10 Application Security Best Practices

By NIIT Editorial

Published on 19/05/2021

6 minutes

Web application security is arguably an important cybersecurity field that can be hard to keep track of due to security vulnerabilities, evolving technologies, and threats.

When it comes to the security of the enterprise stack, it couldn’t be wrong to say that software applications are the weakest link.

And guess what!

The majority of external attacks occur either by exploiting software vulnerability or through a web application, as per Forrester in the State of Application Security report, 2020.

As complexities started arising in apps, developers are under pressure to release new features. And consequently, they are focusing solely on open source components to ensure the application must run flawlessly.

This would ultimately enforce the organization to adjust its security practices. Also, some of the frameworks like containers and APIs may become complex to the security of the application.

With developers are toiling hard to consistently release new features, organizations face the real risk that might be hard to keep up. If organizations want to secure their software, they can adopt security best practices and integrate them into the life cycle of their software development.

NIIT’s Advanced Post Graduate Program in Cybersecurity and SecOps lays special emphasis on educating students about the same. This 18-week program instills non-IT learners with the confidence to become cybersecurity specialists. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the top 10 application security best practices that you should use in your organization to protect your valuable assets.

Here we go!

1. Track Your Assets Properly

Before heading to the point, make sure you ask the following questions to yourself;

·   Do you have any idea which servers you are currently using for specific apps?

·   Do you know about the open source components that are included in your various web apps?

If you think tracking assets is not important, then make sure you ask Equifax, which was hit with a $700 million fine for its failure to protect the data of over 145 million customers. They also claimed that they ignored the importance of asset tracking and faced a multitude of things.

Keeping track of your assets is incredibly important as it saves headaches and disasters later that you might face. Since it can feel like a Sisyphean task, this process should be automated as much as possible.

2. Stay Ahead of the Competition

Do you want to stay ahead with the latest versions? What about third-party software?

If you are not, there are significant chances that you might be lagging.

To ensure the security of your software, patching your software with updates is one of the most important steps you can take. The vulnerability is then published on security advisories and databases when it is responsibly discovered and reported to the owners of the product.

Also, there are chances that developers might feel hesitant to upgrade to the latest version of the software. And it couldn’t be wrong to say that updating and patching must be your application security best practices that you should follow.

3. Conduct a Thorough Assessment

You can begin to figure out what your threats are and how to mitigate them after you have successfully made a list of what needs protection.

·   What are the potential ways for hackers to gain access to your application?

·   Do you have existing security measures to detect or prevent an attack?

·   Are more or different tools needed?

As a part of your threat assessment, these are just some of the questions you need to answer. But you must face the truth that- even if you think you have the maximum level of protection available, you cannot think it will be impossible to hack.

Make sure you are completely transparent about what measures you think your team can maintain down the line.

Note: Always keep in mind that security is a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Prioritize Your Remediation Ops

Vulnerabilities have been on the rise and they are showing no signs of slowing down. When it comes to remediation, developers have their dance cards full. And to keep your applications secure while maintaining their sanity, you need to consider your remediation Ops.

Based on the severity of the vulnerability, doing so requires performing a threat assessment (CVSS rating), how critical the impacted application is to your operations, and a variety of other factors. Also, you need to know whether your proprietary code is using the vulnerable functionality in the open-source component.

5. Manage Your Containers

Containers, over the past few years, have grown in popularity as more organizations embrace the technology for its flexibility.

It will help organizations to build, test, and deploy the applications across various environments throughout the SDLC. There’s no arguing with the fact that containers are generally believed to be infused with a multitude of security features.

Since they are segmented by design, it can lower down the level of risk to other applications. However, exploits such as a breakout attack, in which the isolation is breached, pose a threat to containers. Also, the code stored within the container may be vulnerable.

6. Simply Encrypt

This is one of the best application securities that help encrypt your data!

If you don’t bother to properly lock down your traffic, then it can lead to the exposure of sensitive data.

Let’s take an instance to understand!!

If you are storing user IDs and passwords or other types of info that could put your customers at risk, then you are automatically putting them at risk. Make sure your fundamental checklist encryption should use SSL with an up-to-date certificate.

HTTPS has become the standard these days so do not be left behind. Also, you can consider using Hashing.

7. Adopt Automation

When it comes to tasks like vulnerability management, developers have taken more ownership of the security of their applications. And as a result, they are busy pushing the multiple levels of security checks at the beginning stages of their development.

Developers need automated software to assist them in handling the time-consuming testing process. To find potential vulnerabilities in your code, static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) may lend you a helping hand.

While SAST and DAST are essential aspects in closing security holes, proprietary code is something that you must never forget.

8. Adhere to Tokens

It couldn’t be wrong to say that how many developers don’t properly secure their tokens for third-party services.

By searching through popular developer websites, you can easily find unsecured tokens online. Instead of storing them somewhere more secure, developers simply include the token details in their open-source.

You don't have to leave tokens that you've paid for lying around in your code, ready to be taken. Make sure you place them properly.

9. Know How to Manage Privileges

No matter how many departments are there in your organization, not everyone in your organization needs to have access to everything.

In addition to the guidance from network security, when you have application security best practices, you can limit access to applications and data to only those who need it.

You need to prevent the hacker from roaming into other more sensitive data if a hacker can gain access to a system using someone from marketing’s credentials. Also, if you lose a laptop or attach the wrong file to an email -- or malicious, you are putting your company at risk.

By managing privileges and adhering to the limited access to only the data they need, you could reduce your exposure, and ultimately you will have better control over your business operations.

10. Don’t Overlook Penetration Testing

While automated tools may help you curb the security issues before a release, no application or security practices would be complete without citing the need for pen-testing.

When it comes to finding weak points, pen testers can comb through your code, poking and prodding your app. When you have good pen testers, they know exactly what a determined hacker will try when breaking into your application.

You can hire professional hacking firms or use freelancers who can easily find security threats. If you are however not already sponsoring a bug bounty for your product, make sure you start doing it at the earliest.

Final Thoughts

So, that’s a wrap-up to the top 10 application security best practices!!

There’s no denying the fact that everything in this list of application security best practices should be a part of your organization’s priority. To minimize the risks to your company’s applications and data, make sure you strictly follow these steps.

Staying ahead of hackers will prevent you from making those silly mistakes and even help you focus on other core operations of your business.

While no application security measures are ever fully hack-proof, adhering to these top 10 practices will help you a lot in securing to an unprecedented level. Also, it will keep you and your data safe.


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