Best Practices for Application Security

    As cybercrime rises, application security has become a buzzword in the software development industry. TikTok, a popular social media app, got publicly slammed in late 2020 after users discovered that it had more aggressive permissions than most apps and might be unlawfully collecting sensitive data, like passwords and credit card information.

    Most application and software developers want to keep their users safe, but how? This best practices guide can help you ensure your application is secure before you send it off to market.

    Table of contents

    Application security best practices

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    It takes a lot of work to ensure applications are secure before they hit the market, but keeping your consumers safe is worth it. Following these best practices will help you improve your application security.

    Authentication and authorization

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    Log-in screens protect the information stored in the application from public access. Even if someone gains access to a device, they’ll still have to know the right credentials to gain admittance to the application itself. Set up password rules to make sure your users are choosing passwords that will be difficult to guess. Many tools require passwords to be at least eight characters (although longer is better) and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.

    Along with authorization, you might consider adding multifactor authentication, also called two-factor authentication, to your app. With multifactor authentication, users will log in with their credentials and then get a code delivered to either their phone or email to confirm their identity. You should also think about automatically logging out the user after a certain period of inactivity.


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    If your application is going to be used to transfer data between devices, the application should be able to encrypt data while it’s in transit. For sensitive information, the data should also be encrypted when it’s not currently in use. Use well-known encryption algorithms, rather than trying to create your own.

    The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) refers to the algorithm that many organizations, including the U.S. government, trust as the standard for encryption security. There are forms in 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit. Any of these would most likely provide the right amount of security for your application.

    Data logging

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    Not all the data you gather in your application should be logged, but you should at least keep track of where the application is accessed from. If the system detects a strange login, it should send an automated email or SMS text message to the user, allowing them to take action if it wasn’t them. This should help minimize any damage an attacker might do because the user can shut off access quickly.


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    Before your application hits the market, you should have tested it repeatedly. Penetration testing uses both tools and manual techniques in an attempt to exploit gaps in the software’s security. Once the tester has gained access, they can steal data or cause disruptions in the same way an actual attacker would.

    Along with penetration testing, you should employ static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) to find security vulnerabilities in the code. The SAST method employs a tool to automatically scan the code, but it can result in a lot of false positives. DAST is a more manual approach and can be used to further examine the gaps SAST illuminated.

    Cloud app security considerations

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    Because users access cloud applications through the web, you have to take into account browser security and compatibility for your app. Add a secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate to your website to encrypt data and keep attackers from accessing it.

    Some of the most common threats cloud applications face are incorrect application setup, attackers stealing user credentials, and insecure application programming interfaces (API). Cloud application security platforms (CASP) and proxy cloud access security brokers (CASB) can both be used to secure cloud applications. They provide an extra layer of security for cloud applications and enforce any security measures to make sure hackers aren’t gaining entry by force.

    Also read: Top CASB Security Vendors for 2021

    On-premises app security considerations

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    In-office employees can access on-premises applications through a business network, while remote employees may use a virtual private network (VPN). Because of this, attackers must get more creative in their attempts because they can’t simply access the application through the public internet.

    For on-premises applications, you might want to add different layers of access depending on who will be accessing the data. C-level executives might get administrator access, while individual contributors may simply get user access. Incorporating least-privileged access protocols helps ensure only authorized users are accessing the most sensitive data.

    Also read: Understanding the Zero Trust Approach to Network Security

    Application security standards

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    There are a variety of organizations that set standards for application security, including ISO, ANSI, FIPS, and CISQ. These standards differ by industry and location where the software will be used. Many application security tools have these standards built into them, so the program knows what to look for when it’s crawling your application. Make sure your app adheres to the standards set by the appropriate organization.

    Securing your app for market

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    Securing your application for market is no easy task, but it’s worth it to keep your users’ data safe. Follow the best practices we’ve laid out and test your app mercilessly before releasing it to the public. Consider how users will access your app both on-premises and in the cloud. Employ application security tools to help, and double-check the applicable standards to ensure your application meets them. Building a secure application is the best way to ensure your customers are safe, satisfied, and keep coming back to you.

    Read next: Microsoft Makes Case for Securing BI Data

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    Jenn Fulmer
    Jenn Fulmer
    Jenn Fulmer is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, and eSecurity Planet currently based in Lexington, KY. Using detailed, research-based content, she aims to help businesses find the technology they need to maximize their success and protect their data.

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