No matter what kind of software you’re developing, security should be a top priority. Financial applications, from online banking to simple e-commerce platforms, get extra attention because they deal with consumers’ personal financial information, but any app that collects and/or stores personal information or user logins should focus on security. Your program may function well and offer a beautiful UI, but if it’s vulnerable to a cyberattack, your clients aren’t going to be happy.
So what steps can you take to ensure your software is more secure?
Strategies for Software Security
These are just a handful of ideas you can use to improve your software’s security:
- Set expiration times for certain types of information. One option is to make sure the information you collect expires after a certain amount of time, making it inaccessible to prying eyes. For example, it’s common practice to store customers’ credit card information offsite—or not at all—to avoid having that vulnerable data easily accessible. XMedius employs this in file sharing, ensuring that any files that are exchanged between parties are destroyed after they’re accessed.
- Lock down your APIs. Most apps rely on at least one API to function properly, enabling them to communicate and exchange information with other systems. According to StormPath, there are three main types of API security protocols to follow; you can try to create a custom protocol, but only if you truly know what you’re doing. Vulnerabilities in APIs are common, so your security here should be regarded as a top priority.
- Use encryption everywhere. Encryption is a way to encode your information so it’s not readily visible to any unauthorized parties (anyone without the encryption key). You should be using encryption everywhere where communication or user input is required, such as during customer logins, or for message exchanges. The only real harm in adding more layers of encryption is making your app bulkier, which could make it slower.
- Rely on multi-factor authentication. If you want to step up your user verification systems, you should employ multi-factor authentication, which requires the submission and/or confirmation of multiple pieces of information before letting a user access the app. For example, in addition to using a username and password for entry, you could verify a user’s identity with a text message confirmation.
- Work with QA to polish your code. You and/or your company need to invest in a strong quality assurance (QA) team. They’ll be able to review your code for weaknesses and address any security concerns proactively—before your app goes live. Two teams will always be able to catch more flaws than one team working alone, so have your coders and QA testers work together to create the best mutual system.
- Encourage users to learn more about security. The majority of “hacks” are due to user mistakes, such as choosing weak passwords, falling for phishing schemes, or leaving their accounts logged in on public devices. These mistakes can be easily prevented—but not by your app. Instead, you’ll need to spend some time educating your users on best practices for digital security. For example, when allowing users to set up their accounts for the first time, tell them the importance of choosing a strong password and changing it regularly, and let them know your company will never ask them for their password in the future (to protect them from phishing scams).
Specific Threats to Consider
Different applications will be vulnerable to different kinds of attacks, but these are the main threats you’ll need to watch for:
- API loopholes. According to Server Density, APIs are one of the most fragile operation points of an application, since two systems will be communicating; a loophole here could give an unauthorized third party access to your system.
- Missing encryption or authentication. Without strong encryption and authentication, cyber criminals will have low-hanging fruit to pick.
- Time and state manipulation. In virtualized systems especially, hackers can manipulate states to take control of an autonomous structure.
- Errors. An error in your program could easily be turned into an opportunity to exploit for the right hacker.
- Code quality. Low-quality code presents many opportunities for outsiders to break in.
- Interconnectedness. The more isolated your systems are, the more secure they’ll be; offering a system that’s too interconnected means that any single vulnerability could cause the entire structure to fall.
If you can prepare for and/or counter these threats in your software’s code, you’ll have no problem earning consumer trust and preserving your reputation. There’s no such thing as a perfect system, but you can keep yourself from being an easy target for hackers and cybercriminals.
Stay up-to-date on best security practices for your specific programming language and industry, and don’t let your app’s security become a low priority.