Top 10 Secure Coding Practices Every Developer Should Know
This guide will share the top ten secure coding practices that every developer should know. You'll never have to worry about writing insecure code again!
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According to the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), insecure coding practices are responsible for around two-thirds of all web application security vulnerabilities. This means that if you're a developer, the chances are high that you've written code that contains at least one security vulnerability.
The good news is that every developer can adopt several secure coding practices to help mitigate the risk of writing insecure code. This guide will share the top ten secure coding practices that every developer should know. So whether you're a leading developer working for a major tech company or a student developer on a freelancer contract, you'll never have to worry about writing insecure code again!
Let's get started.
Cyber-Risk: The Facts
Before we delve into the top ten secure coding practices, it's essential to understand the current state of cyber risk. After all, as a developer, you need to be aware of the risks you're facing to take the appropriate steps to mitigate those risks.
ThoughtLab found that cybersecurity breaches rose 20.5% in 2021 as cybercriminals became more sophisticated during the global pandemic.
With the frequency and cost of cyber incidents rising, it's more important than ever for developers to adopt secure coding practices. By doing so, you can help to protect your organization from costly cyber breaches.
Standard Terms Used in Cyber-Risk
So that we're all on the same page, let's quickly define some of the common terms used in relation to cyber-risk:
- Cybersecurity: The practice of protecting your computer networks and systems from unauthorized access or theft.
- Cybercrime: Crime that is committed using computers or the internet. Examples of cybercrime include identity theft and phishing scams.
- Vulnerability: A weakness in a system, application, or network that attackers could exploit to gain unauthorized access or cause harm.
- Threat: A potential danger that could exploit a vulnerability and cause harm to an organization, such as malware, phishing attacks, and ransomware.
- Attack: An attempt to exploit a vulnerability.
- Breach: A successful attack that results in unauthorized access or damage to an organization's systems, applications, or data.
Now that we've covered the basics of cyber risk, let's move on to some of the types of cyber-attacks you could experience. the top ten secure coding practices every developer should know.
Types of Cyber Attacks
Many types of cyberattacks exist, but some are more common than others. In this section, we'll cover the most common forms of attacks that you need to be aware of as a developer.
SQL injection is one of the most common types of attacks. It occurs when an attacker inserts malicious code into an SQL database to gain access to sensitive data.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-site scripting (XSS) is an attack that injects malicious code into a web page. When a user visits the infected page, the malicious code is executed, allowing the attacker to steal sensitive information or take control of the user's browser.
Denial-of-Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks
A denial-of-service (DoS) attack attempts to make a computer or network resource unavailable to its legitimate users. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a DoS attack that uses multiple computers to flood the target with traffic, making it difficult or impossible for legitimate users to access the resource.
Malware is a type of software designed to damage or disable computers. It can take many forms, such as viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware.
Phishing is a social engineering attack involving tricking users into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information. Attackers often use email or text messages to lure victims to fake websites resembling legitimate websites, such as banking or social media.
The Top 10 Secure Coding Practices
Now that we've established the importance of secure coding practices let's look at the top ten secure coding practices that every developer should know to help protect against cyber attacks.
1. Use a Static Code Analysis Tool
One of the best ways to find and fix security vulnerabilities in your code is to use a static code analysis tool. Static code analysis tools scan your code for potential security vulnerabilities and provide you with actionable insights so that you can fix them.
For example, let's say you're developing a web application for caller ID. A static code analysis tool would scan your code for common web application security vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). If any potential vulnerabilities are found, the tool will provide you with information on how to fix them.
2. Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
This includes not only the operating system you're using but also any third-party software libraries and frameworks that you're using. Outdated software is often responsible for security vulnerabilities. As software ages, new security vulnerabilities are discovered and fixed in more recent versions. But if you're still using an older software version, you risk being exploited by these newly-discovered security vulnerabilities.
That's why it's essential to always use the latest version of all software that you use. By doing so, you can help to keep your code secure from known security vulnerabilities.
3. Use Strong Passwords
This means using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It's also important to use a different password for each account. This way, if one of your accounts is compromised, the attacker won't be able to gain access to your other accounts. For example, let's say you're using a hosted PBX phone system and working on a PandaDoc services proposal template. Use the same password for your PandaDoccommunications platform account as you do for your email account. Then, if your email account is hacked, the attacker will also have access to your PandaDoc account communications platform account.
To help you remember all of your different passwords, you can use a password manager. A password manager is a software application that stores and encrypts your passwords. That way, you only have to remember one master password to access all of your other passwords.
4. Sanitize Your Data
Before storing or processing data, it's important to sanitize it to remove any potentially harmful content. Data sanitization is the process of identifying and eliminating or transforming potentially harmful content from data.
For example, let's say you're developing a web application that allows users to submit comments on articles. Before storing these comments in your database, you should sanitize them to remove any potentially harmful HTML tags or script codes that could be used to launch a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack.
By sanitizing your data, you can help to protect your application from security vulnerabilities.
5. Encrypt Your Communications
Another critical secure coding practice is to encrypt your communications. This means using a technique called Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt any data transmitted between two systems.
TLS is the successor to the older Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol. TLS is more secure than SSL because it uses more robust encryption algorithms.
When encrypting your communications, it's important to use a TLS version that's still considered secure. Currently, the latest and most secure version of TLS is 1.3.
6. Implement Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an additional layer of security that can be used to protect your accounts. With 2FA, you're required to provide your password and another piece of information, such as a code sent to your mobile phone. This makes it much more difficult for an attacker to gain access to your account, even if they've somehow managed to obtain your password.
Let's say you're sending out the results of your compliance testing a client's letter of the intent template via email. If you have 2FA enabled on your email account, an attacker would not only need your password but also require access to your mobile phone to see the code necessary to log in.
7. Minimize the Amount of Code You Use
One way to make your code more secure is to minimize the amount of code you use. The less code you have, the less chance there is for security vulnerabilities to be present.
There are a few ways to minimize the amount of code you use. One way is to use existing libraries and frameworks instead of writing your code. Another way is to use programming languages designed to be concise, such as Python.
8. Perform Regular Penetration Tests
Penetration testing (also known as pen testing) is a simulated attack on your system in order to find security vulnerabilities. Penetration tests can be performed manually or with the help of automated tools.
Regular penetration tests are a good way to find and fix potential security vulnerabilities before an attacker exploits them.
9. Apply Antivirus software and Keep it Up-to-Date
Antivirus software can help to protect your system from malware. It works by scanning files and identifying any infected files. If a file has been corrupted, the antivirus software will remove the malware or quarantine the file.
It is crucial that you keep your antivirus software up-to-date, as new malware is constantly being created. Most antivirus software will automatically update itself, but you should check that this is the case with your software.
10. Follow the Principle of Least Privilege
The principle of least privilege (also known as the principle of least authority) is a security principle that states that users should only be given the minimum amount of privileges they need to perform their job.
For example, if you're a developer, you might not need administrative privileges on your computer. However, giving developers administrative privileges can lead to potential security vulnerabilities, as they may inadvertently give attackers access to sensitive information or systems.
So there you have it. These are ten secure coding practices that every developer should know. Together, they can reduce errors and protect your system from malicious activity. By following these conventions, you can help to keep your code secure, protect your company, and reduce the chances of being exploited by an attacker.
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