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App Development
6 minutes read

Understanding the Secure Software Development Life Cycle

By Jose Gomez
By Jose Gomez
App Development
6 minutes read

The secure software development life cycle (SDLC) is a modern approach to software development that prioritizes security considerations at every stage of the development process. Cyber threats are consistently evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Organizations are now painfully aware of how damaging security breaches can be from a financial and reputational perspective. 

If a cyber attack breaches your company’s mobile app, website, or business software, your business could suffer. Unfortunately, the traditional software development life cycle does not prioritize security testing. As a result, project managers are adopting a secure SDLC to bring development and security teams together from the outset of the project and prioritize security practices. 

This post will explain the secure software development life cycle, how it works, and the benefits associated with actively including security testing at the earliest stages of the software development process. 

What Is the Secure Software Development Life Cycle? 

The software development life cycle is a framework for building an application from initial idea conception to the inevitable decommission. Several software development life cycle models have been used in software development, including Agile and waterfall. Regardless of the software development life cycle model chosen, each model includes the following phases:

  • Planning 
  • Design and architecture
  • Development 
  • Testing 
  • Deployment 
  • Maintenance 

Typically, companies perform security testing after development while the software is being tested for usability and other issues. The issue with this approach is that bugs, errors, and other security vulnerabilities aren’t found until after development, if they are found at all. Problems in this late stage of the software development life cycle take longer to fix and are more expensive. The earlier an issue is identified and addressed, the cheaper and easier it will be to fix. 

The secure SDLC implements security testing at every phase of the software development life cycle, not just at the end. It is easy to talk about security, but how do you put it into practice during software development?  

How Does a Secure Software Development Life Cycle Work? 

One of the most common reasons developers don’t actively implement security activities at every stage of the development life cycle is the erroneous belief that doing so will inhibit development. On the contrary, implementing security considerations in the development process does not impede efficiency or creativity. So what does it mean to integrate security testing into the software development process?

An easy way to start considering security practices during the earliest stages of development is to map security requirements while writing out the functional requirements of your software. In addition, your security teams could also perform architectural risk analysis assessments during the design phase of the software development life cycle.

Additional ways your teams can begin to implement a secure software development life cycle include:

  • Additional education on secure coding best practices and best available security frameworks.
  • Using code scanning tools during development for interactive application security testing and dynamic and static analysis. 
  • Performing a gap analysis to discover how effective your organization’s security policies are. 
  • Develop a software security initiative and formalize the processes for security activities. 
  • Provide secure code training and tools to your development team. 

In reality, a secure SDLC is more efficient and cost-effective than the traditional model of waiting for security risks to pop up on their own. The best way to implement a secure SDLC is to commit to security practices as an organization. For example, suppose safe delivery is part of your development culture. In that case, security considerations will naturally be a part of every software development life cycle phase, no matter which software development model you choose to work with. 

The Benefits of a Secure SDLC

Implementing a secure SDLC has several benefits for businesses. We’ve touched on some of these benefits briefly while discussing a secure software development life cycle and how it works, but let’s explore the benefits in more detail. IT consultants recommend a secure SDLC because:

  • Software is more secure
  • Flaws are discovered before they are coded 
  • Costs are reduced 
  • Business risk is reduced 

Software Is More Secure 

When development teams embed security activities into the development process, the end product is secure software. However, security breaches can have lasting reputational damage to your organization that restricts user adoption and business growth. Plus, a security breach could also cost your company financially beyond the costs of fixing and securing the original vulnerabilities that led to the violation. 

In our digital-first world, strong security is paramount. Users share a lot of personal information and data with software. Putting the personal information of your users at risk is bad for business. A secure software development life cycle can ensure that security risks are mitigated before the software reaches end-users. 

Flaws Are Discovered Before They Are Coded 

It is better to catch errors and flaws before they are coded into existence. Employing a secure SDLC will ensure that most bugs, errors, and other imperfections are detected before development teams create them. If a mistake is never made in the first place, it doesn’t have the potential to slip detection and affect end-users. Beyond security considerations, you don’t want software bugs to detract from the User Experience or hinder people from using your software. 

Costs Are Reduced 

The most significant benefit of a secure SDLC is cost reduction. But, you are likely asking, how can adding extra steps to the development process reduce costs? Catching design flaws, bugs, and other errors early, before they are coded into existence, will save your business untold amounts of money. However, the longer it takes to catch a mistake, the more costly it becomes to fix it. For example, an error detected after production could cost more than 100 times more to fix than an error caught in design. 

In addition, while adding security testing at every phase of the development process might sound like a lot of extra effort and cost, in reality, it is not. Most of the security testing will be automated. When your development and security teams work collaboratively, they will be more efficient in terms of the time they spend building your product. 

Business Risk Is Reduced 

There is a business risk in operating software and collecting user information, especially in industries like MedTech and FinTech. While even the strictest security practices won’t eliminate risk, your business can significantly reduce the risk by following a secure software development life cycle. When secure SDLC is part of your development culture, security is always a concern. Therefore, your teams always employ the latest security practices and assess current security risks. 

Final Thoughts 

Secure software development is essential for businesses. Too much information is being collected and stored not to implement security testing at every stage of the development process. If you want to learn more about how your business can employ a secure software development life cycle, reach out to an experienced app development partner.

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