Software Security: Secure Coding Practices Guide
Software security should be considered from the beginning of any new software development project. Starting a new project can be daunting, as there are many decisions that need to be made and considerations that must be thought through. Often this includes defining project requirements, selecting the right processes, choosing the right tools, and ensuring software security.
For that reason, we have organized a step-by-step guide to walk you through the most time-consuming and difficult challenges of a new project to help ensure that yours is a success.
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Secure Coding Practices for Secure Software Development
Secure software development best practices can be simply divided up into four main sections:
- Understanding Your Project Requirements
- Defining Your Software Development Process
- Choosing the Right Tools for Your Project
- Setting Up DevSecOps
A SAST tool — like Klocwork — can help you meet the recommended guidelines for each section.
Understanding Your Project Requirements
At the beginning of your project, there are several factorsthat you need to consider. By reviewing these, it will help you to better understand your project requirements.
Outline the Project
Take time to understand the project itself and ask questions that will help guide decisions throughout the development lifecycle. Questions like:
- What type of project is being developed? (Embedded, Cloud Service, Front/Backend software, etc.)
- Which industry is this project for? (Automotive, Aerospace, Enterprise, Medical, Financial, etc.)
- How will the software be used and in what setting? (Enterprise, SMB, B2B, B2C, etc.)
Define the Project Vision
Having a vision of what the application will deliver helps to set a guiding star to work toward. By developing a clear specification of the customer problem(s), pain points, and how your application is going to solve those issues will help ensure you deliver the correct solution.
Identify Compliance Requirements
Identify whether there are code compliance requirements as part of the industry, supply chain, business, or customer requirements for your project.
In addition, you will also need to identify what level of security, safety, or quality compliance will be required. This may include coding standards such as:
Choosing and following a standard from the start of your project will result in fewer compliance headaches in the future.
Select a Flexible Programming Language
- Ease of development
- Maintainability of code
- Access to skilled developers
- Clear coding standards and best practices
Your choice of language can determine whether or not your software will remain relevant and evergreen.
Develop a Code Design
Take the time to develop a design spec. By doing this, it enables you to validate system logic, determine whether all components will perform together correctly, and help to ensure software security. This can mean the difference between a successful release and costly redesigns.
📕 Related Resource: Learn more about Enterprise Application Security.
Establish Code Architecture
Plan out your codebase to ensure that it’s well organized. Be sure to consider things like:
- File naming conventions
- Defining modules for the project
- Hierarchy and structure
By doing this work ahead of time, you provide a clear template for your developers to follow, which enables easier future maintainability.
Defining Your Software Development Process
While your development process will be unique to your project needs and requirements, we recommend you consider the following:
Identify What Secure Coding Practices Will Need to be Enforced
Depending on the industry, your development project may require that specific best practices and standards be followed. At this point, you should be aligning your project requirements with the development process. This may include following a functional safety standard — such as IEC 61508 — and following secure coding practices — such as CERT or CWE.
A static analyzer — like Klocwork — can help to enforce whatever standards, best practices, and conditions that your project may require.
📕 Related Resource: Secure Software Development Best Practices >>>
Align on a Development Methodology
It doesn’t matter whether your development process is Agile/Waterfall, Scrum/Kanban, or any other that you may currently have in place. What is important, is that you align on a development process that fits with the way your business, developers, and development teams intend to deliver on the project.
The purpose of aligning on a methodology is to have a process that ensures organization and communication as well as helps prevent problems arising during development.
Organization Your Environment Setup
In general, it’s important to identify and create the environments needed for your project to ensure the entire team is using the same setup. Best practice says that separate environments should be set up for: Development, User Acceptance Testing (UAT), Staging, and Production.
Use Repository Tools
Use a version control tool — like Helix Core — to establish a source code repository. This enables your development team to:
- Spend less time dealing with tools and processes.
- Stop wasting time with manual workflows and enable them to get back to coding.
- Efficiently handle tens of thousands of files as well as petabytes of data.
- Connect what changed in the code to why it changed.
Other than code repositories, you should consider using other tools or processes to store and track other project-related content. This includes:
- Keeping tools and components used by your project where they’re easily available for the entire team.
- Having a central location for plans, documentation, and developer onboarding.
- Defining work tasks within project management software — such as Helix ALM — or issue tracking software.
