Understanding the Need for Software Security Testing
It’s better to be safe than sorry. . Software and app security testing have a distinct relationship in strengthening the quality of a product under test.
Security testing services basically refers to the entire spectrum of services that ensure a flawless functioning of the app in an environment where all potential vulnerabilities have been evaluated, identified and mitigated. These services dedicatedly aim at the evaluation of vulnerability, integrity, authenticity, confidentiality and safety of the data through the application’s features. The security testers focus on the entire stratum of the information system spread across the entire infrastructure (database, network and access channels) to make it safe and free from potential bugs and vulnerabilities.
But over a period of time, things have changed and evolved. With the arrival of the latest technologies and learnings in security testing, black hat hackers have also evolved at an equivalent pace. It thus becomes important for our modern day security testers to stay ahead in this never ending race to optimal security. Keeping a closer look at some of the latest software security testing trends will surely help in strengthening the engineering efforts.
Trend #1: PCI DSS Compliance
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) – This is a strict security compliance for all organizations that accept cards as payment modes. The PCI DSS guidelines include few areas, mentioned below, that demands attention from merchants/payment processors/organizations:
- Protecting the cardholder’s data
- Building and maintaining a secure network and system
- Having a solid vulnerability management program
- Deploying robust access control methods
- Maintaining information security policies
- 24 x 7 monitoring
Making it Secure with Vulnerability Scan & Penetration Testing
Deploying a strong security network with vulnerability scanning and penetration testing services can prevent black-hat hackers to access the control system, thereby minimizing the risk of data theft.
Vulnerability scanning simply defines the process of detecting those vulnerabilities in your system which could be exploited by the uninvited ones. These vulnerabilities include defects in web servers, email clients, POS (Point of Sale) software, operating systems and web browsers. These loopholes attracts the attacker to gain access to the control system environment. Keeping the framework secure with latest updates and security patches could effectively prevent sensitive data from being stolen and can also help in the early detection of the new vulnerabilities.
Penetration Tester works with a mindset of a potential hacker, by effectively exploiting the coding errors. In simpler words, the tester himself acts as the hacker and tries to break into the network to detect and report security loopholes. The time taken by a tester to do the pen-testing depends upon the size of the network and its complexity.
The two above mentioned tests are often confused as different phases of one single process; instead, these are 2 totally different activities with their own unique set of features.
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Trend #2: DevSecOps
Secure DevOps or Development Security Operations – call it by whatever name you may like but in a layman’s term, it simply refers to the integration of best security practices into the existing DevOps workflow. So, combined together as DevSecOps it automates the security workflow to create a process for the development and the security team.
Benefits of DevSecOps Approach
The approach helps testers and developers in harnessing the power of agile methodologies as the security testing methods are seamlessly integrated into the development process.
Another benefit with this approach is, it helps the organization to utilize the full capacity of cloud services. With the modern day technologies, organizations relying on cloud services such as AWS (Amazon Web Services) could effectively utilize detective security controls with continuous integration by leveraging the DevSecOps approach. Let’s take a look at some of the other identified benefits:
- Superfast delivery and agility
- Higher trust
- More accountability
- More opportunities for automation builds
- Early detection of vulnerabilities at the code level
So, what’s the difference between DevOps & DevSecOps?
The future is definitely DevSecOps. The key point here is that speed is often termed as an enemy of accuracy and security. This is where DevSecOps takes the lead by implementing the best security practices to reduce the overall risk and within the give time constraints. It should be well taken into account that security is never a ‘job done’ and is an ongoing process and DevSecOps simply helps the developers to throttle the speed while also keeping a keen eye on the critical vulnerabilities.
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Trend #3: The OWASP Top 10 List and Beyond
OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) is a non-profit organization governed by like-minded professionals and focuses on making software security visible in order to enable organizations and individuals take critically informed decisions. The OWASP Top 10 List talks about the 10 most critical security threats that could affect your applications. But over the period of time, the ‘list’ has been showing stagnancy and due to which other critical security issues have not been dealt with equal importance. Let’s take a look at those which are beyond the Top 10 List.
This refers to any and all unknown attacks which exposes the vulnerability of the app and makes a passage for unauthorized access. The vulnerability could be in the software or in the hardware and could be creating complex problems before detection. The threat is termed as Zero-day because it gives ‘0’ time to the developers to resolve.
A Zero-day exploit is quite tough to detect. The installed malware, spyware and all sorts of anti-virus software are ineffective to detect this intrusion due to the absence of the attack signature in the very first place.
The most commonly used technique to detect any potential zero-day threat is by using user behaviour analytics. The analytics shows the usual authorized entities and behaviour patterns; any activity falling behind the usual is then immediately treated as a threat or as a zero-day exploit.
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Penetration testing with HIPAA Compliance
HIPAA needs no introduction. At a very high level, gh HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliance defines the mandatory safety measures and implementations that software developers must adhere to. The HIPAA compliance solution came into existence due to the problem statement of frauds, thefts and unauthorized access in the medical industry.
Manual pen-testing, however time-taking, can reveal real world methods in which the unauthorized attacker may try to compromise the security blocks. The intrusion may be in the physical premises and in the network or IT assets. At this point leveraging a tester from an outsourced QA vendor can be of great help as being an outsider they can easily pin-point the exposed loopholes. Though this threat cannot be prevented however, it can be mitigated by removing certain shortcomings such as:
- Ample employee training
- Crippled, defected or pirated system software
- Workflow flaws
- Absence of stringent policies
- Threat possibility on storage devices
We are not done with the list yet – the above is only a start; stay tuned for ‘3 Software Security Testing Trends – Part 2’.