Building and Designing Secure Software: Best Practices and Development Framework

Building and Designing Secure Software

“The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards.” – Gene Spafford

While the above quote by Gene Spafford might evoke a chuckle, it sharply underscores the pivotal challenge you face daily: ensuring the security of your software in an increasingly complex digital landscape. 

As a CTO of an SME, grappling with the complexities of secure software development is not just about safeguarding data—it’s about fostering trust and ensuring the longevity and success of your business.

This blog will equip you with the knowledge and best practices to build secure software, minimize risks, and safeguard your business. Let’s get into it straight away. 

Importance of Security in Software Development

It’s a digital economy we live in and security isn’t just a feature; it’s a fundamental business enabler. A single breach can not only lead to substantial financial losses but also damage your reputation irreparably. This is why embedding security into the very fabric of your software development process is not optional but essential.

Understanding the Risks

In the realm of software development, you face numerous risks that can compromise the security, functionality, and integrity of your applications. Here’s a closer look at the common vulnerabilities and threats that you, as a CTO, must be wary of: 


Cyberattacks have become more frequent and devastating. For instance, the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack affected over 200,000 computers across 150 countries, crippling hospitals, banks, and businesses. This attack highlighted the catastrophic impact of security oversights in widely used systems. 

More recently, the SolarWinds hack in 2020, a supply chain attack, led to the compromise of thousands of organizations globally, including government agencies, revealing the far-reaching consequences of security breaches in network management tools.

Recovering from a ransomware attack can be a costly and time-consuming process, disrupting your operations and potentially damaging your reputation.

Read: Cybersecurity and IT Consulting Services: How to Protect Your Business in a Highly Volatile Digital World

Embedded Systems Vulnerabilities

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has introduced a new layer of complexity. Smart devices like thermostats, security cameras, and even cars are now connected to the internet. A vulnerability in a single device can act as a gateway, exposing your entire network to a potential attack.

Embedded systems are often targeted due to their usually prolonged deployment and challenges in regular updating.

Interdependent Systems

Modern software ecosystems are rarely standalone entities. They often interact with other systems, both internally and externally. If one system has a security weakness, it can be exploited to gain access to other interconnected systems, creating a domino effect.  

For instance, a vulnerability in a supplier’s system could leave your own data exposed.

Software Size and Complexity

As software systems grow in size and complexity, managing and securing them becomes increasingly difficult. Large systems often contain more lines of code, which can harbor more bugs and potential security vulnerabilities. 

A common scenario involves complex modern enterprise solutions, such as ERP systems, which can be challenging to secure due to the multitude of interaction points and the vast amount of data they handle.

Outsourced Software Supply Chain Risks

The outsourcing of software development can introduce risks, particularly if the supply chain is not managed carefully. The aforementioned SolarWinds incident is a prime example of how vulnerabilities in the supply chain can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to sensitive systems and data. Thorough vetting, continuous monitoring, and robust security protocols are essential to mitigate these risks.

Increasing Sophistication of Attacks

Cybercriminals are constantly refining their methods and tools. Techniques like polymorphic malware, which can change its code to evade detection, and sophisticated phishing schemes that mimic legitimate requests are on the rise. These evolving tactics require a dynamic approach to cybersecurity, emphasizing advanced detection technologies and proactive threat hunting.

Reuse of Legacy Software

Many organizations continue to rely on legacy software that may not be supported with security updates or patches, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. 

The Equifax data breach in 2017, where sensitive information of approximately 147 million consumers was exposed, was attributed to a vulnerability in the Apache Struts framework, a component of their legacy systems. This breach highlighted the dire consequences of failing to maintain and update software components.

At Codewave, as a software development company, we understand the criticality of integrating security at every step of the software development process, ensuring that your digital assets remain secure and your business’s integrity remains intact.

Common Secure Software Engineering Issues

Having a clear understanding of the security threats lurking in the shadows is crucial. But it’s equally important to identify the vulnerabilities that can creep into your software during development. 

Here’s a breakdown of some common secure software engineering issues you should watch out for:

Vulnerabilities in Third-Party Libraries and Frameworks

Third-party components can be a double-edged sword. While they offer convenience and faster development, they can also introduce unforeseen security risks. 