By establishing these repositories, you help to ensure that your development is efficient, your content safe, and knowledge is easily accessible to quickly onboard new developers.
Enforce Software Security with Secure Coding Practices
Build security enforcement into the development process by following secure coding practices, and use secure coding tools to help enforce compliance. In addition, provide your teams with security training and learning materials to help develop a culture of security. A SAST tool — like Klocwork — can help solve these issues.
Incorporate Checks Into Your Development Pipeline
Implementing security checks throughout your development pipeline helps to enforce good coding practices. It is important that you are security conscious when developing code and it is recommended that you use SAST scanning within your developers' IDEs, CI/CD pipelines, and during nightly integration builds.
For testing and refactoring purposes, ensure that developers are writing unit tests and quality assurance is writing functional tests. Generally, think about all possible testing strategies and ensure security and other tests are created and automated as much as possible.
Have a Definition of “Done” for Your Project Tasks and Features
Even though a task or feature looks done and compiles on a developer’s desktop, it is not enough. You need to have a clear process for defining work — from beginning to end.
Best practices include the following:
- Requirements capture
- Scope of work
- Define acceptance criteria
- Develop unit and functional test cases for the code
- Conducting peer code reviews
- Automation for integration testing, security testing, and all stages through to final environment testing
Encourage Feedback and Communication
Feedback and communication between teams and developers is essential to the success of a project.
It’s important that your developers are able to receive fast feedback from code submissions, so they are able to fix coding issues early and also provide insights into the progress, metrics, and potential risks of the project for stakeholders
Outside of automation, it’s important to provide developers with enough time for code reviews, planning, and retrospectives. These things will all help ensure development velocity stays high as communication roadblocks are removed.
▶️ Related Webinar: Best Practices for Secure Software Development Project >>>
Choosing the Right Tools for Your Project
An essential part of your project is choosing the right tools. Tool selection is important, as it helps to standardize your project and enables everyone on your team to “speak the same language”. This provides whole-team benefits for:
- Common knowledge
- Testing and debugging
To help ensure that you choose the most effective toolset for your team, take the following guidelines into consideration:
- Research and review all your tool options and evaluate them against project and team requirements.
- Understand the maturity of the tool selection and what types of support are available — such as technical support, help resources, and active maintenance.
- Consider the tools, your team’s experience level, and how will your ability to recruit new developers will be affected.
- Examine how compatible the toolsets are with one another.
Regardless of whatever toolset you select, we recommend that it includes the following:
- Code Repository and Version Control to track and manage changes to your source code, digital assets, and large binary files.
- Static Code Analyzer and SAST Tool to enforce secure coding practices, and to identify defects, vulnerabilities, and compliance issues.
- Application Lifecycle Management Tool provides end-to-end traceability across the application lifecycle management of your project.
Setting up DevSecOps and Software Security for Your Software Development Project
Blending together the speed and scale of DevOps with secure coding practices, DevSecOps is an essential software security best practice. By following a DevSecOps approach you can:
- Automate as many processes as you can — security, configuration, management, testing, and more. This will free up time for developers to focus on new code and features.
- Define success/failure metrics and actively monitor and report project results. This helps you to catch issues and vulnerabilities sooner, make more informed decisions, and enforce project requirements throughout your application.
- Take steps to secure your infrastructure. Security is not only important to your end product, but also your company's procedures and policies. Make sure you think about security holistically and promote a culture of security from top to bottom.
- Continuously monitor and enforce software security compliance. Integrate your security tools — such as SAST, DAST, and SCA — into your DevSecOps pipelines so that you can actively track and enforce security throughout your development lifecycle.
📕 Related Resource: What You Need to Know About the CI/CD Process>>>
Choose Perforce Tools to Ensure Software Security and the Success of Your Project
In addition, Klocwork’s Differential Analysis enables you to perform fast incremental analysis on only the files that have changed while providing results equivalent to those from a full project scan. This ensures the shortest possible analysis times.
By using Klocwork, you will also receive the following benefits:
- Detection of code vulnerabilities, compliance issues, and rule violations earlier in development. This helps to accelerate code reviews as well as manual testing efforts.
- Enforcement of industry and coding standards, including CWE, CERT, OWASP, and DISA STIG.
- Reports on compliance over time and across product versions.
See how Klocwork can help ensure that your next project is a success. Sign up for a free trial.