an organization, you must give out a basic set of rules so that all the end users know what to do to stay secure online. Make sure that your software supports VPNs and other security tools. Users can purchase VPN plans online and use them along with your software. In this way, they'll enjoy it all while remaining digitally secure. After all, a VPN significantly minimizes the risks of data leaks and other online scams.

Document the Security Policies

There's no point in adding security measures to your software if you won't document the security policies. Therefore, we suggest you keep an information repository that comprehensively documents all your software security policies. From security staff to network administrators, it needs to have everything so that you know what activities are being performed and where the software is being used. Also, you must ensure that everyone using the software has access to your security policies. You must incorporate it in such a way that anyone who tries to access the software must read all the security policies before beginning to use it.

Limit access and provide the least privilege.

If everyone has full access to the software, it could be extremely harmful to you and the entire organization. You won't know who becomes the administrator and monitors or keeps track of the data. In many cases, people have been charged with stealing data by running software as administrators. Therefore, providing limited access is the key to staying safe here and protecting user data.

Make sure that everyone using the software has minimum access privileges and that nobody has unnecessary access rights. If anything, it will significantly minimize security issues by reducing the attack surface. It also includes avoiding 'privilege creeps.' Privilege creep often takes place when an employee leaves an organization or is transferred to another department or another job role. In all such cases, an organization must revoke access to systems or take back access to anything that the employee no longer requires or needs.

The Takeaway

Designing software is a lot more than creating a website or launching an app. There are a lot of things that take place behind the curtains, including adding security measures to it. Many software developers fail to consider security in the beginning, and it's something that costs them and their organizations both money and time later down the road. Thus, it's imperative to take security into account and design the software accordingly.

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