These days, software engineers are among the most sought-after technology professionals in the world. After all, every part of our digital world is in some way affected by them, and none of our modern conveniences could exist without their valuable contributions. That also goes a long way toward explaining why so many people are in training to join their ranks.
Many of them, though, believe that learning how to create solid code is enough to prepare them to take on the role of a software engineer. In today’s environment, however, there’s another discipline that is essential to success that must be mastered as well. It’s developing the ability to create secure code, and it’s a vital part of being a top-notch software engineer.
The good news is that it’s not necessary to have the skills of a full-fledged IT security analyst to get started off on the right foot. In fact, the first steps toward developing secure code are simple ones. They’re all about learning to place security concepts at the center of everything you create. Here’s what you have to keep in mind.
When Thinking Security, Think CIA
The first part of learning to make security a central factor in your work is to understand the basic concepts that all of your software should adhere to. To do this, just think – CIA.
It isn’t the Central Intelligence Agency that acronym refers to, though. From a software engineering perspective, it stands for:
- Confidentiality – This means making sure that all software you work on secures data with strict authentication, encryption, and built-in access authorization procedures. This is the most basic building block of all software security.
- Integrity – This refers to the need to build software functions that check to make sure that the data used and stored by the software hasn’t been altered without proper permission. Building such integrity checks into your software helps make sure that everything the end-user sees is as it should be and that nothing’s being altered mid-stream as the software does its work.
- Availability – This is the recognition that a vital part of software security is making your code resilient against attack. For example, imagine how well your software would perform if hit with a large-scale DDoS attack? Making sure your software is available when legitimate users need it is a key goal of the security-minded software engineer.
Design with Complete Mediation
Another key to making security a priority in software engineering is to always aim to make use of complete mediation in all facets of software development. In practice, this means creating code that ensures that every single privileged action is authenticated on every request. You must also check out Voot App For PC
For today’s developers, this is easiest to imagine in the scenario of a RESTful web service that’s used with AngularJS. In that kind of setup, it might seem desirable to slim down your code and streamline operations by allowing the AngularJS app to make unauthenticated calls to a set of unpublished URLs. While this would certainly be efficient, it would also be disastrous from a security standpoint.
If you were to build software in this way, any attacker with basic network sniffing tools might discover those RESTful URLs and inject malicious requests into your system with nothing to stop them. By instead forcing every request to authenticate before executing, you make the same code resilient against such an attack.
The bottom line is, secure software should never allow any changes or execution of requests without an authentication check for each and every one. By having an authentication module as a mediator, you’ll have a built-in defense against many external threats and exploits of your code.
Make Threat Modeling a Prerequisite for Release
There’s an old axiom that holds that the best defense is a good offense. When it comes to security in software engineering, that statement couldn’t be truer. That’s why every security-minded software engineer should hone their threat modeling skills and make them a key part of the software testing phase.
In other words, it’s essential to learn to think like the bad guys if you hope to thwart their attempts to compromise your software. To do it, make sure to create a diagram for all code you work on that displays the paths that data takes through it. This should make it possible for you to identify any process vulnerabilities early before they get baked into your finished software.
This is also a process that should be repeated as each new module gets added to your project, both to assess the interactions between the various parts of your software, and also to make sure that no inadvertent changes to previously secured code slip by. By making that a core part of the software engineering process, you can be reasonably assumed that your final product won’t be riddled with security flaws.
Secure from The Ground up
Any software engineer that keeps these basic security tenets in mind will be well on their way to creating solid and secure code for every project they tackle. Of course, there’s quite a bit more to software security than what was covered here, but these concepts are a great place to start. So, to all the budding software engineers preparing to create the next generation of software to change the world, you now know how to start creating software that’s secure from the ground up. What you make is up to you.