Security by design: The base of cybersecurity

We look at how you can best secure your software. Many organizations don't consider that it starts at the very beginning of software development.

01-11-2023 - 6 minute read. Posted in: awareness.

Security by design: The base of cybersecurity

It’s no secret that we are facing major challenges now that technology has become such an integral part of our lives. With technology comes cyberthreats and data breaches whether we like it or not.

It is here, however, that security by design enters the picture. It is in short the practice of implementing security measures and considerations into every single phase of the software or product development. So, instead of trying to add the extra security after the software has been established, the security is implemented from the beginning.

What is security by design

Security by design (SbD) is one of the most important initiatives in cybersecurity. With security by design, the security is implemented in the early stages of software development. This makes the security more thorough and better, as pretty much every aspect of the software is covered by the security initiatives. If the security measures are added after the software has been established, there might be some aspects of the software that will be overlooked (of course not intentionally).

  • Security by design thus emphasizes that the security initiatives aren’t add-ons but an integral part of the software.

The essential idea behind SbD is to make even stronger and more resilient security. There’s constant threats out there, so our software and programs are more vulnerable to being hit by potential threats and attacks. SbD considers potential threats from the moment the software is in development - when a system or software has security measures at each stage of the software development, you ensure that each layer of software actually has security. This minimizes the risk of cyberattacks, data breaches and other security incidents.

The impact of security by design

With security by design, you can prevent any vulnerabilities and weaknesses from sneaking into the final software product. Not only is it more proactive to have security by design but it is also more cost effective. You save both time and money since you minimize the times where you have to try and patch security holes once they have been discovered - either by black hat hackers or ethical hackers.

With the increasing attention on data protections with regulations like GDPR, HIPAA and CCPA, organizations are legally required to safeguard the sensitive information they process and handle. So, with SbD you will meet these compliance requirements and do so a lot more efficiently.

Once an organization is struck by a cyberattack it has devastating consequences. It can affect a company’s reputation among customers and partners and finances; hackers are often motivated by money, so they usually execute ransomware attacks on bigger corporations. It may seem like a big investment when you implement security by design, but in most cases it’s actually cheaper to implement it from the beginning compared to implementing it once you’ve been hit by an attack.

So, SbD will minimize the financial risks that you can face. You can, thus, easily adapt to any changes in the threat landscape with an implemented security plan and measures.

The most important principles of security by design

Below we’ve made a few points about key principles of security by design. Here you’ll learn what you should do, to implement SbD:

  • Security should be a fundamental part of the entire development process. It should be considered from the very first concept to the execution of the entire software - and of course be part of an ongoing maintenance.

  • Determine potential risks and vulnerabilities in the early stages in the development. Perform thorough risk assessments to get a better understanding of the potential impact of any threats and analyze the probability of becoming a target.

  • Make sure that employees and systems have the minimum level of access and authorization necessary to do their job. This will minimize the attack surface (which you can protect with attack surface management)and limit any potential damage that could happen in the event of a breach.

  • Use multiple layers of security controls to ensure that your software is protected against any potential threats. This includes software and system security, data encryption and network security.

  • You should regularly monitor systems for any potential security vulnerabilities in software and hardware. Here it’s a good idea to implement some mechanisms that can detect and respond to any threat in real-time.

Implementing new strategies

Another important list we’d want you to take a look at is our list of practical implementations you can do to strengthen your security:

  • Human error is a very big contributor as the reason for data breaches and hacks.That is why you should educate employees with awareness training about the best security practices there is.

  • You can implement threat modeling techniques to determine any potential security threats and vulnerabilities in its early stages in the product development. This will help you in making well-thought decisions when you’re working on your security controls.

  • Enforce secure coding standards and best practices throughout the development process. Conduct code reviews to identify and rectify security issues.

  • Conduct frequent penetration testing and security assessments to identify and determine any weaknesses in your software and systems. React on any issues that you identify and correct any vulnerabilities and errors.

  • Use security tools and automated scanning functions to determine and remediate security flaws in your software and system’s infrastructure.

  • Implement higher security into your DevOps pipeline. This means that you should automate your security testing and compliance checks to establish that your security isn’t compromised during the development.

  • Keep detailed documentation that describes any security procedures, controls and requirements. This should be made available to all employees so no one has any questions in case of a breach or hack.

  • Prepare and test an incident response plan to guarantee a quick and effective reaction to security incidents. In your response plan, you should highlight everybody’s roles, responsibilities, and procedures for handling potential security breaches.

  • If you’re dependent on third-party vendors or open-source features, evaluate how they execute security practices and make sure that they meet your security standards - you should not compromise your security!

  • Encourage users and employees to report security concerns. When you give them a chance of giving you feedback on your security and products, you get a much better overview of potential vulnerabilities.

In summary

Security by design is not only an option for organizations, it should help them navigate the digital landscape and circumvent cyberthreats.

By adopting proactive approaches like security by design, you make it even easier to integrate it into every phase of software development. As an organization you can build a strong and resilient defense where your systems and software can fight and stand a cyberattack.

Security by design will be an investment to any organization but the cost of a cyberattack is even greater than the cost of having security implemented from the get-go.

Author Caroline Preisler

Caroline Preisler

Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.

View all posts by Caroline Preisler

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