How can I make software safe?

Buying the latest security tools and doing nothing more will never be enough, and is in fact, not good enough as a software security strategy. There’s more to software security than for you to treat it as plug-and-play. You need to invest in several tools and tool integration and customization and focused developer training for you to reap the benefits of your investment in software security. 

Building an excellent security strategy is crucial for organizations. Still, too many times, business owners don’t pay as much information to software security as they should, even though they understand the severity of the potential security threats. They only start to prioritize defense and take countermeasures after there’s a breach already, and there’s always a price to pay for negligence in security. 

Apart from the reputational damage that the organization suffers, there are also steep financial and legal implications that they would suffer as well. Having your user data stolen by hackers is not something that any business organization can ignore. So, in building software, security takes an important place in the developer’s consideration. What is the developer’s approach to software security? What software security strategy do the developer and organization have to put in place?

In this article, we will be discussing several best practices to ensure the safety and security of software. 

Prevent SQL injection in your database

A very dangerous yet common type of cyber attack on website applications is called SQL injection. Here the cyber attackers insert malicious SQL to dynamic SQL statements. It’s easy for an attacker to find SQL injection vulnerabilities, and there are several tools they can use to exploit it, such as SQL Ninja or SQL Map. They may even do it manually by adding a value such as 1’ = ‘1 to the password, username, and other text fields. Once they find a SQL injection vulnerability, exploiting it is a walk in the park. 

Thankfully, preventing SQL injection is relatively easy as well. All you need to do is set your SQL statement parameters and make it clear to whoever is interpreting the SQL the part of the SQL statement that makes up the data and the part that makes the command. 

Patch your systems and software

A common point of attack for hackers is the known vulnerabilities found in old and outdated software. An easy way to prevent this type of attack is to ensure the updated patch for your software and systems. According to reviews, an effective best practice for software security is regular patching. 

However, it’s hard or even impossible to ensure your software is up to date without knowing what you’re using in the first place. Most software components in apps today, 70% of them averagely, are open source. Therefore, you must have a properly maintained software bill of materials (BOM) or inventory of these components. With a BOM, you can be sure that you’re meeting all the licensing obligations of these components while being on top of the patches. 

Manually creating software, BOM, is quite challenging. Still, you can use an SCA (software composition analysis) tool to automate the task while highlighting the licensing and security risks. 

Validate all input data before using or storing it

As a rule, you must ensure to treat all data coming from outside your service or program, especially if they are from your remote clients, as evil. The files, cookies, HTTP headers, parameters, and so on are evil and must be validated before using or storing them. It doesn’t matter that the client already validates that data; ensure to do it again.

Some basic data validation rules to follow are:

  • Never rely on your client checking from their side. Ensure to always check the server by yourself. 
  • When it is possible, use the positive whitelist validation rules. The negative backlist checks the reject data whether it contains illegal or dangerous values that can be subverted with evasion tricks such as double encoding. Where it is possible, use strong whitelist rules to specify the range and size of acceptable values using regular expressions. If you don’t know how to check for data types properly, such as currencies, dates, URLs, credit card numbers, and IP addresses, there are several libraries that you can check for help, such as Apache Commons Validator.

Deny access control by default 

The process of determining the person or people that can access particular files and features, and the enforcement of those rules, must be thought through carefully. Having to retrofit access control later on without any mistakes is an avoidable pain. 

  • Have a server-side, central management library for implementing access control rules rather than randomly throwing the rules across your business logic. Auditing and updating the rules will be much easier this way. You can do this with your app framework’s access control functions. 
  • Deny by default. Ensure that all functions check and authorize the user before proceeding.
  • Only use data that is trusted (validated on your server) when making access control decisions. 

Automate routine tasks

Automation is a gateway for attackers to detect security misconfigurations, open ports, and the likes. So, it’s impossible to defend your systems using manual techniques alone. Instead, you must automate daily security tasks, like device security configurations and analyzing firewall security. In addition, task automation ensures that your security team can focus on other strategic security initiatives

With the right tools, it’s also possible to automate most of your software testing. This also includes your software BOM maintenance so you can update components of your open source software and be compliant with the licenses. In addition, the SCA tool allows you to automate tasks that shouldn’t be handled manually. 

Ensure data and privacy protection

Access control is crucial to ensure data and privacy protection, auditing, and encryption (encrypting data during processing, rest, and transit). For mobile and web apps, you need to use SSL/TLS to encrypt data in transit. It is easy to use SSL, but it may require more work to ensure it is properly set up and used. 

As mentioned on, these are some of the common mistakes people make when encrypting data at rest:

  • Neglecting to encrypt the data at all. 
  • Trying to roll over your encryption algorithm.
  • Mishandling keys and other steps in setting up standard encryption libraries. 

Another problem that you must look out for and pay more attention to is exposing sensitive information during processing. You mustn’t store the unencrypted data in temporary files, and you must not add it in logs. So, you must be careful about this. Even when you store it in memory, you may still need to be careful. 

Integrate security in your SDLC

You must integrate software security activities from the beginning to the end of your organization’s software development life cycle (SDLC). It must include architecture risk analysis, SCA, interactive, dynamic, and static application security testing, and pen-testing. 

It takes a lot of initial effort and time to add security to your organizations’ SDLC. However, it is much cheaper and faster to deal with vulnerabilities in the early stages of your SDLC than doing it in the end. So, it ultimately reduces your exposure level to security risks.

Never roll your security code

Knowing your tools and using them is crucial. So you must learn to leverage the security capabilities that your application framework has and fill in the blanks with a security library of choice.

Different frameworks such as .NET, Ruby on Rails, Spring Security, Play, and AngularJS, along with Android and iOS mobile platforms, have built-in security features that can handle many common security issues for you if you are using them correctly. This is why you need to take your time to try and understand these frameworks and also use them appropriately. 

You should know that these libraries and frameworks also have downsides: if you don’t update them, your app can be exposed to dangerous vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, this is a common problem and is serious enough to be considered on a risk list. Thankfully though, several tools can help you look for the dependencies on your app and other known vulnerabilities that must be patched. 


Ironically, following the fundamentals is an excellent way to increase the difficulty of hackers targeting your organization. While there’s no big silver bullet to help you secure your organization’s assets, some of the basic best practices you already know maybe your best bet. This article includes some of the best practices that you can employ for your software security. 

Author Bio

Thomas Jackson is a professional freelance content writer at an Australian service with excellent writers and an active member of several writing clubs in New York. You can reach out to him for essays or ask for this online service. He has written several songs since he was a child. He gets inspiration from the live concerts he does in front of close friends and family members.