Streamlining Secure Development with Runtime Application Self Protection
Data breaches and cybersecurity incidents have become an increasingly common occurrence. As the value of the data that organizations regularly collect, store and process grows, so does the incentive for hackers to steal it. Cybercrime has become a profitable business, and the move of professional, organized hacking groups into space means that organizations are at an ever-growing risk of being the victim of a professional cyberattack.
Cybercriminals can target a variety of different vulnerabilities within an organization, but one of the biggest is flawed code. Software is written by humans, humans make mistakes, and software is vulnerable to exploitation. It is the responsibility of the software designers and developers to do everything that they can to minimize the chance of this happening (and the resulting impacts on their business).
However, security is an often overlooked and undervalued aspect of the development process. This has resulted in many attacks and the development of the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSLDC) to codify the steps that developers should take to secure their code.
However, truly secure development is difficult (and potentially impossible). Closing a potential vulnerability often means understanding it, and new vulnerabilities are regularly discovered. Securing software requires the ability to protect against unknown attack vectors, which is where runtime application self protection (RASP) is extremely valuable for secure software development.
The Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC)
The concept of the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) has been around for a while. The purpose of the SDLC is to codify the steps that naturally occur as part of the development process. Formalizing the process is useful for software development since it helps to ensure that nothing is overlooked throughout the process.
The SDLC is a five-step process for development, namely:
- Requirements: Defining the expected behavior of the product
- Design: Creating a blueprint for software that meets the requirements
- Coding: Implementing the product described by the design blueprint
- Testing: Ensuring that the product meets the design requirements
- Deployment: Releasing the finished and tested product
This process is effective for developing functional software, but it overlooks one of the most crucial aspects: security. In the modern cyber threat landscape, software needs to not only work as intended but also make it difficult or impossible for an attacker to produce behavior not intended by the designers.
This is where the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) comes in. The SSDLC uses the same five phases as the SDLC, but with a security focus:
- Requirements: Define security requirements for the software
- Design: Design the product based on security requirements and threat modeling
- Coding: Use best practices during coding and perform static code analysis for vulnerabilities
- Testing: Use vulnerability assessment and fuzzing tools to identify security holes
- Deployment: Ensure that the deployment environment is securely configured
The Secure Software Design Lifecycle is designed to run in parallel and supplement the process of the Software Design Lifecycle. Together, they ensure that software operates both correctly and securely.
Simplifying Secure Design with RASP
In the design stage of the Secure Software Design Lifecycle (SSDLC), the development team is expected to design the software in a way that protects it against the threats that it is expected to face. This process includes threat modeling to identify potential attack vectors that could violate the security requirements of the product.
One of the main challenges in accomplishing this is enumerating all possible threats that the software can face. The cybersecurity threat landscape changes rapidly, and a potential attack vector may not have existed at the time of the threat modeling process.
This is where RASP can be an extremely valuable asset for an organization performing software development. Unlike many protections that operate at the host or network level, RASP is integrated into an application itself. This higher level of visibility allows RASP to provide protections that are uniquely tailored to the needs of the specific application. Since the RASP defenses can see all data entering the application and how the application responds to it, it can identify even zero-day attacks against the application based upon abnormal behavior of the application. The system can also provide highly detailed log information about attempted attacks to be fed into the organization’s threat modeling process for future development.
Software Security for the Modern World
Software security has become a priority for any organization. The value of the data collected, processed, and stored as part of daily business means that attackers are constantly attempting to find and exploit security holes in Internet-facing software. Failing to identify and plug one of these vulnerabilities can be what leaves an organization open to a devastating data breach.
However, security is often given a low priority in the development process, tacked on the end of it’s included at all. The Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) is designed to address this but requires threat modeling that enumerates the possible ways that software can be attacked. An oversight in threat modeling may mean that software is left vulnerable to attack.
RASP helps to simplify the secure design by integrating protections and security monitoring into the application itself. This level of visibility and control allows RASP defenses to identify and protect against even unknown attacks by identifying abnormalities in how the software processes malicious input. While the secure design is a crucial component in the development process, it should be coupled with RASP defenses to ensure that overlooked attack vectors don’t leave an application vulnerable.