Mastering SDLC Security: Best Practices, DevSecOps, and ASPM

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What Is the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)?

The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) is a systematic process or set of phases used in the development of software applications. It provides a structured approach to planning, creating, testing, deploying, and maintaining software. 

The primary goal? To produce high-quality software that meets or exceeds customer expectations, is delivered on time and within budget, and is easily maintainable. 

Phases include:

  1. Initiation and planning
  2. Requirements analysis
  3. Design
  4. Implementation
  5. Testing
  6. Deployment
  7. Maintenance and continuous improvement

Software Supply Chain vs. SDLC

Because we talk about software supply chain attacks in the context of SDLC security, it’s essential to clarify the difference between the two.

In short, the software supply chain comprises everything and everyone that touches an organization’s application in the software development life cycle (SDLC), including people, processes, dependencies, and tools. It’s a broader view of the entire ecosystem that covers software creation, distribution, and maintenance. Meanwhile, the SDLC is a specific framework for guiding the development and delivery of a particular software product.

Why Is SDLC Security Important?

Security in and of the SDLC is crucial to protect against cyber threats and attacks, minimize the risk of data breaches, ensure compliance, and maintain customer trust. 

But, given the number of attack vectors within and throughout the SDLC, most organizations have a significant gap in their software supply chain coverage.  Consider how many developer accounts, repositories, or misconfigured tools organizations have that could be compromised or leaked. Historically, teams have relied on AppSec tools like Static Application Security Test (SAST) and Software Composition Analysis (SCA), but even these leave modern organizations vulnerable.

That’s precisely why Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) was introduced. 

ASPM platforms like Cycode gives security and devs teams complete visibility and control of their risk posture throughout the software development lifecycle, across on-prem and cloud-based environments. 

Common Security Vulnerabilities in the SDLC

Attack vectors in the SDLC include DevOps tools and infrastructure, code tampering, insecure coding practices, code leaks, and more. 

DevOps Tools and Infrastructure

Out of the box, components like SCMs, build systems, and package repositories are configured for release efficiency and velocity, not security

More often than not, these tools are implemented outside the purview of security teams. Because of this, DevOps tooling could be compromised. For example, organizations with tools running on their running default settings instead of being managed by consistent and rigorous security policies are vulnerable to attack.

Code Tampering

Code tampering occurs when source code is altered or malicious code is injected. It can happen at any point in the CI/CD pipeline, and preventing it requires organizations to monitor all stages of the SDLC. Moreover, trends like everything as code and GitOps now store other things as code that can be tampered, including security policies, infrastructure templates, build rules, and more. This expands the potential attack surface for code tampering beyond feature code and enables attackers to compromise more of the SDLC.

Insecure Coding Practices

Beyond software vulnerabilities, coding can introduce a number of risks. 

Not following secure coding best practices exposes valuable resources and enables attackers to gain access to your systems. This includes such things as using hardcoded secrets, misconfiguring infrastructure as code (IaC) templates, not standardizing on naming conventions, or storing sensitive information beyond secrets in code comments. 

Hardcoded secrets become dangerous when API keys, encryption keys, tokens, or passwords are exposed and risk being replicated across many cloud environments, effectively exposing application components or data to the public. 

Code Leaks

A code leak is when proprietary source code is publicly exposed. This happens either accidentally by a developer copying code to the wrong repo or intentionally by a malicious actor. Code leaks present a serious risk to any organization. Not only is code an incredibly valuable asset in itself, but a code leak could expose secrets and often widens the attack surface so that unauthorized users are able to gain access to internal systems or data.

How to Integrate Security into the SDLC

Generally speaking, the core components of a secure SDLC include:

  • Security planning: Identify and document security requirements alongside functional requirements with consideration for security features, access controls, and data protection requirements.
  • Security testing: Test applications using software composition analysis (SCA), static and dynamic analysis, penetration testing, and more to identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
  • Secure deployment: Ensure secure configuration of servers and environments, implement access controls, and and use secure deployment to minimize potential vulnerabilities.
  • Maintenance and monitoring: Update and patch software to resolve known vulnerabilities, monitor and log security-related events, and implement incident response procedures.
  • Training and awareness: Train developers, testers, and other team members in secure coding practices, and raise awareness about security best practices company-wide. Remember: Security is a team sport!

Frameworks like NIST’s Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF) and Google’s Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA) were developed to help organizations integrate security into the SDLC. 

NIST’s SSDF outlines four areas to guide secure software development: Preparing the organization, protecting the software, producing secure software, and responding to vulnerabilities. 

Google’s SLSA was created in collaboration with the OpenSSF. It emphasizes the integrity of software artifacts throughout the supply chain and maps three goals to five software lifecycle stages.

Google SLSA framework showing software lifecycle stages.

The Role of DevOps

DevOps plays a critical role in enhancing security throughout the SDLC. The integration of security practices into DevOps (often referred to as DevSecOps) is a holistic approach that emphasizes collaboration and communication between development, operations, and security teams. In particular, DevOps contributes to SDLC security by:

  • Identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities at the earliest stages of development 
  • Promoting CI/CD practices, automating the build, testing, and deployment processes
  • Defining and deploying infrastructure in a consistent and repeatable way 
  • Emphasizing and enabling cross-functional collaboration and communication
  • Embracing continuous monitoring practices to detect and response to security incidents 

Best Practices for SDLC Security

To help ensure a secure SDLC and reduce the risk of security breaches, we recommend the following:

  • Involve security experts from the beginning of the process
  • Train developers on secure coding best practices
  • Adopt a strong SDLC governance program
  • Monitor the software for security vulnerabilities after deployment
  • Update the SDLC as new security threats emerge
  • Use security tools and technologies to help identify and mitigate risks

How ASPM Helps with SDLC Security

While many tools can enhance security throughout the SDLC, only one offers complete protection and peace of mind.  

ASPM is the only tool that offers continuous security in and of the pipeline. ASPM platforms automatically ingest data from multiple sources throughout the software lifecycle, giving security teams an ongoing, real-time view of their risk. This makes it faster and easier to detect, respond to, and remediate issues. 

A complete ASPM solution is one that can provide you with a suite of application security testing tools like SCA and SAST, can deliver CI/CD security, and also ingest data from other third-party scanners.

How Cycode Helps with SDLC Security

Cycode’s security-first, developer-friendly AppSec platform provides visibility, prioritization, and remediation for security, engineering, and DevOps teams throughout the software development lifecycle.

By offering a single, unified security platform that consolidates SAST, SCA, IaC scanning, pipeline security, secrets scanning, and code leak detection, Cycode gives security teams and developers peace of mind. In addition to our own suite of scanning tools, we can ingest data from third-party scanners to give you a full view of your application risk.

Learn more about hardcoded secrets detection, CI/CD security, and source code leakage detection now, or book a demo to see the platform in action.

Originally published: December 12, 2023