According to the application security statistics, 83% of apps had at least one security flaw during the initial vulnerability scan. 61% of tested apps had at least one highly critical and severe vulnerability not listed in OWASP top 10. What’s even worse is that it took organizations more than 50 days to fix critical vulnerabilities in their internet-facing apps.
All this happens because apps are not created with security in mind. In fact, security is the last thing on the mind when creating an app. As a result, you will end up with an app that has security loopholes that can easily be exploited by cybercriminals to fulfil their malicious designs. The sheer number of data points and app accesses also increases the threat surface and allows more opportunities for hackers.
So, how can you create secure apps? That is exactly what we will discuss in this article. In this article, you will learn seven application security principles that you need to adopt to develop secure applications.
Here are seven principles of application security you need to adopt when creating mobile apps.
Most apps are compromised because they don’t control or limit access. This means that anyone can access anything within the app. That is where the principle of least privilege comes into play. It ensures that people only have the access they need to perform their tasks. For instance, only the account manage or finance manager should have access to financial information and transaction details, but others should be restricted. Access control and least privilege help you contain the damage in case of a data breach. Even if the attacker manages to break into your account, they will only have access to limited information. Keep an eye on individuals who have unrestricted information, such as a system administrator and ensure that their accounts are secure. Hackers do more damage if they can compromise the accounts of most privileged users.
The ‘principle of separation of duties’ pick up from where the ‘principle of least privilege’ left off. The core idea behind these principles is that you should never give too much authority to a single role or user. Even if a user needs a lot of privileges to perform a task, they must seek permissions for it. When you give too much authority to a single user, they become the prime target for hackers. Moreover, if they take a wrong decision, it can negatively impact your entire organization. Delegate roles and divide the workload between multiple users so that you don’t have a single central entity as it is far easier for cybercriminals to target one central entity than multiple entities.
Irrespective of how good your security systems might be, hackers can find a way to get through your security defenses. When you design your system with the defense of depth in mind, it will give you a clear indicator that your security system is about to fail. Even though most servers have DDoS protection in place, they are usually located at the same location in the house.
This means that if a threat actor manages to break into that building in your absence, they can gain physical access to all your servers. This will render your security systems and firewalls worthless. That is why it is highly recommended that you monitor these servers with security cameras to detect any intruders.
The principle of ‘failing securely’ considers the worst-case scenario. It makes you believe things will fail and you need to find ways to mitigate the damage in case of such incidents. You can think of failing securely as a house with many independent doors. If an unwanted guest tries to open one door, all other doors get automatically locked. This prevents attackers from using compromised nodes or devices as an entry-point to access other areas of your network.
According to the open design principle, your system security should not rest on the secrecy of your implementation. If you are using encryption or cryptography to keep your conversation and data private, this principle can come in handy. Try to hide your source code so attackers won’t get access to it because if they do figure it out, they can easily find vulnerabilities and exploit them. Adopt secure development practices so your application is secure by design. If your app is developed with security in mind, hackers won’t be able to do more damage even if they gain access to your source code.
From a security standpoint, there can be nothing worse than using hardcoded usernames and passwords to login into a privileged account. This literally means that you are giving hackers access to your privileged accounts by putting them on a plate. The security of your system relies heavily on the secrecy of your credentials. When they are hardcoded, they are no longer a secret anymore.
That is the reason why secured systems discourage privilege access in the first place. Even if a user has privileged access, they will have to seek permission for it. Additionally, privileged users are under strict vigilance and monitoring. Use multi-factor authentication if you are still using passwords for user authentication.
If you have ever visited a data center or seen one online, you might have noticed a common trend. These data centres don’t have too many windows. This is because windows are easy to break and could allow easy entry to threat actors. With modern applications accessing hundreds of data sources, it exponentially increases the attack surface and risk. Your goal should be to minimize the attack surface as much as possible to minimize the number of entry points for attackers. Identify app features that are buggy or have vulnerabilities and remove them by plugging the loopholes.
Which application security principles do you adopt for developing applications? Share it with us in the comments section below.