Outdated libraries with known vulnerabilities or malicious code hidden within them can expose your application. Here’s how to mitigate this risk:

  • Vet Third-Party Code Thoroughly: Don’t just blindly integrate any library you find. Research the library’s reputation, check for known vulnerabilities, and maintain an updated inventory of third-party components used in your software.
  • Stay Updated: Apply security patches to third-party libraries promptly. Consider using libraries that are actively maintained and have a strong security track record.

Injection Attacks

Injection flaws, such as SQL, NoSQL and LDAP injection attacks, occur when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as part of a command or query. These vulnerabilities can allow attackers to access or corrupt your data, leading to severe security breaches. 

To mitigate these risks, always validate and sanitize inputs, and use prepared statements or parameterized queries in your database access routines.

Insecure Authentication and Authorization

Inadequate access controls are a major security risk. Weak passwords, a lack of multi-factor authentication, and improper access control mechanisms can make it easy for unauthorized users to gain access to your systems and data. Here are some security best practices to follow:

  • Enforce Strong Password Policies: Implement minimum password length requirements, complexity rules, and regular password resets.
  • Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second verification factor, such as a code from your phone, in addition to a password.
  • Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Grant users access only to the resources and data they need to perform their jobs. Avoid giving everyone administrative privileges.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

XSS attacks involve attackers injecting malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users, exploiting vulnerabilities in those web applications. These attacks can lead to stolen cookies, session tokens, or even deface your website. 

Implementing content security policies, validating and escaping user inputs, and using secure frameworks that automatically handle these threats can greatly reduce the risk of XSS.

Mobile Application Security Challenges

Mobile application development introduces their own set of security considerations. Here are a few areas to pay close attention to:

  • Insecure Storage of Sensitive Data: Don’t store sensitive data like passwords or credit card information on the device itself. Use secure encryption techniques to protect data at rest and in transit.
  • Weak Application Permissions: Mobile apps often request various permissions to function. Carefully review the permissions requested by your app and avoid granting unnecessary access.

Cloud Security Vulnerabilities

As your operations expand into the cloud, securing data and applications in this environment is increasingly complex. Cloud platforms can offer robust security features, but they require careful configuration and management.

Emphasize secure access controls, data encryption, and regular security assessments to mitigate risks associated with cloud computing.

Avoiding security pitfalls begins with a solid foundation in secure software engineering practices, a core principle at Codewave. Our development teams are equipped to identify and rectify these vulnerabilities, securing your software ecosystem.

Secure Software Development Framework

Having set the stage with the types of threats and vulnerabilities you face, let’s move into how you can structurally safeguard your projects. 

The Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF) offers a robust blueprint for embedding security throughout your development lifecycle. This framework isn’t just a set of guidelines; it’s a proactive approach to creating a secure foundation for all your software projects.

SSDF Practices

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF) provides a structured approach to minimize vulnerabilities in software. By preparing your organization, protecting the software, producing secured software, and responding effectively to vulnerabilities, you can enhance your security posture significantly. This framework guides you to establish necessary security practices throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Outcome-Based Practices for Aligning and Prioritizing Activities

Adopting outcome-based practices allows you to focus on achieving specific security goals, which can be more effective than merely following a checklist. This approach ensures that you allocate your resources where they are most needed, enhancing your ability to defend against and respond to security incidents.

Considering Evolution Towards an Interactive Online Repository

Looking forward, integrating your practices with an interactive online repository of security measures and updates can keep you at the forefront of cybersecurity developments. Such a dynamic resource can help you stay updated with the latest threats and the most effective countermeasures.

Best Practices for Secure Software Development

With a structured framework in place, the next step is to integrate specific security practices into every phase of your software development. These best practices are your daily tools and techniques that ensure you’re building security into your products from the ground up.

Threat Modeling

Start by identifying potential threats to your systems at the design phase. Threat modeling is a critical process that helps predict and mitigate potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited in your operational software.

Secure Software Coding

Secure coding practices are essential. Ensure that your developers are trained in secure coding standards specific to the programming languages and platforms they use. Regularly updating these standards to reflect emerging threats is also crucial.

Read: The Crucial Role of Coding Standards in Software Development Services

Code Review

Implementing a rigorous code review process is one of the best ways to catch vulnerabilities early. Use both automated tools and peer reviews to examine the code from a security perspective.


Security testing should be integrated into your regular testing regime. This includes penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and employing automated tools to continuously test and monitor for weaknesses.

Secure Configuration Management

Maintain a secure baseline configuration for all development and production environments. Automate the configuration management process to reduce the risk of human error.

Access Control

Ensure that access to your software and data is strictly controlled. Implement the principle of least privilege by ensuring that individuals have access only to the resources necessary for their roles.

Regular Updates and Patches

Keep all your systems up to date with the latest security patches. Regular updates are vital to protect against known vulnerabilities.

Security Training

Regular training and awareness programs for your developers and IT staff are crucial to ensure they are aware of the latest security threats and best practices.

Incident Response

Have a robust incident response plan that allows you to quickly identify, contain, and mitigate any breaches that occur.

Continuous Monitoring

Implement continuous monitoring of your systems to detect and respond to threats in real-time. This proactive approach can significantly reduce the potential impact of any security incident.

Codewave embeds these best practices into every phase of the software development lifecycle, delivering software that’s not just powerful but also resilient against threats.

Read: What is Software Development Consulting Services and its Process

How Static Code Analysis Tools Contribute

Beyond the hands-on best practices, technology can also play a pivotal role in securing your software. Static Code Analysis (SAST) tools are among these technological aids, providing an automated way to spot potential vulnerabilities early in the development process. 

Let’s explore how these tools can close security gaps and contribute to your overall cybersecurity strategy.

The Role of SAST Tools in Closing Risk Gaps

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools are invaluable in identifying vulnerabilities at the earliest stages of the development process. By integrating SAST tools into your SDLC, you can detect and rectify security flaws before the software is deployed.

Critical Role of Static Analysis in Identifying and Rectifying Security Defects

SAST tools provide an essential layer of security by analyzing your codebase for known vulnerabilities without executing the code. This allows for a non-intrusive way to continuously improve your application’s security.

Practical Secure Software Development Practices

While frameworks and tools provide the structure and means to enhance security, practical day-to-day practices bring these concepts to life. These practices are where theory meets application, allowing you to implement robust security measures effectively. 

  1. Follow a Secure Code Review Process: Establish a secure code review process that incorporates automated tests using SAST tools alongside static reviews conducted by senior developers or security professionals. This two-pronged approach helps to ensure comprehensive vulnerability detection.
  2. Choose the Right Libraries and Frameworks: Carefully evaluate third-party libraries and frameworks before integrating them into your application. Select well-maintained libraries with a strong security track record and a focus on secure coding practices.
  3. Shield Your Database from Vulnerabilities: Implement robust security measures to protect your database from unauthorized access and SQL injection attacks. Use strong encryption for sensitive data at rest and in transit.
  4. Block Cross-Site Scripting Attacks (XSS): Prevent XSS attacks by validating and sanitizing all user input before processing it. Encode special characters to prevent them from being interpreted as malicious code.
  5. Validating Input on Client and Server Sides: Implement comprehensive input validation routines on both the client-side (using JavaScript) and server-side (using your programming language) to ensure that only valid and expected data is processed by your application.
  6. Protect Users by Collecting Only Necessary Data and Pseudonymizing It: Minimize the amount of data you collect from your users. Only collect the data essential for your application’s functionality. When possible, pseudonymize data by replacing identifying information with unique identifiers. This helps to protect user privacy and reduce the attack surface in case of a security breach.


Building secure software is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and a commitment to best practices throughout the entire development lifecycle. By understanding the security threats, implementing the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF), and following the best practices outlined above, you can significantly improve the security posture of your software applications.

Codewave Can Help

At Codewave, we are passionate about building secure and reliable software applications. Our team of experienced developers follows industry best practices for secure coding and development processes. We leverage static code analysis tools and penetration testing to identify and remediate vulnerabilities early in the development cycle.

We understand that security is a top priority for businesses of all sizes. That’s why we offer a comprehensive suite of secure software development services, including:

  • Secure Design Reviews
  • Threat Modeling
  • Secure Coding Practices
  • Static Code Analysis (SAST)
  • Penetration Testing
  • Security Incident Response Planning

Ready to Build Secure Software?

Contact us today to discuss your secure software development needs.  We can help you build applications that are not only functional and efficient but also secure and trustworthy.

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